Purple is definitely the colour trend of the season over here. As autumn approaches, every clothes shop is bursting at the seams with plums, violets and amethysts. Not only does this make choosing clothes really difficult, but it also fills my mind with thoughts of seasonal produce and autumn flavours. That’s right, I think about food when I shop for clothes. There’s something seriously wrong there.
I felt the urge to jump on the purple preserve bandwagon after Mr. P of Delicious Delicious Delicious made a stunning blackberry jam from a portion of the 5kg of sugar he found on his doorstep one morning (here’s the story). Regardless of the fact that there is a distinct lack of freebies coming my way (gosh, I’m so bitter), P’s jam looked so divine that I had to follow suit.
I think that aniseed adds an extra dimension to both sweet and savoury dishes. It’s deep, liquorice-like flavour provides sweet dishes with a savoury edge, and savoury dishes with a subtle sweetness. Clever little spice.
With this conserve you can be as imaginative as you like. Spread it on toast for breakfast, water it down with lemon juice to use as vinaigrette for warm new potatoes, or even fold some into dark chocolate ganache and chill in espresso cups for a rich chocolate pudding with a bite.
I love opposing flavours, and the spicy anise and red chillies provide that little tingle of heat needed against the sour plums and sweet sugar. This combination will set your mouth on fire. Not literally. Well at least I hope not anyway.
Fiery Plum Conserve
(Makes enough for you to share with the neighbours)
6 cups ripe purple plums, stoned and cut into quarters (that’s 6 cups of quartered plums, not whole)
4 cups granulated sugar
2 hot red chillies, chopped finely
3 star anise
½ tsp salt
2 tsp butter (optional)
1. Place everything except the butter in a large, heavy based pan and heat on a low flame until some juice begins to seep from the plums. Do not add water to it no matter how much you want to.
2. When there is some juice in the pan, increase the heat and boil vigorously until the conserve reaches a lightly set point. To test this, remove the pan from the heat, place a spoonful onto a very cold plate (put one in the freezer for a little while). After a couple of seconds push it with your finger and if the top ever so slightly wrinkles then your conserve is ready. If it is too runny you won’t able to do this and you’ll need to boil it for longer. Keep testing it often. It needs to be slightly runnier than a jam but much thicker than a syrup.
3. Whisk the butter (if using) and dollop into sterilised jars. This keeps for 2-4 weeks in the fridge. If it lasts that long.