I came across these beautiful greengages in a local fruit and veg shop the other day and had to buy them. When I was a kid, we had a hammock hanging between the plum trees in our garden in Sweden. Endless summer hours were whittled away, snoozing, reading and swinging underneath their leafy shade. Looking up, I would sometimes spy a tiny unripe green plum – a promise of later treats. As with all fruits and veg, plums come into season much later in Scandinavia. The plum harvest was notoriously and particularly unpredictable – if we were lucky we would be able to taste one or two when they’d just started to turn a patchy yellow-purple, but more often than not we’d be long gone by the time they were ripe.
These honeyed green plums reminded me of all the recipes I missed out on, so I couldn’t resist taking some home for the jams and tarts I’d always dreamt of making. But I should warn you that this is small-batch cooking, I’m afraid, as I only bought a kilo of the fruits home. The jam recipe makes two small jars, just and the tart recipe is for a mini dessert, enough for a 18cm pie dish. This turned out to be ample for the two of us for dessert over a few days, including a trip to the proms (the queue is an excellent excuse for a fancy picnic style dinner). To serve more, you could of course double the recipe and use a larger pie dish.
Greengage and vanilla jam
Makes 2 jars
You will need:
1 small vanilla pod
400g caster sugar
knob of butter
1. Wash the greengages well and place in a large pan with 100ml of water and the vanilla pod. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for about 20 mins until the fruit is completely soft.
2. Add the sugar off the heat and stir to dissolve completely. Bring back to a rolling boil for about 15 minutes, until setting point is reached. You can test for this by placing a small plate or saucer in the freezer. Drizzle a little hot jam over the plate and allow to cool. If the jam is ready, it should crease and create a ripple-like wrinkle effect when pushed across the saucer with a finger.
3. Fish out any stones which should by now how floated to the surface. Add the butter and stir until melted and any scummy froth has disperesed. Pour the jam into hot steralised jars and allow to cool a little before sealing.
Greengage and Calvados Tart
You will need:
1/2 pack ready-made shortcrust pastry or make your own
125g brown sugar
400g greengages, pitted and patted dry
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. Roll out your pastry to line a small pie dish, circa 18 cm in diameter. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to firm up.
2. Meanwhile, place the calvados and 50g of the sugar in a small pan. Simmer slowly until thick and reduced by about half – this should take about 15 minutes. Allow to cool a little, then combine all but a few tablespoons with the fruit, sifted ornflour, cinnamon and remaining sugar.
3. Tip the greengages into the pie shell and bake for 45 minutes, until the fruit filling is soft and jammy but not liquidy. Cover with tinfoil if the pastry is getting too brown.
4. While the pie is in the oven, return the remaining calvados to the pan and reduce to a syrupy consistency. Drizzle over the warm tart and serve with a dollop of greek yoghurt or ice cream.