Mary Smith, on Drying ‘Green Gage Plumbs’

Put half a pound of sugar into a preserving-pan with a pint of water, boil it, and skim it clean ; then slit one pound of plumbs down the seam, and put them into the syrup,- set them on the fire, and let them simmer slowly ’till they are quite tender, turning them carefully that all sides may be done alike. Set them by all night with a paper over them to keep them under the syrup, otherwise they will lose their colour ; then put three quarters of a pound of fine sugar into a preserving-pan with a quarter of a pint of water,- boil and skim it clean ; let the syrup be cold, drain the plumbs from the first syrup, and put them into the other, and set them on the fire to simmer ’till they look clear ; set them by in a mug for ten days, then drain them, dry them in a stove, and keep them as before (in a paper box, with papers between them, stored in a dry place).”

Mary Smith, The Complete House-keeper, and Professed Cook (1772)

At time of posting it may be a little too late for plum season, but in case you have a crop of greengages somehow still stubbornly clinging to the tree, here’s an eighteenth century method for preserving them over the winter.

The method itself seems simple enough. Of course, you might want to shop around for something that’s not quite so sugar-heavy – around three quarters of a kilo in total, just to dry half a kilo of plums seems a bit much to me – like a food dehydrator, perhaps?

Or you could skip the drying stage and bottle your greengages in a light sugar syrup, which is a method I’ve had great success with using both blackcurrants and ‘Black Worcester’ cooking pears.

How about you? Do you have preferred method for plum(b) preservation? Do please let me know, via the comments.

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