Wild Meadow Flowers, Buttery Brioche
Traditional Greengage Jam
A gentle walk in the country, picking flowers and enjoying the cooler weather but also the sunshine……meadows filled with wild flowers and an old wall covered in fragrant honeysuckle……poppies, cornflowers, millet, lady’s mantle, clover and daisies…….and then a tree laden with greengages. Now, there’s a plum that evokes memories of bread scented kitchens, warm log fires, giant “Brown Betty” teapots and cups of sweet, milky tea…….an old scrubbed table and my grandmother coaxing a batch of jam to setting point, before potting it in old heavy based jam jars with cellophane covers.
A quick chat with a neighbour revealed the owner of the greengage tree, and once permission was granted, I rushed home to bring back some bags and baskets for frantic greengage picking. Half an hour later, I walked back home with a few kilos of these fabulous late summer fruits and many recipes dancing through my head. Jam was to be made with them, and then maybe a rustic tray bake with an almond drizzle icing……or, maybe I could cook them with some local pork chops for a fruity spin on a family favourite – sticky one-pan chops, there were enough greengages to fulfil all my recipe ideas, but, JAM was definitely on the menu first.
A plum by any other name, greengages made their début appearance in the UK in 1724, when Sir William Gage, the 7th Baronet of Hengrave Hall near Bury St Edmunds, imported some of the plum trees to England from France; the story is that some were lost in transit and the name was taken from the accompanying labels on the trees, “Green Gage”. Greengages are called Reine Claude (or Reine Claude Verte) in France and they were originally bred in Moissac, France from a green fruited wild plum (Canerik) which originated from Asia Minor. Whatever the name of these small greenish-yellow plums, I love them and always look forward to eating them when they are in season.
Today’s recipe, which was made and enjoyed on buttery toasted brioche for breakfast the other day, is my version of Vivien Lloyd’s classic recipe for Greengage Jam as published in her book First Preserves. Vivien suggests adding some of the kernels (from the stones of the greengages) to the jam, this helps with the set (I sometimes follow this method myself when making apricot conserve or jam), but I decided to tweak the recipe slightly by adding the juice of a lemon to my jam, which is what my grandmother used to do when she made greengage jam; with greengages picked from a country lane in Northumberland where she and my grandfather used to live.
Now is the time for preserving, late summer yields a wonderful variety of fruit and vegetables, and what better way to enjoy them throughout the drear winter months then to preserve them. Look out for several more of my preserves recipes over the next few weeks, such as Mirabelle Jam, and Mirabelle Chutney, as well as Peach Chutney and Green Bean Relish….I already have a plethora of wonderful preserves and jam recipes on Lavender and Lovage, so do take a peek here: Lavender and Lovage Preserved. That’s all for today, I’ll be back soon with more recipes, reviews and general culinary chat, have a great day and see you next time, Karen