Plum jelly and hot baths

It’s village fete season – the time for jam-buying, second-hand book swapping and cake-making.I bought grapefruit marmalade and quince jam – a jar of blackcurrant jelly was thrown in for good measure. My neighbours, who know I can’t be trusted with anything in the garden, got to the fete early and bought me two courgette plants. Apparently even a fool can grow a courgette. I’ll let you know.

It’s been a week of neighbourliness, which is just as well. We haven’t had hot water in this house for two weeks, no water at all for two days and now the ‘phone line has died a death. I’ve never been offered more hot baths in my life. We’ve become a familiar sight, traipsing out of the house with towels under our arms, off for a scrub in someone else’s bathroom. And to cap it all, I got back last night to discover that a bundle of rhubarb as thick as firewood had been posted over the garden wall. So I’m feeling very cherished. Courgettes, rhubarb and other people’s hot water.

Inspired by the village fete, I’ve been doing a little jelly-making of my own. I have a vexed relationship with preserves and especially chutney. Too often it’s like slurry. It’s the opacity of it that makes me shudder. The sense that nothing will pierce the murky gloom inside the jar – and even if I could see what was inside, I’d pay not to. But this plum and chilli jelly is a different matter. I swear you could read a book through it if you wanted to.

Plum and Chilli Jelly

1 kg cooking apples

1 kg Victoria plums, stones removed

180 ml red wine vinegar

Caster sugar

4 red chillies sliced into thin rounds and the seeds removed

Chop the apples – don’t peel them – and put them with the plums in a preserving pan, along with 1.5 litres of water. Boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and then allow to bubble happily for about an hour. Add the vinegar and boil for five minutes. Strain through a jelly bag until only a papier-mache type pulp remains in the bag.

Measure how much juice you have. For ever 570 ml of juice you will need 450g of sugar. Place the sugar and the juice into the washed preserving pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the chilli rings and then bring the mixture to a boil for about fifteen minutes, until the setting point is reached. You can test for this by placing a teaspoon of the jelly onto a saucer that you have cooled in the fridge. (I must admit that I get rather nerdy about this and go through several chilled saucers before I’m sure). Leave to cool for 15 minutes or so and then pour your jelly into sterilised jars and seal.

Eat your plum jelly with a wodge of cheddar cheese and a glass of red wine, staring into the middle distance.



  1. Oooh, look at the colour on that! I love the shots of the bunting too – so quintessentially English summer 🙂

  2. What a pain having no water for so long, that would drive me nuts. I really love your pictures, they're so crisp and vibrant.

  3. The last jelly picture is wonderful, as they all are, but the colour and jelliness of it are outstanding. Good luck with the courgettes.

  4. Thanks for your comments Jeanne, Sarah and Nina The hot water situation still hasn't improved – will have to fall back on another plate of cheese and jelly.

  5. Hi Stacey and TashYou're very kind – although I've lost my sense of humour as far as the hot water boiler goes. Apparently it could be working by Friday!

  6. I've just spent all day cooking for a fete this Saturday – so great to read this post. I made oils and vinegars, ginger chilli jam, onion marmalade, preserved lemons I could go on and will tomorrow! So it's great to think of other people doing the same thing. I love the pics and the plum/chilli recipe – I do something similar with apricots. We also had no h.w. this week, but it was a leak that caused it to be turned off – only for 12hrs fortunately..and then the internet went down….

  7. Hi LizI love the sound of the apricot version – how delicious. Thanks for the hot water solidarity.

  8. Hi Charlie! Sorry for not coming before to say hi to you and enjoy your recipes, writing and pictures. Its been very busy at this end. What a lovely blog you have!The recipe is very interesting. Jelly and cheese,,,yes please!Have a nice weekend!

  9. Hi LeilaGreat to hear from you. Thank you for coming to say hello and thanks too for being so kind. I'm so looking forward to spending some time enjoying your lovely blog – very busy here too! Will be in touch soon. xx

  10. I made a batch of the plum & apple chilli jam yesterday and considered it to be so delicious (and that was only sampling it on rice cakes!) that I'm now making a second lot for Christmas pressies.

  11. I'm so pleased! Lucky friends getting a home-made Christmas present – the best kind…

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