Greengage jam

Summer’s been a bit of a washout here, but it turns out that the hot start and wet middle and end of the season have meant that the plum harvest this year has been stupendous. (So has the wasp harvest, so be careful if you’re collecting your own.) I don’t have my own plum tree, but I’ve been scrumping plums from trees in a neighbour’s garden across the green that overhang a footpath, eating them at friends’ houses, and buying bushels of the things at the market.

Greengages are my favourite English plum. They’re (surprise!) pale green, extraordinarily sweet, and wonderfully juicy, with golden flesh when ripe. Like Victoria plums, they’re perfect for jam-making, keeping a lovely plummy fragrance when cooked down. They’re very obliging fruits; they’re full of pectin, so you won’t need to add any setting agents to the jam; and you don’t even need to stone them before cooking, as the stones will loosen themselves for you as the fruit cooks down, floating to the top of the jam so you can skim them off as they bob to the surface.

I like the pure plum flavour you get from this jam, but some people like to add a vanilla pod to the saucepan for some extra fragrance. For me, it’s not the best use of an expensive pod; this jam just employs greengages, water and sugar, and it’s none the worse for that. When selecting your greengages, try to find fruits which are ripe but not over-squishy, and reject any with bruises or mouldy bits, as this will affect the length of time your jam will keep once opened.

I find it hard to think about preserves (especially fruit ones) in terms of kilogrammes and litres, so I’m afraid you’ll need to dig out the imperial weights for this one. To make jam from 2lb of ripe greengages, making about 3lb jam, you’ll need:

2lb greengages
1½ lb granulated sugar
½ pint water

Sterilise some jars before you begin. Put the whole greengages and the water in a large pan, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruits are very soft. Pour in the sugar, stir well and simmer hard, fishing out the stones as they bob to the surface, until the mixture reaches a jam set (it should measure 110°C on a jam thermometer; if you don’t have one, just dribble a bit of the jam onto a cold saucer and check that it’s reached a jammy texture). Skim any scum off the surface and pour into the sterilised jars, sealing immediately.

This is, of course, gorgeous on toast, crumpets or a croissant; my favourite thing to do with this jam is to dollop a big tablespoonful into the middle of a bowl of plain yoghurt for breakfast.

19 Replies to “Greengage jam”

  1. Ah – so you avoided the wasps, then! I've a friend who was stung *in the eyeball* by one once – she tells the most sick-making stories about the order in which her rods and cones started working again.

  2. Well I was too chicken but the Mr gallantly picked 2kgs in between all the wasps. 🙂
    The eye thing is more than wrong, I can't even begin to imagine that, ew.

  3. ooh sounds delish. I miss greengages – you don't really see them here. Our friends had a tree back home in Tassie but their dog loved them. She would wait patiently for the *thud* of a freshly dropped fruit and then diligently search it out. Lucky the pips are small!!

  4. I hope the seeds do not rise to the top in dogs, Jac!

    And Tig – the mind boggles. At least you don't have a story about how it started perceiving blue before anything else!

  5. Looks delish. Creed's newest perfume, Acqua Fiorentina, features a greengage plum note. I don't think you'd like the perfume but I'd be interested to see if you think it's an accurate greengage note.

  6. I made Ambrosia Plum jelly this morning. The fruit was wonderfully ripe and oh so juicy. Lets see if the jelly stays firm. I add 2 tbls of lemon mixed with five-six peelings of the fruit to fix the colour ["mash it all up"]. (My Grandma's secret to get the wild purple colour)


  7. Cambridge gages are the best 'plums' in the whole world – aren't we lucky!

    I fell into your lovely blog when searching the answer to a heated debate about whether scones served with cream tea should be fruit or plain. I say the MUST be plain every time. Fruit scones are for eating warm with butter! I see you differ…

    BTW Cambridge gages are best devoured secretly under the tree 🙂


  8. Barley – that is a superbly useful tip. Thanks very much.

    Cochin – I am amazed at the arguments scones can foment. At the risk of starting a fist-fight, how do you pronounce the word 'scone'?

  9. Scone to rhyme with 'own' (definitely not scone as in 'on').

    I discussed this with my Mother and not only did she insist on a plain scone with her cream tea, it had to be served with raspberry jam!

    I'd be happy with greengage jam 🙂

    Celia 🙂

  10. My favourite of several French exchanges (I loved French exchanges – I was an odd child) was with a farming family. The mother made jam from the Cavaillon melons and raspberries they grew, and sent me home with a big jar of the raspberry jam, which I had become addicted to eating with yoghurt. I've never had a better raspberry jam, and I wish the damn things weren't so expensive to buy fresh – I don't have room to grow them, and buying enough to make jam from would be crucifyingly expensive. Grumble grumble.

  11. My first ever garden had a greengage tree – I still miss it. Do you have anywhere you could pick raspberries for jam – so much cheaper and more fun then buying them. I picked 2 kilos of blueberries last week for about the cost of 3 punnets in the shops.

  12. My first ever garden had a greengage tree – I still miss it. Do you have anywhere you could pick raspberries for jam – so much cheaper and more fun then buying them. I picked 2 kilos of blueberries last week for about the cost of 3 punnets in the shops.

  13. Have just spent the morning picking greengages and making 9 pots of jam (can’t wait to stick on polka dot labels and pot covers – very Cath Kidston!!!). However, I’m not sure jam is set enough, it still looks runny although it did crinkle on the plate test. How long does it take to set?

  14. So had this bookmarked and just ready to make a start on making it (got the greengages and everything) and it turns out my hubby had bought some here pretty nice though!

  15. I used 7lb of cambridge gages and 6lb sugar, boiled it for the required 15 mins and put in jars, sealed etc and left to set. Still hadn’t set by next day so I reboiled it today and added some lemon juice but it still looks not to be setting !! I’ve never had any trouble with making jam before, it always sets, sometimes too solid!

    1. That is unusual – I wonder what happened! The pectin in lemons is in the seeds rather than the juice, so if you feel like boiling it up again, you’ll be better off with pips than juice.

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