This is the time of year the plums are ripe. We used to have a full-grown plum tree in our garden, but that one was felled when we moved house. I planted a new plum tree in our new garden, but this year it still had to accommodate to its new environment and did not flower or set fruit. Our stock of medieval plumsauce, however, was finished, so this time I had to resort to buying plums from the market in order to make 'Erbowle', the medieval plum pudding / sauce / jam.
The plum sauce made a few years ago for dinner at the museum in Eindhoven.
I have a modernised recipe of Erbowle from two cookbooks, Pleyn Delit and The medieval kitchen - recipes from France and Italy. They both use the same 14th century English source: The Forme of Cury, but their versions are quite different in amounts of ingredients used and the types of spices added. I did not remember well which version I originally used, so I made a combination which tastes quite well.
The 'Reine Victoria' red plums.
First, the original recipe
Take bolas and scald them with wyne, and drawe hem thorow a straynour; do hem in a pot. Clarify honey, and therto with powder fort and flour of rys. Salt it & florissh it with whyte aneys, & serve it forth.
3 kg plums (I used Reine Victoria, a red plum variety)
approximately 1.2 litres red wine
4 spoons of clear honey
a pinch of salt
some rice flour (not more than a tablespoon)
a teaspoon of strong spices ( a combination of long pepper, black pepper, cloves and nutmeg)
a teaspoon ground ginger
a teaspoon of cinnamon
(the cookbooks also mention candied anise seeds)
The other ingredients, clockwise: clear honey, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, long pepper and ginger.
Wash and pit the plums. Add the red wine and bring to the boil in a stainless steel pan and simmer for five minutes. Drain trough a sieve and reserve the wine. Return the plums to the pan and mash them with a hand blender. Place the pan over a low heat and stir in the honey, the salt and the spices. Depending on the thickness of the plum purée add some reserved wine or reserved wine with added rice flour. Cook over low heat about 10 minutes. The plum purée has to have a consistency of porridge.
The plum purée is already quite thick.
Left: The remaining wine can be used to make hypocras, but much of the alcohol has been vaporised. Right: Only a very little amount of this rice flour in wine was needed to thicken the plum sauce.
Meanwhile, as I wanted to preserve the plum sauce /jam for later use, I sterilised some empty jam jars and lids by boiling them in water for 20 minutes. They were removed from the boiling water with the help of scissor tongs and put upside down to dry on a clean tea towel. The jam jars were then filled with the hot sauce and closed. I let them settle upside down for a few minutes; while the jar and sauce cooled down, the lid was automatically sucked vacuum.
Left: Sterilising the glass jars in boiling water. Right: Nine jam jars with plum sauce, ready for the next season.