Every year, around this time, I am elbow deep in some kind of fruit. Some would come from my garden, and some would come from the forest near to our place, but from the beginning of May till let’s say end of October I am probably preparing some kind of things with some kind of fruit. For example, right now I have more plums that I can use so I am into all things plums right now. Sometimes, I use recipes. But sometimes, it’s nice not to have to use recipes at all. And by recipe, I mean detailed instructions which tell you how to prepare something, how long to prepare it for and what exactly are the steps how to cook it. I like instructions. If you tell me that the dough should be similar to noodle dough and I’ve never made noodles in my life, your instructions won’t be helpful. But some things don’t need instructions and recipes and rules. Some things are just super simple. Like these five preserves.
Take a large, clean jar. Cover the bottom with a layer of blackberries. Cover with a layer of sugar. Repeat until you’ll have used all the blackberries. Close. Put a clean towel at the bottom of a pan and put the jar in the pan and half cover with water. Let it simmer for 10 minutes to half an hour. Done. Works for raspberries as well.
This works well for elderberries, plums and blackcurrants (or combinations thereof). You’ll need the fruit, water and some sugar (to taste). Wash the fruit, put it in the water, add sugar. Cook until the water takes on a deep color. Pour into clean bottles.
For jelly, blackberries, blackcurrants (and redcurrants as well), and raspberries are perfect. The idea? Cook the fruit until they turn into mousse. Mostly, you won’t need any water as the fruit should give off enough juice on their own, but sometimes you can add a little water. Once you have the juice, sieve away the mashed fruit (you can use them to make juice). Weigh the juice, and add the same amount of gelling sugar. Cook until the spoon leaves a trace in the jelly.
Fit the plums into jars. Prepare enough vinegar to fit into these jars and pour it into a pan. Add cinnamon and cloves, cook. Bring to the boil, and turn off the heat. Cover the plums with the vinegar. The next day, pour away the vinegar (although I put it aside as it’s fruit vinegar at this point and therefore too good to throw away) and cover with sugar. Perfect for sweet-and-sour chicken.
Plum sauce (povidl)
Povidl (powidła in Polish) is basically plum sauce, and it’s very popular in Eastern and Central Europe. I think this is the simplest of all the recipes. Basically, you’ll need zwetschken plums (they’re known as Hungarian plums where I’m from). They have to be very sweet and ripe, because you will not be adding any sugar. Remove the stones from the plums, put them into a pan with a thick bottom. Add a little bit of water. And then you cook, and you wait. And you wait some more. It may take several hours. You can stir occasionally but basically leave the povidl alone. They’ll be done when you scarp the bottom with a wooden spoon and the spoon leaves a trail.
These are not for the foodie perfectionist. These are for anyone who can appreciate a good preserve without having to figure out a detailed recipe. In short, they are perfect.