The Pershore Plum Festival celebrates plum growing in and around the Worcestershire town of Pershore. Many varieties are grown in local orchards, including Victoria, Monarch, Greengage and many more but, of course, the varieties that are most celebrated during the festival are those named for the town, Pershore Purple, Pershore Yellow Egg and Pershore Emblem (also known as Evesham Red). Of these, the Pershore Purple seems to be most prevalent.
Held during August bank holiday weekend, the festival sees this pretty market town celebrate plums with an expansive food and drinks market, music and family entertainment, craft exhibitions and even a large vintage and classic cars show held in abbey park. Local shops deck their windows out in purple, competing for the prize of best display of the year.
I bought my plums from the absolutely charming Ellenden Farm Shop near Harvington. Smaller than other farm shops we visited over the weekend, this one was nonetheless our favourite, firstly because it had a really appealing range of produce and secondly because of the genuinely warm and helpful welcome.
My Pershore Purples went into a simple plum jelly, with the addition of port for extra flavour.
The purple skins and yellow flesh combined to make a beautiful deep maroon pulp which I strained to 500 ml of juice. Putting the juice aside, I also pressed an additional 182 grams of thicker pulp from before discarding the remaining stones, skin and fibre. I made the jelly in two batches, one with the strained juice, which results in a clearer jelly, and a second smaller batch with the pulp, which makes a thicker and cloudier but just as tasty offering.
I used the same recipe as my previous plum jelly, made from yellow plums from our allotment, it was the colour of sunshine in a jar. It’s the recipe my mum’s been making since I was a kid and is simple and delicious.
Plum & Port Jelly Recipe
Note: You won’t know how much sugar you need until you’ve cooked the plums down and strained the juices. For each litre of juice, you’ll need a kilo of sugar.
Note: You can omit the port if you prefer to make a plain plum jelly.
Note: I’ve provided information about the weights and volumes produced from this batch of plums below the recipe.
Halve the plums. I find this quick and easy to do by drawing a sharp knife right around each plum and then twisting both halves in opposite directions; the halves come apart easily.
Place halved plums into a large pan, leaving the skins on and stones in.
Add just enough water to cover most of the plums. (It’s better to be frugal with water and add more during the cooking down process – add too much and your resulting juice will be too thin).
Cook down the plums until they disintegrate completely. Add more water only if the mixture is looking dry and might catch.
Transfer the cooked pulp into a muslin straining bag or cloth. Either tie closed and hang over a pan or place into a colander inside a pan, so that the juices can easily run down. I left mine to strain overnight, with a clean towel loosely covering everything.
To avoid cloudy jelly, resist the urge to squeeze the pulp to extract extra liquid.
Set the strained juice aside.
If you are feeling thrifty, as I was, squeeze more juice from the pulp, and process this separately, as it will produce a thicker, cloudier jelly than the naturally strained juice.
Discard the pulp (on your compost heap or into your green bin).
At this stage, if you think your juice may be too watered down, boil to reduce volume.
Measure the juice and put into a large pan, with caster sugar. Use a kilo of sugar per litre of juice, adjusting for your volume of juice.
Plums are naturally high in pectin, so I used regular sugar, but if you use this recipe for other fruits with lower pectin, add powdered or liquid pectin now, or use jam sugar, which has pectin added.
Boil the juice and sugar hard. I use a jam thermometer to make sure I reach 104 °C (219 °F).
When the jelly has reached temperature, do a pectin check to test that it’s ready to set. I usually just hold the spoon up and see how the jelly drips off it, or draw a line in the jelly coating the back of the spoon).
If the jelly is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the port.
Pour your hot jelly into hot sterilised jars. I sterilise my jars in the oven (and boil the lids at the same time, draining them onto a clean tea towel). Pouring the jelly into the jars while it and they are still hot minimises the risk of the glass cracking from a sudden and extreme change in temperature.
(Actually, I ask Pete to do the pouring as holding large jugs of very hot liquid scares me!)
I started out with 1.2 kilos of plums from which I strained 500 ml of juice and squeezed an additional 180 grams of thicker, cloudier juice.
To the 500 ml of juice, I added 500 grams of sugar and about 2 tablespoons of port. This produced three 200 gram jars of dark but clear jelly.
To the 180 grams of thicker juice, I added 180 grams of sugar and a tablespoon of port. This made just over one jar of a thicker jelly, more like fruit cheese. We poured the excess into a small bowl to be eaten over the next few days.