Trying my hand at canning fruit – greengages

I was lucky recently to locate a tree full of greengages, its limbs sprawling and hanging low, low enough for me to pick the golden fruit.

I have been hunting for wild plums all summer, hopeful for a damson in a roadside hedgerow, or an old round plum at a field edge. However, it was the green, golden variety of prunus domestica that finally satisfied my plummy yearnings.

I remember being received by a French gîte hostess in Larchant, Seine-et-Marne, whom presented my travelling companions and I with a bowl of fresh Victoria plums that were perfectly ripe and juicy. Her English was limited and my French elementary but I understood her gesture of fresh fruit very well, we were welcome there. At the back of the gîte, beyond the fence, were old fruit trees and a small veg plot. What a place.

What 2.5kg of greengages looks like

Now that I had found my source of fruit, what was I to do with them? I think a Kilner jar filled with sweet fruit is a perfectly romantic, albeit twee, image. So I went for it. The Yanks call it canning, but as there is a jar involved and not a tin can that feels a little strange, although I guess it is a little strange! My new purchase of the River Cottage Preserves Handbook guided my along the way from sterilising my jars to testing the seal (I’ve not got that far yet, give it 24 hours). I thought it made sense to round the greengages down to two even kilograms so I took 500g off and tried to pack them into a jar. Most of them fit.


Simply fill jar with fruit and a light syrup solution and close, simmer for 10 minutes in a big bowl of water with a ‘false bottom’ in the form of a folded teatowl, then carefully remove the jar to the side to cool.

I have to disclose fully, the discovery was not of the purest kind, I did not sniff it out myself. I was pinpointed to the location by the incredibly useful Edible York map, which I have written about several times before. If you live in an urban area, see if there is a map like it for where you live, perhaps from a local Incredible Edible group. If not, start drawing up one yourself! Plot everything edible, from eggs sold from outside a garden gate, to crab apples, rosehips, nettles, brambles. Then share it. (Thanks to John for adding the greengages pin on the EY map).

I still quite fancy some dark purple, juicy damsons. Never satisfied.


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