Plum/Damson and Tamarind Chutney

This is one of the numerous ways I transformed the huge amount of plums I was offered this year. Jams and sauces were an obvious choice, but I was very reluctant to try making a chutney again, since my last year’s experience was really disappointing. However, faced with so many kilos of plums to transform I tried to make out which ingredient could have spoiled the taste of my previous plum chutney. Onion was one of the candidates, so as soon as I saw a recipe without it, something told me I ought to try it. I found it on The Cottage Smallholder website, but slightly modified it, omitting grapes and putting more plums instead. I also crushed all the spices in a mortar. In spite of these changes the result was stunning! No more onions in my future plum chutneys!

This chutney is supposed to be cooked slowly for many hours and, as you observe the taste changing throughout the process, you understand why! It gets better every hour. At the beginning I was wondering whether I should mix everything just before putting into jars, but at a certain point the cinnamon stick and other spices simply started to fall into pieces and melt into the sticky and very dark paste.

Preparation: around 10 hours (can be divided into several days)


1350g plums (mine were damsons, or at least very similar to damsons)

450g seedless grapes ( I simply put more plums, since I didn’t have grapes

1 lemon sliced fine (seeds discarded)

300g dried apricots (chopped at least into eight pieces)

200g dried sultanas

225g-450g soft brown sugar, depending on how sweet your plums are

125g tamarind block (soaked for 20 minutes in a mug of boiling water then sieve and reject the seeds) or 2 tablespoons tamarind paste. I added the tamarind infused water to the chutney too.

5cm stick of cinnamon

2 large garlic cloves chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoon  salt

3 teaspoons allspice berries

1 teaspoon ground ginger

750 ml white wine vinegar

3 small hot bird’s eye chillies (seeds removed) Chopped fine

2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

5 juniper berries

15 black peppercorns

2 heaped teaspoons yellow mustard seed

Crush the spices in a mortar. Stone the plums, cut up roughly. Put everything into a big pan (at the beginning put only 225g sugar). After around 5 hours check the acidity level and see if you should add more sugar. Let the chutney simmer on a very low heat for at least one day (I cooked it for 2 days, totally for more than 10 hours).

Spoon the hot chutney into sterilised jars, cover with lids.

Leave the jars to cool.

/At this point you can (after the chutney has cooled down) either freeze it, or keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or process it in the jars, as described below, and store it in your pantry for at least a year./

Place the cool jars into a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking), cover up with hot – but not boiling- water to the level just below the lid. Bring to boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.
Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the chutney and don’t forget to mark the date.