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Bottling summer: an easy recipe for plum liqueur

If you have access to one or more plum trees, then in an average year you’ll easily be able to pick more plums than you can possibly eat. A plum tree in July, its branches sagging under the weight of ripe fruit, is an image of the fecund abundance of nature.

What to do with your superabundance of plums? Well, plum jam, plum crumble and dried prunes are all nice enough, but for my money, the most delicious way of bottling those hot summer days to enjoy in the depths of winter is to make plum liqueur. It’s also incredibly easy and very cheap.

How many plums can you find in this picture? I counted 24, including the one I ate while taking it.

What you will need

  • A bucket of freshly picked plums (about 6-8kg). (They don’t all have to be fully ripe, in fact, slightly hard plums give a superior taste.)
  • 2-3 kg granulated sugar, according to taste
  • 1 litre brandy, vodka or other spirits
  • a fermenting bin with airlock (typically costs about €10-15)
  • a wooden spoon, a sharp knife, and a funnel
  • a hand blender (optional)
  • a cloth bag or old pillowcase (for filtering)
  • clean wine bottles with corks

What to do

  1. Make sure your equipment is clean but don’t bother with sterilisation.
  2. Gently rinse the plums but do not wash them thoroughly: the natural yeast on the skins is what makes the fermentation happen.
  3. With a sharp knife, halve the plums and discard the stones.
  4. Tip the plums into the fermenting bin. Add the sugar and mix well with the wooden spoon.
  5. Close up the fermenting bin, insert the airlock and place somewhere with a warm but stable temperature, not in direct sun. 
  6. Let the stand for a couple of days until bubbles of gas start coming from the airlock.
  7. Now take the lid off and give it a good stir to make sure all the liquid is well mixed with the plums. You will notice that the plums, which started out solid, are progressively liquified as fermentation proceeds. Replace the lid and leave to ferment again.
  8. After a week or so, the plums will be soft and easy of blend with the hand blender, which will speed up the fermentation, though it’s not essential.
  9. Allow fermentation to continue for two to three weeks, stirring every day or two, until it slows down noticeably—you can tell this by the frequency of bubbles coming from the airlock.
  10. Pour the fermented plums into a cloth bag or old pillowcase (in batches if necessary). Suspend this over a large bowl into which the liquid (plum wine) will drain.
  11. Mix the plum wine with spirits in a ratio of approximately 4 wine : 1 spirits, which halts fermentation and preserves the liqueur. Decant into bottles and cork them. If you find that fermentation doesn’t stop, add more spirits until it does.
  12. Enjoy in moderation!

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