Friday, 5 October 2012


A neighbour of ours knocked at the door the other day bearing a pleasant surprise—5 sacks of frozen bullaces that she had foraged! What a lovely sight it was. But because bullaces are very small and have pits that cling to the meat like a moray on a white shark, we soon realised that we couldn't split the thawed bullaces and remove the pits as easy as if they had been fresh. So much for making bullace chutney with the remaining pulp.

But that didn't deter us.

More was the challenge of not following recipes like the one Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall demonstrated on one of his River Cottage programmes. We weren't about to wait 6 months let alone 2 years for plum and vodka to marry in a jar. (We usually scan his books and episodes for tips and tricks. They make a great starting point for developing cordials, elderflower champagne, and other delights. You should get a copy and keep it by your bedside as inspirational reading. We do.)

With the success of our creme de mures and creme de cassis projects last week, we thought: "Why not try a similar approach to making bullace liqueur?"

Here goes:


750 gr fresh bullaces, split and pitted (or frozen and kept whole)
1 tsp ground allspice
200 gr caster sugar
750 ml British dry white wine (try a Sharpham Barrel or Three Choirs dry white wine)
500 ml Sipsmith Gin

Bring to a boil the plums, allspice, sugar, and wine in a large saucepan. Remove from the hear and add the gin. Strain through a jelly bag, gently pressing any whole fruit against the cloth.

Pour into airtight containers and rest for 24 hours to allow the sediment to settle. Test the mixture for its pectin level and sweetness. (Bullaces have a very high pectin content and acidity.) Reheat the mixture and adjust with additional sugar and gin if necessary.

Bottle in sterile stopper bottles and age for at least a month.

So what the heck is a bullace, you may ask. It's a type of wild plum that grows along hedgerows throughout Britain: a cross between a Blackthorn and a cherry plum. Their skin colour ranges from yellow to wine red to deep purple and the flesh is pale green. Unlike other plums, these wild plums are very acidic and require plenty of additional sugar to consume.

There are hedgerows of them found from the Cotswolds to northern Wales. If you can't find them on your foraging walks, you can buy its cultivated, sweeter cousin—damson plums.

If you're luckily enough to get fresh bullaces, then by all means, take the time to split them open and pit them so you can make luscious chutney or preserves with the remaining flesh.

700 gr bullace plums, pitted
200 gr brown sugar
200 gr caster sugar
200 ml cider vinegar
150 gr sultanas
2 tsp salt
50 gr chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp mustard seeds
3 tbs chopped ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine the sugars and vinegar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring util the sugars dissolve. Add remaining ingredients, mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for about 45 minutes. Stir frequently as the mixture thickens. Pour into sterilized jars, seal, and process in a hot water bath for about 10 minutes.

We wonder what else is ready out in the hedgerow? Have to wait until tomorrow. the clouds are showing signs of rain. Rats!

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