The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Cottage Smallholder Plum Chutney or Damson Chutney

a wicker basket full of wild plums

This chutney recipe works well with plums, wild plums or damsons. It does not need months to mature and keeps well

I had some spare time today so finally retrieved the stock pot from Danny, swooshed it out with bicarbonate of soda to get rid of the taint of clove chutney (see Tricks and Tips below) and found the plum chutney recipe from Anne Mary’s old cook book. This was going to be the base of our own Cottage Smallholder Chutney.

I had collected three pounds of windfall wild plums yesterday and simmered them last night for 20 minutes in 75 ml of white wine vinegar. This is Delia’s canny trick to avoid stoning fresh plums for chutney (use some of the vinegar that you are going to use for your brew). This morning, grabbing a handful at a time, it was easy to find the stones and remove them (our wild plum stones are tiny, barely a centimetre long).

At breakfast we studied Anne Mary’s recipe and decided how we would change it to create a plum chutney that we would be proud of. Danny had to go to London so pinpointed his essential ingredients for our chutney – balsamic vinegar and juniper berries. As I was the one who ruined the last “Let’s make our own” batch with too many cloves, I decided that our chutney was definitely going to work this time.

There was a clove shaped crisis of confidence. And consequently the alterations that I made today were incrementally smalll. This meant hours of tasting, comparisons and retasting, until I felt quite queasy from ingesting so much chutney. (At least a jar without lunch). It has now simmered (tiny bubbles barely breaking the surface) for five hours. When you draw a wooden spoon through the chutney, it is thick enough to see where you have been. It is finally done, and approved for release. We have made a great plum chutney, extra fruity and piquant.

Danny returned exhausted from London and sniffed the aroma as he walked into the kitchen. There was a long silence as he grabbed a spoon and rushed to the stock pot for a taste. His response was positive. Our recipe is below..

Our latest Plum and Tamarind Chutney recipe is here.


Tricks and Tips:

  • How do I get rid of tainted smells in pots?

If your cooking pot or container is tainted with the smell of the last resident (curry, tomato sauce etc). Sprinkle with a good tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda into it and add a good splosh of hot water. Rub the solution over all surfaces and leave for two minutes. Rinse well in cold water.

  • How do I sterilise jars and lids?

The sterilising method that we use is simple. Just before making the jam, I quickly wash and rinse the jars and place them upside down in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 160c/140c for fan assisted. When the oven has reached the right temperature I turn off the heat. The jars will stay warm for quite a while. I only use plastic lined lids for preserves as the all-metal lids can go rusty. I boil these for five minutes in water to sterilise them. If I use Le Parfait jars, I do the same with the rubber rings.



Cottage Smallholder Plum Chutney or Damson Chutney
Recipe Type: Chutney
Author: Fiona Nevile
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 5 hours
Total time: 5 hours 30 mins
  • 3lbs/1350g wild plums/damsons/eating plums
  • 1lb/450g of apples (cored but not skinned). Chopped fine. Cooking apples are best but eating apples would do at a pinch.
  • 1 lb/450g onions chopped fine
  • 10.5 ozs/300g dried apricots (chopped at least into eight)
  • 7 ozs/200g dried raisins (chopped into four)
  • Half lb-1lb/225g-450g of soft brown sugar, depending on how sweet your wild plums/damsons/eating plums are. We’d usehalf a lb of sugar for eating plums but used 1lb for this batch as we were using wild plums (these are very tart like damsons).
  • 2 large cloves of garlic chopped fine
  • Half tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of allspice powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1and a half pints/750 ml of white wine vinegar
  • 1 small hot chilli
  • 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 5 juniper berries
  • 10 black peppercorns
  1. Stone the plums and if big enough cut into slices.
  2. Chop the apples, onions, raisins and apricots.
  3. Place all ingredients in a large heavy bottomed saucepan and bring slowly to a gentle boil. Turn the heat down immediately and simmer very gently (tiny bubbles just breaking the surface on the lowest heat) for at least five hours until the mixture has broken down and thickens.
  4. Stir from time to time and more towards the end. If your simmering point is higher than ours, your chutney will be ready sooner. Take a peek every half hour or so. The chutney will thicken as it cools.
  5. When ready pour into sterilised jars and cover with plastic lined metal lids (how do I sterilise jars and lids? See Tips and Tricks above).


  1. Lorraine

    Well, I started making this recipe having not stocked up my cupboards specifically for it and found I only had a 330ml bottle of white wine vinegar. Not being one to wait until tomorrow I substituted red wine! Hmmmm, smells very nice in my kitchen but I may have to add a bit more sugar as I used damsons as well.

    Is the red wine a disaster waiting to be canned?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Lorraine

      I’m sure that the red wine vinegar will be fine. It’s the malt vinegar that could cause real problems re taste.

  2. Chrissie

    Thank you fn, I will try that. Some of my batch has no movement; and some have!!! I don’t understand that unless as I emptied the pot as I slowly filled up the jars, what was left in the pot must have thickened up!! I am confused!! But there again, it doesn’t take much to confuse me!!!

  3. Alan Reynolds

    I used Tesco’s own brand white wine vinegar. I’ll leave the chutney for a couple of months and let you know what it’s like. I also made some plum jam from the same tree, this was superb (no vinegar of course)

  4. Chrissie

    Has anyone out there any thoughts upon my query of 9th August re: consistency of chutney? If my chutney is a little on the loose side I suppose it will not matter really as long as it tastes good!! Cheer me up, do!!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Chrissie

      You can gently reheat it and simmer until it thickens – remember that it thickens more as it cools.

      As it matures it will thicken slightly but not much.

  5. mowdrops

    Here in Oxfordshire the wild plums have gone mad.Have picked pounds and pounds.We have loads of different licquers on the go and many more pounds waiting in the freezer for other recipes.

  6. zoeangel

    Hi Jan
    I made this chutney for the first time last august too when my daughter discovered a wild plum tree whilst out walking the dog. I was ready to make it this year and sent her off with the dog and a large number of bags and all she brought back was one and a half pounds of very ripe very dry plums that resembled nothing like last years lot. She says it was the same tree and they were all very dark and ripe. I totally agree with your comment that the plum harvest is not as good this year as last. My only problem is that all my family and friends were promised a bucket load and now I have to let them down. I tried making another one with normal plums once the wild plum season had finished and what a let down. The taste just was not the same. Very disappointing crop this year for me too. (Luckily, I still have two jars put away from last year and they will be going nowhere but on my food!!!)

  7. jan macdonald

    Have really enjoyed reading all these comments and just about to make plum chutney using free plums from sister. Have also made greengage chutney with chilli and ginger. Only tasted leftovers but I expect this to blow my head off. Reading of cherry plums reminds me of childhood when these were grown commercially in Suffolk and we got paid to pick them. My daughter now has a bush that overhsngs her garden and that we are allowed to pick although very poor crop thisyear.

  8. Just finished making our first batch of this with victoria plums & apples from our garden – yum!

    More spicy than I thought it would be but this isn’t a problem as its so tasty. Only used 1/2lb sugar as the plums were sweet anyway.

    (filled 3 lots of 2lb jars and one 1lb jar approx)

  9. Alan Reynolds

    I’ve just tried this recipie. The taste of vinegar overwhelms all other flavours. Surely half the volume of vinegar would ssuffice.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Alan

      What kind of vinegar did you use? Mine never has an overwhelming taste of vinegar so I suspect that you didn’t use wine or cider vinegar.

  10. Chrissie

    Debbie,Would mention that I have recently made made some loveley plum conserve and it tastes heavenly. The consistency is just about right. Just 2 kilos of the cherry plums (free off my friends’ tree) less sugar than normal about
    1.5 kilos sugar and 4 tablespoons of rum. hmm! hmm! My friends tree is only as big as a small apple tree and the small cherry plums that it produces each year is absolutely astounding. I’m not complaining!!

Copyright © 2006-2012 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder