The Cottage Smallholder

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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. Planning to use this recipe for the first time. A little concern over the small hot chilli and the peppercorns. Should the chilli be chopped, or put in whole. If whole, should it be removed before putting into jars. Same concern over the 10 peppercorns – not the best thing to bite into in a spoonful of chutney. Recommendations please.

    • Hi, I chopped the chilli up as I too wasn’t sure what to do with it,and as for the peppercorns and also the juniper berries I broke them up a little before putting them in. So far no broken teeth from rogue peppercorns or berries 🙂

  2. Steph

    Having strained litre upon litre of my damson gin last night ready to bottle up for my wedding favours, I have all the lovely gin soaked damsons sat in my large mason bowl, in the past I have made boozy damson crumbles with only having a few. So I am planning on making this chutney with the fruit this time, if its a success I may even put it out with the cheese on the wedding day for a little ‘kick’. Have you ever made it with the damsons left from gin making? I hope it works out 🙂

  3. We have used this recipe twice now, the first time we added fresh ginger instead of ground and just a small chilli extra which made it quite spiky but delicious. The 2nd time we had double quantities and found we were short of 175 g of apricots so put that much seedless tamarind instead, proprtionally added an extra clove of garlic and about 100 g of seedless grapes + star anise, ground cloves 1 tsp, and a good chunk of fresh ginger instead of ground, obviously in much larger quantities ( about 5 thumb lengths) because it is more dispersed when it is fresh. we also cleaned the stones well with some of the vinegar for use in the mix. So far have only just put in 1.25 lbs sugar but may add more as it cooks. Oh and this time we put the raisins in whole! Not doing the chopping raisins into 4 again – life’s too short!!

  4. How long will this chutney keep I have just discovered some jars I made back in Nov 2011. All sterilised and sealed at time of bottling. They look ok, would they still be ok to use ?

  5. Jackie Brazier

    We’ve just made this and couldn’t wait to try it – it’s delicious and SO much better than any shop bought. Also a good use of our windfall plums and apples. Thank you for recipe. We made 10 differing size jars c 10lbs in all.

  6. Thanks for all the wonderful recipes. Have had a good run of jam making using your apple and blackberry and wild plum jam recipes (not taste tested the set versions yet but lots of confidence after doing your pear and lemon recipe). Would love to have a go at this chutney but I can’t find allspice where I live. Is it substitutable or will it taste just as good without?

  7. Tracey Hunt

    Hello from New Zealand! I have made this chutney today and I am delighted with the result. Its thick and rich a gorgeous colour. Delicious! We are having some tonight with our sausages. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I am now looking at your other recipes as I have 10kg of Damsons to put to good use! Cheers Tracey

  8. Hi, hoping someone can help!

    I’m a preserving novice, hoping to attempt this recipe either tomorrow or the following day with an abundance of plums sat in the freezer. After hunting high and low, we have loads of jars but alas no lids!!! Will it be disastrous? Is there anything I can use as a substitute? How long could I store it for without the use of lids? I was thinking about using muslin and grease proof paper etc like with jams???? Help! Thanks in advance!

  9. It wasn’t red wine vinegar, it was just red wine! lol Tastes lovely already but will wait a couple of months and hope it still tastes good.

  10. Love, love, love this recipe! So popular with the family I’m, making another batch this weekend. Didn’t slow cook it but faster boiled for just over an hour and it was perfect. Forgot to add the chilli and balsamic but didn’t miss it…..

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