The Cottage Smallholder

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Green bullace jam recipe


Photo: Green bullaces - wild greengages

Photo: Green bullaces - wild greengages

If you missed the greengages a few weeks ago don’t panic. The wild greengages (green bullaces) are ready to pick now. These are not green cherry plums, which will now be yellow through to deep red when ripe. Green bullaces are green, fall into your hands when you touch them and taste just like a a mini version of our modern greengage.

They are the tiny ancient ancestors of our cultivated greengages. I like to imagine cave families going out to forage for them. Now, as way back then, they are free.

For years I’ve visited a small stretch of hedgerow in the village and collected just enough to make one bottle of green bullace vodka (excellent by the way). I have kept the location secret as there are so few fruits on this 2 meter stretch. But on a recent foraging ramble with Danny we discovered two trees – barely ten minutes from the cottage and whooped with joy. Cherry plums are everywhere on the Cambridgeshire/ Suffolk borders but green bullaces are a rarity.

The ones with a blush in the photo are sweeter but not so flavoursome as the bright green. Ideally, only use the firm bright green ones for this recipe.

Green bullace jam


900g/2 lbs of greengages
675g/1.5 lbs of white granulated sugar
Half a pint/275ml of water
The juice of a small lemon

1. Wash the bullaces and discard any damaged fruit.
2. Put the bullaces and water into a large heavy bottomed saucepan (or preserving pan) and simmer gently until the skins split and they are soft. Let them cool and then remove the stones.
3. Meanwhile, warm the sugar in a low oven for ten minutes and add to the fruit.
4. Stir gently over a low heat until you are sure that all the sugar crystals have dissolved.
5. Turn up the heat to a medium high setting and, stirring frequently, let the fruit boil rapidly for 10 minutes (this is called a rolling boil).
6. Remove any remaining stones with a slotted spoon during the boiling process – they are so tiny I always miss a few during the de-stoning phase.
7. Test for set – your finger makes a crinkly mark in jam that has been cooled for 2 mins in the fridge – remove the main pan from the heat during this process.
8. If the jam has not set, continue to boil rapidly and test at five minute intervals.
9. When the jam has set, carefully pour into warm, sterilised jars, using a ladle or small jug. A preserving funnel comes in very handy here and you lose much less jam.
10. Cover the jars with tight fitting screw-top lids, or waxed discs and cellophane pot covers (waxed discs, wax facing downwards and plastic covers secured with plastic bands).
11. Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place, well away from damp.

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  1. Hi Amalee,
    Elderberry wine as follows…..
    3lb elderberrys,
    9 pints of boiling water,
    1/4 oz of wine yeast,
    2 tablespoons of lemon juice,
    3lb of sugar (granulated)
    strip berries with a fork into a fermentation bucket and then crush the hell out of them.
    Add 8 pints of boiling water and leave to cool,
    Once cool add lemon juice and yeast,
    Leave for two days..
    In a bowl dissolve the sugar with one pint of boiling water stir into the liquid and then strain through a fine sieve into a demijohn (leave a bit of space to allow for mad fermentation for the first day or so)
    Top up to the base of the neck with cool boiled water and top with an airlock.
    When fermentation stops and the wine has cleared bottle and leave for about 6-8 months when it will be fantastic :o). It will keep indefinatly…I hope this helps, enjoy yourself.

  2. amalee issa


    I have a vat of damson gin pinking up in the pantry even as we speak… heavenly.


  3. We have wild cherry plums here (Oxfordshire), and damsons, but I’ve never found green bullaces.
    I do have a (huge) vat of cultivated greengage jam bubbling away at the moment though- my local farm shop still has some, and it’s DD2’s favourite 🙂

    Re: the damsons- they make excellent gin too (at least as good as sloe gin).

  4. amalee issa

    Fiona and the Irishman,

    How do you make elderberry wine? You’ll know how to do this, and although I’ve read loads of recipes etc etc, I need the inside track on all the things that are missed out from the recipes, such as how warm is a warm room for fermenting, all that truckle with yeast, and is all that effort really worth it? I do love a bottle of elderberry wine, (and the plum wine from the Chatsworth farmshop) but am becoming increasingly cross with myself over the prices!

    I don’t suppose you fancy doing a photo-journalistic piece on making this, especially as you could include loads of photos of the trickier parts? A tutorial of sorts, for budding hedgerow winos?


  5. Sounds just like damsons. We’ve got loads – made damson vodka, tomorrow will make chutney with the wild plums we have, last week made damson jelly – great with meat. Also good stewed with a little sugar for breakfast with yoghurt.

  6. brightsprite

    Could they be damsons, Liz?

  7. Ah! Mystery fruit ID time!
    If I have found giant sloes, on thornless bushes, with broader leaves than sloes, but the colour, bloom and “ack” factor of sloes, what are they likely to be? They aren’t cherry plums, I’m sure. Are they likely to be good for anything other than giant sloe gin?

  8. Magic Cochin

    Keep hunting and you may find a tree that’s the holy grail of wild gages – someone once did just that and discovered the ‘Cambridge Gage’ – as sweet as honey!


    PS have ear-marked some young trees of Cambridge Gage for you in my Mothers garden – ready for transplanting late Oct/early Nov 😉

  9. then add a tsp of bicarb to neutralise the ack factor without over sweetening 🙂

  10. The bullaces on the trees I know never lose that hint of sloe bittrness that shrivels your mouth, however soft and ripe they are. Always that reminder of school reports; “could do better”!

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