In preserves I have found it hard to get a good green colour, even my gooseberry jam was not quite the pale interesting green I thought it would be.
I like plums, and look out the little green ones. Several years ago when my mother was here on a visit, we had to go in search for them. Believe it or not, with my interest in flavours, I had not yet tasted one of those little green plums. When I had looked at them, my mouth just puckered, but my mother explained that they were probably the sweetest of the lot. I'm so pleased that she made me buy them that day.
This year I have been on the look out for them at the market, reminding the stall holder that I was waiting for them to come in. Maybe there was not an English crop this year, or maybe they came when I was away. Last week, at our local greengrocers which is really going from strength to strength, I spied some cellophaned packets of small green plums, imported sadly, with the name Reine Claude. I was intrigued so got a few packs, and brought them home.
Now it is so easy to look things up, you just Google it, and read several entries. I did this and soon realised that I did indeed have greengages. Back in 1980's before the internet, research required a visit to the library, and as there were not quite so many cookery books to buy, I acquired my copy of Jane Grigson's Fruit Book. I bought her book on vegetables at the same time. Her entry on plums and greengages is still probably better than anything I have read on the internet. She writes beautifully, gives information and history of the fruit, and there are also a wide array of recipes. Despite only a splattering of line drawings, and yellow edges and some loose pages now, my copy would only be discarded if replaced with another one in better condition! But I quite like my old book, which is well used and annotated.
Well thanks to a gardener who lost the labels off the plums trees imported from France in 1724, who grew and nurtured them. By the way our Victoria Plum, named after one of our Queens, has suffered so much from disease, and squirrels this year, than with only 4 plums, it is for the chop.
I sympathise with you Sir William Gage, who lost them? Please do not blame the gardener. It is a very easy things to do. In France the PR people chose one the best names for the tree which came from Italy, naming it after the Wife of the french King Francois I: Claude. The plum in England was still green and it was first grown 'maybe' on the estate of Sir William Gage, so it got its name..Greengage. But maybe there was a political reason not to give them a french queen's name in England? Maybe it was also grown elsewhere, but the name Greengage lives on.
So here is the jam, soft, green but maybe not quite the right green, sweet, maybe too sweet and uncomplicated for my palate. The preserve may mature and become infused with the bitter notes leaching out of the kernels which I included. I broke into the stones with my nutcrackers, extracted the kernels and blanched the skins off, and placed them in the pan at the same time as the sugar. On scones it was delicious but it is somewhat overwhelmed by brown bread.