As I entered the house last night I was almost knocked sideways by the heavy fumes of vinegar evaporating from the cauldron on the cooker. The alchemical process of creating Plum Chutney was underway.
My father-in-law has a plum tree which, along with the rest of his garden, has been lovingly tended for many years. Despite the fact that it is not huge, by any means, it does produce an inordinate mount of plums. You would swear he must have a secret plum orchard hidden away behind the greenhouse, but unless it is only accessible under a full moon when the clock strikes thirteen, I have to believe that they must all be coming from the single plant.
For as long as I have known Maggie, each year we have been loaded up with her mother’s plum jam, but not this one. With Maggie’s parents both well in to their eighties, it was of considerable concern to all when her mother fell over and broke her hip a couple of weeks back. “What - no plum jam this year then?” was everyone’s first thought.
So rather than receiving the plums in their cooked and sugared state, this year we have been given them raw and unprocessed. Personally I wouldn’t have a clue what to do with them, but fortunately Maggie is indeed her mother’s daughter and has immediately set about making vast quantities of plum chutney.
The work surfaces are overflowing with glass jars, the freezer is full to bursting, the children are complaining that they can’t reach their beds because of the crates of plums filling their rooms, yet Maggie still confessed to me this morning that there are more to come.
On what initially appears to be an unrelated subject, stage one of The Tour of Britain Cycle Race comes to Castle Douglas today, completing the stretch that begins in Glasgow (http://www.tourofbritain.co.uk/the_race_stages/stage1.htm). However, the cyclists will be passing our house barely 100 metres from the finishing line. Apparently, as they ride through Dumfries on their way here they will also be cycling straight past the front door of my father-in-law. I’ll be waiting with baited breath to see if any of these athletes are asked to drop off a few bags of plums for us on their way.