Spicy plum sauce

Bring some zing to an easy-to-make favourite.


The plums have arrived in all their purple profusion, so it’s time to put them to work. For my favourite way to eat them as a dessert, see my recipe for an easy crumble-like approach, roasted plums with almonds.

The other great use for plums is to blend them into a sauce, to be bottled up and stashed away for the sadly plumless months. My starting point is a venerable old recipe from the The Commonsense Cookery Book, first published by the Public School Cookery Teachers Association (now the Home Economics Institute of Australia) in 1914. It is, as you can imagine from its title alone, an indispensable trove of very sensible recipes and techniques.

Of course, because I can’t leave well enough alone – I’m not that sensible, it seems – I’ve gussied it up with some flavours from the Chinese palette to give it some zing and presence: ginger, a red shallot (though any smallish onion will be fine), Chinese five-spice powder, and red chilli flakes.

There’s always an open jar of this in my fridge, ready to be spooned onto pork chops or a steak, lamb cutlets, sausages and – it sounds odd but it really works – spread under a blanket of melted strong cheddar on a toasted muffin.

The quantities below make about 3 cups, which enough to fill two of my preserving jars. At the height of the season, I go into high production mode, starting with 3 kilos of plums, and that’s enough plum sauce for a year – including a couple of gift jars along the way.

Spicy plum sauce


Makes about 3 cups

500g (1 pound) plums, halved and stoned
1 red shallot, roughly chopped
6 coin-sized pieces fresh ginger
75g (½ cup) brown sugar
125ml (½ cup) apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
60ml (¼ cup) water
½ teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
¼ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
½ teaspoon salt

Place all the ingredients in a large, heavy-based saucepan (not aluminium) and bring up to boiling point. Reduce the heat to maintain an enthusiastic simmer and cook, stirring regularly, for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the plums’ flesh collapses.

If you have an immersion blender, take the pan off the heat and puree the sauce directly in the pan.

To use a jug blender or food processor, let the sauce cool down before blending (hot liquid in a blender is dangerous). Return to the pan to warm through before bottling.

Transfer to still-warm sterilised jars, either ones which you've recently run through a hot dishwasher cycle or, if you want to go old school, use The Commonsense Cookery Book’s oven method. Either way, fill the jars and turn them upside down for 10 minutes after sealing, then store in a cool, dark place.