Welcome to my "Olive" experiment. The one thing I love to do is experiment with food and ingredients. Years ago, I read that the texture of unripe green plums is similar to that of olives. So, why not create an olive alternative by curing and pickling them? I have attempted this with unripe green wild plums and damsons, and both have worked really well, producing a satisfying and unusual alternative to olives.
At this time of year in the UK (late spring/early summer), you will see plum trees full of unripe, green plums, perfect for this experiment. So a ready supply of free ingredients.
You will need a bit of patience; the process of curing and pickling takes a few months. Good things come to those who wait, though.
- Coarse salt
- Apple cider vinegar
- Sea salt
- Black peppercorn
- Bay leaf
- Olive oil
See the recipe card for quantities.
Instructions For Making Pickled Green Plums
First, go out and pick some unripe wild plums. They are common here in the UK. Be sure to correctly identify a plum tree before you harvest any fruit. Never eat anything you are not 100% confident you have identified correctly.
Curing The Unripe Plums In Brine
Wash and pat dry the plums. Score the plums on one side so that the brine can penetrate. Pack the scored plums tightly into a suitable sterilised jar.
Make the brine: Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and add the salt. Please do not use table salt for the brine. When the salt has dissolved, remove it from the heat and let it cool.
When cooled, pour the brine into the jar containing the plums. Seal the jar with a lid and store it in a cool dark place for a week.
After a week, drain the brine. Make a fresh batch of brine and sterilise the jar again. Place the plums back into the jar and pour in the fresh brine. Seal the jar and store it in a cool, dark place for one month.
After a month, again drain the plums, sterilise the jar and make a fresh batch of brine. Replace the plums in the jar and store them in a cool dark place for the final two months.
Altogether, that is three months of curing in brine.
Pickling The Cured Plums
After these three months of curing, now it is time to pickle.
Add apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, bay leaf, peppercorns and rosemary to a pan and bring to a rapid boil.
Once the sugar and salt have dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Drain the brine from the cured plums and transfer the plums into a bowl. Submerge the plums in the pickling liquid for 24 hours.
Marinating The Cured, Pickled Plums
After 24 hours in the pickling liquid, drain the plums.
Sterilise the jar in which you intend to store the pickled plums.
Peel and slice the garlic and wash and dry the rosemary.
Place some of the pickled plums into the sterilised jar, and then add some slices of garlic and some rosemary. Add some more of the plums; follow this with more pieces of garlic and some rosemary. Repeat this process until you fill the jar. Finally pour in the olive oil until all of the olives are submerged. Seal the jar with the lid.
Store the jar in a cool, dry place for three weeks. After three weeks, the pickled plums are finally ready. Use it as you would use olives: in pasta, dips and even as nibbles.
Here is a video guide to making green pickled plums.
You can use white wine vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar for the pickling liquid.
Instead of rosemary, you can use thyme for the pickling liquid and the marination.
You can use your creativity in terms of the flavour you want for your olives in the marination.
I have used this same method to pickle damsons once they have ripened enough, as in changed their colour, but are still quite firm, and it works just as well.
Reuse your old jam jars!
Glass weights are handy to keep the plums submerged in the brine/pickling liquid, or you can also use a sterilised small glass bowl.
An essential task to ensure that the pickled plums stay good for as long as possible is to sterilise the glass jars you will keep the plums in during the curing and storage. Sterilise the jars by washing them in warm soapy water and then placing them in an oven at 100ºC for thirty minutes.
Once the plum olives are pickled and marinated, they will store in the fridge for three months. Make sure the plums are always covered with olive oil and use a clean, dry spoon each time you take some plum olives from the jar.
Make sure to sterilise the bottle and all equipment used each time you change the brine. If you don't, then mould may grow during the curing process.
The plums must be tightly packed in the bottle to avoid floating. If not submerged in the brine, there is a chance they may go mouldy. You can also use weights that fit inside the bottle to keep them from floating. Make sure the weights are sterilised though.
The best way to judge how much brine you will need is to put the plums in the jar you intend to use and add water before you start. The amount of water you add is the amount of brine you need.
For your reference, the ratio for the brine is 12 gms of coarse salt for every 250ml of water.
Curing And Pickling Unripe Green Plums like Olives
- Jam jar
- 20 Green, unripe plums
- 12 gms Coarse sea salt
- 250 ml Water
- 250 ml Apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Sea salt
- 6 Black peppercorns
- 1 Bay leaf
- Rosemary 1 sprig
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- 250 ml Olive oil
- 1 sprig Rosemary
- 2 cloves Garlic
- Wash, pat dry, and score the green, unripe plums.
- Pack them tightly into a sterilised jam jar.
Curing In Brine
- Add the water and coarse sea salt into a pan and bring to a rapid boil. Once the salt has dissolved, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Pour the brine into the jar packed with plums and seal shut.
- Store the jar in a cool dark place for a week.
- After a week, drain the plums.
- Make fresh brine and sterilise the jar.
- Once again, pack the plums into the jar and pour in the cooled brine. Store in a cool dark place for a month.
- After a month, drain the brine.
- Make fresh brine and sterilise the jar and pack the plums in the jar once again.
- Pour the new brine into the jar and store it in a cool dark place for two months.
Pickling In Pickling Liquid
- Add apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, bay leaf, peppercorns and rosemary to a pan and bring to a rapid boil.
- Once the sugar and salt have dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Drain the brine from the plums and transfer the plums into a bowl. Submerge the plums in the pickling liquid for 24 hours.
Marinating the Pickled Plums
- Drain the pickling liquid. You can use this for salad dressings or roasting veggies.
- Sterilise the jam jar.
- Peel the garlic and slice. Wash and dry the rosemary sprig.
- Add a few pickled plums into the sterilised jar, then add a few slices of garlic and rosemary. Again, add a few more plums followed by garlic slices and rosemary. Repeat this until the jar is full.
- Now pour in the olive oil and seal shut.
- Store in a cool, dry place for three weeks.
- After three weeks, the pickled plums are ready for use.
- Once the jar is opened, refrigerate.
In a professional kitchen, food hygiene and safety are top priorities, and from the beginning of my training, I practised good habits and routines. Of course, practising good food hygiene and safety at home is also essential. Here are some fundamental practices to adopt in the kitchen.
- Wash your hands regularly while preparing, handling and cooking food.
- Wipe down countertops and high-contact points regularly.
- If you cook meat and fish, do not use the same utensils on cooked food that previously touched raw meat. Use separate chopping boards for meat and fish. Wash your chopping boards immediately after use.
- Thoroughly cook food to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C).
- Don't leave food at room temperature for extended periods (more than 2 hours).
- Store food correctly.
For more details regarding food hygiene and safety in the home, visit the UK Government's Food Standards Agency webpage.