Monday, October 3, 2011

Mrs. Emerson’s Pickled Plums

When Bob and I first moved to Seattle, we rented a cute little house in the Queen Anne neighborhood. It was our first home together, where we were living when we got married and had our first baby, Sam. We loved this house! It had a huge front deck, a dog door for our two border collies, flowering bushes, and a garden area in back with a pear tree and an Italian plum tree. The pear tree did not produce many pears (I think I was able to make only one pear pie in the three years we lived there) but the plum tree bore copious amounts of fruit.

The owner of the house was a sweet, elderly English woman named Mrs. Emerson. Every month, Bob and I walked the short way to her house to pay our rent and have a little visit. Part of our lease agreement included us picking two grocery bags of the plums each season and delivering them to her. Mrs. Emerson liked to pickle the plums, and she always shared a few jars with us. I was not familiar with pickled plums at the time ... I tried to imagine a plum being pickled like a dill pickle and that just sounded odd to me.

The first time Mrs. Emerson brought us a jar of plums, I admit I was a little skeptical. I took a bite, though, and it was unlike anything I’d tasted before. Cloves, cinnamon and ginger burst forth. (No sign of the dill and garlic that had been on my mind.) They were delicious!

When we eventually bought our current house and moved, it was sad to say good-bye to the adorable house and Mrs. Emerson (after all, how many landladies do you meet who are excited when their tenants have border collies?). Over the years, I’ve thought about Mrs. Emerson and her pickled plums, especially during this time of year when plums are in season. Spying Italian plums at the market recently, I decided to try to recreate hers.

Cloves were a dominant flavor, along with cinnamon and ginger. After adding and tasting, tasting and adding, I arrived at a close approximation of Mrs. Emerson’s.

These plums evoke thoughts of holidays for me. They can be served with thick yogurt and granola to house guests, or simply placed on the Thanksgiving table.

Pickled Plums
Inspired by Mrs. Emerson
Makes 2 quarts

2 pounds Italian plums, halved and pitted
1 cup white vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into 1/2 inch slices
Zest of 1 lemon

Divide the plums evenly between two 1-quart jars.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, water, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and lemon zest in a large sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Pour the pickling liquid over the plums and leave to cool uncovered. When cool, cover and chill for at least 24 hours before beginning to eat. The plums will keep in the fridge for up to one month.


  1. Oh, Mrs. Emerson sounds like such a lovely landlady! Our duplex has a mulberry tree, but, alas, no plum or pear trees.

    These look so amazing and I just love plums. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for some so I can pickle them!

  2. I wish I knew about this recipe when we had our plum tree in the old house. I made many pounds of very sour fruit rolls with the extras. Who would've thought pickled plums could be so good. Thanks for another great idea. I love your blog.

  3. @Lauren
    Thank you, Lauren! Ooh, mulberries sound good. Have you made anything with them? When we were in Israel our friends made mulberry ice cream...needless to say, delicious!

    I hope you enjoy the plums!

  4. @ChefMoji
    Thank you so much for your comment, Chef Moji! I'm smiling here. :)

    I know, I never would have thought of pickled plums as being good. So fun to keep discovering!

  5. How do you think these would hold up canned? I've got about 8lbs of Italian plums that I bought on a whim and now am trying to figure out what to make. These are definitely something I want to try!

  6. That's the kind of recipe I really love, plums are so delicious. Great photos.

  7. @Rachel
    Hi Rachel! Wow, 8lbs of plums sounds wonderful. I think the pickled plums would hold up well. I must admit I do not have experience with canning (yet) and you may want to check to make sure the pickling liquid meets safe canning standards (such as temperature). The plums are not cooked first, so they would not get mushy. Please let me know how they turn out for you. Thank you for stopping by!

  8. @Lemon
    Thank you so much, Lemon! I agree, plums are marvelous and I like discovering new ways to cook with them. I'm happy you stopped by!

  9. @Rivka
    Thank you, Rivka! I appreciate you stopping by. :)

  10. What a lovely landlady. We will be in stone fruit season very soon & I think these are sure to make an appearance, perhaps warmed over a little vanilla ice cream.

  11. @Mairi
    Ohhh, I like your suggestion of topping vanilla ice cream, Mairi! We have some plums in the fridge...I think we'll try it for dessert this week.


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