The Brewing Shed

Plum jerkum – pressing plums, Worcestershire style

Plum jerkum recipe

The Cotswold county of Worcestershire has many uniquely strange traditional foods and drinks. Besides the obvious Worcestershire sauce its natives are also responsible for such delights as ‘potted lamperns’* and fermented plum juice, known round them parts as ‘plum jerkum’.

Plum jerkum is made in the same way as cider: pressed (or ‘jerked’) fruit, with the extracted juice chucked into a fermenting vessel and allowed to turn to alcohol. The resulting grog was often blended with cider – according to Wikipedia this was to reduce its alcoholic potency, but knowing how strong they like their ciders up there we suspect it was also to take away some of the acidity of the plums.

If you take a stroll through the internet looking for plum jerkum recipes then most will tell you to boil the fruit in water and add sugar. Which sounds very much like a standard wine making recipe and not the aforementioned cider method.

So we’re beginning our own plum jerkum experiments. First up we’re trying a job lot of acme round red plums, which are unlikely to be anything like those found in north Cotswolds villages of yesteryear. We have too few to trouble the cider press so the juicer has been summoned into action. And we’re also deploying our half sized demijohn (a demidemijohn?) so if you want to try this with a regular DJ then you’ll have to double your plum numbers

Our easy plum jerkum trial recipe #1
Wash and stone around 5.5kg of plums. Drop into juicer. Juice. Skim off foam and pour into demijohn. Add a crushed campden tablet. The next morning add a sachet of wine yeast. Stir. Fit airlock. Wait. Bottle. Wait some more. Drink.

The initial juice is very acidic and it took several days for a proper fermentation to kick in, but it’s now bubbling away merrily and has a glorious pink hue. We’ll keep you updated with its progress and will continue our trials for the ultimate plum jerkum recipe.

*Made by boning and boiling the small, eel-like lampreys and stuffing them into jars with butter and herbs. Probably goes well with a glass of plum jerkum…


    • Thanks for getting in touch.
      We made two batches of plum jerkum using this method. The first with firm, just-ripe plums and the second with softer, slightly over-ripe plums.
      They’re both very sharp! The second batch less so, but it has a slight powdered candy feel to it and is less plummy.
      The first batch is an enjoyable drink and very much like a plum version of cider, although it does need sweetening or blending with a sweet cider.
      We’re going continue experimenting this year, hopefully with some darker plums (we failed to identify last year’s pink plum variety), and will also try soaking them in water first before pressing and adding a touch of sugar. We’ve heard this practice was used ‘back in the day’.
      If you know anything more about the traditional methods then please get in touch – there’s not a lot of information out there.

  • Im about to get my hands on a large amount of plums (now now!). Depending on how much I might be trying the wine or cider method or possibly both!

  • Thanks for the postings and idea. Have 50 lbs of mixed-variety red plums in the freezer awaiting decision making. I think you just helped me make it! Cheers…

    • I froze 8 Kg of plums, don’t know the variety as they grow wild near me. I call them cherry plumbs as they are slightly bigger than a cherry.

      I then pressed them as it was easier than blending, less messy too.

      The juice has an SG of 1.036 so possibly 4 – 5 %, we’ll see.

      With all the pulp I added water and sugar etc and am trying for a plum wine of sorts. Seemed a shame to throw the pulp away.

      As I said, we’ll see.

  • My old Dad, born and raised in Worcester always used Belle de Louvain plums for making his Plum Jerkum. They are very big, very juicy, sweet plums. The big spiry trees either produce enough fruit to break the branches off (2015) or none, as this year. I’ll have to ration the batch I made last year and hope for a better crop next year. Although fruit ciders are popular again now home producers often added fruit to cider in order to use up what was available and to give some flavour and sweetness to what could be some pretty gut wrenching stuff.

    • Thanks for your comment, it’s great to hear from someone who makes proper Plum Jerkum and good to know about the extra fruit additions. Might I ask what method your dad used to make Jerkum? Did he soak the fruit first? And how did he extract the juice? Thanks, nick

      • Hi Nick, I made about 7ltrs of this yesterday and the ‘juice’ is so thick after being in the juicer I’m worried it won’t ferment. I’ve put it through a sieve to get all the bigger stuff out but it’s still like purée! We tried putting it through a strainer bag but it won’t go through. Any ideas/suggestions?

        • Hi Tom.
          This is a problem with lots of plum varieties and probably one of the reasons the drink hasn’t really taken off.
          My suggestion would be to thin it with a another sweet juice – maybe grape juice, or apple juice, or even sugar and water.
          It’ll be a slightly different drink but should still taste plummy.

  • No offence, but what you describe here is simply plum wine, not plum jerkum. Nothing wrong with that – I’ve made hundreds of litres of plum wine over the years, and it’s been one of my better successes – but jerkum it ain’t.

    Jerkum is the plum equivalent of scrumpy/rough cider, the most crucial different being the use of local wild yeast rather than wine yeast. Traditionally it was made by chucking plums in a rain barrel and periodically adding sugar (until it no longer restarts/prolongs fermentation), but no reason you can’t make it in a regular fermenter, or even just a plastic bin.

    But don’t sterilise, and don’t add your own yeast. Just chuck the plums in, give it a stir if you can be bothered, and wait for it to do its thing. If you’re going traditional (not airlocked), you’ll get a pretty disgusting head of mold and the like, just skim it off. It were good enough for the old lads!

    It… can be an acquired taste 😀

    (also, despite the mythology, it won’t actually be very strong, certainly not unless you add a considerable amount of extra sugar – and even then, you’d have to get very lucky with your local yeast to get anything approaching wine strength)

    • Oh, and you don’t need to only use the good plums – *all* of them can go in the barrel. Mushed up, maggots, white spot – it’s all good. Or, well, traditional, anyway!

  • Very interested in Aaron’s comments. We already have plum wine on the go and are looking for something different to do with huge quantities of Blaisdon Red (Gloucestershire) plums. If I have to stone another plum I might scream! So all we need now is a barrel of rain-water!
    Aaron – Do you have to mash or stir the barrel and is the liquid siphoned off/filtered partway though or at the end?
    Also – a thought, we made cider last year by ‘keeving process’ and wondered whether this might work for plum, has anybody tried this?

  • Arrived here while trying to figure out how jerkum is made – it’s now produced commercially by Mission Trail in Monterey County, California! I’d never heard of it when I picked it up in the shop – it is something of an acquired taste, but I guess it must turn enough money to keep making. Wondering if it’s the real thing, though – ingredients say “hard plum cider, fresh pressed plum juice.” I suppose it’s the closest to the real thing we’ll get over here in California.

  • Just for your information there is a Plum Jerkum competition every year at the Gt Comberton Flower Show ( end of August) on the slopes of Bredon Hill. At the end of the show the bottles of Jerkum can be auctioned for charity. last year the price was £15-20/bottle Most entries are from the villages around Bredon Hil and are made by the traditional recipe which does not involve boiling or any other wine like tricks. It is very easy to tell if it is wine or true Jerkum by the taste of the “Mystery ingredient” added during the fermentation ( no, it is not a dead rat despite it being Worcestershire where strange things do get added to food !!) , Just to wet your appetites there is one variety which produces the best and strongest Jerkum

  • Greetings from California, where we’re engulfed in a tidal wave of plums. We make apple cider almost every year, both with commercial and wild yeast, and would like to try a batch of plum cider. We’ve got an apple press and wheelbarrow-loads of plums. Have any of you tried pressing the plums or do you all ferment them whole or boil them to extract the juice?

    • The trouble with pressing the plums is that those pesky stones get in the way.
      We have done small batches with stones removed.

  • Was thinking of chucking damsons into the scratter along with the apples. And then pressing the mixture all together in my press. I have loads of damsons. Anyone tried this successfully??

  • After freezing and mashing the plums and removing as meny stones as posible (not critical) pectinase turns the thick soupy mass into liquid (mostly) and does a very good job of liquifying the mass to allow the yeasts to get going without adding water that weakens the result. Adding a good yeast designed for fruit and more acidic brews will help keep things reliable.
    If the result is too “”sharp” for your tastes. Pass it through a water “purifier” like the do in the Czech Republic.. almost every other home has the equipment to do this over there. 🙂
    Over here (UK) an “air still” will help remove the acidic flavours and produce something far better than you can buy from any shop.

  • I have just made my first batch of plum jerkum, from Norfolk Czar and Majories seedling plums. I stoned the plums and then froze them, and then pressed the fruit. Put all the juice in a demijohn and waited. The bubbling started in a couple of days and lasted about 10 days. The jercum is now bottled with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to give it some fizz. I am now waiting to sample.

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