Greengage Jam

Greengages have always intrigued me, a sweet, juicy dessert plum, but unlike the varieties most of us know & enjoy at this time of year. Instead of shades of purple & magenta, greengages (as their name would suggest) are the complete opposite end of the colour wheel, with a bright yellow-green skin not unlike an unripened fruit. I think it’s this mysterious colour that makes them a little less popular than say a Victoria plum or a damson here in the UK, as folks just aren’t sure what they are or how to use them but greengages are actually considered one of the tastiest of all stone fruits.

They were first introduced here from France, where they are more commonly known as ‘Reine Claudes’. The reason we call them ‘greengages’ here is actually a bit of a happy accident. In the 17th century, an English priest named John Gage, who was studying in Paris, send some young plum trees to his brother, Sir William Gage in Hengrave Hall, Bury St Edmunds. However, during transit the labels from the trees were lost, leaving the head gardener at the time to plant them & label them himself. He labelled them ‘green Gages’ after his master. Today, greengages are widely available if you look for them & they make for some delicious desserts. My favourite way to use them though, mostly for their wonderful colour is to make a bright green, greengage jam out of them. With a little less sugar than a regular 1:1 ratio for jam & a touch of vanilla help bring things along & sweeter.

Greengage Jam

(makes 3-4 regular jars)


  • 1kg fresh greengages
  • 800g granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 50ml water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • Before beginning, place a small saucer into the freezer to chill (this will hep us to test the jam later)
  • Stone & roughly chop the greengages into chunks as big or as small as you like
  • Place the chopped greengages, sugar, lemon juice & water into a maslin pan or large heavy bottomed saucepan & give everything a good stir
  • Gently heat the mixture over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved & no grains remain when you run a spoon along the bottom of the pan
  • Add a sugar thermometer to the pan & bring the mixture to the boil
  • Continue to boil the mixture, being sure to stir it frequently so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan
  • Keep the mixture boiling away for around 10 minutes or until it reaches 102°C on the sugar thermometer (it may take a little bit longer, just keep testing every few minutes)
  • Test to see if setting point has been reached by placing a small drop of the jam onto the chilled saucer
  • Leave the drop of jam to cool for a minute & push your finger through the jam, if the surface of the jam wrinkles & you can leave a clear trail where your finger went through (the jam doesn’t flood back into the empty space), it’s done. If not continue cooking for a further a few minutes & test again
  • Leave the jam to cool for 10 minutes
  • Add the vanilla to the pan & stir this through
  • Pot up into clean, sterilised jars & label

1 Comment

  1. Funnily enough, I made some greengage jam last week 🙂 As you say, it’s not so easy to lay hands on greengages over here… gone are the days of wandering to the local market and filling a paper bag with them when I was living out in France!

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