The Summer excites us. The garden shares its bounty and we can barely keep up with cooking and eating all the delicious herbs, salads, fruit and vegetables harvested in June, July and August. By preserving what we can, we are able to retain the essence and flavours of Summer to stock our larder and share in the darker, colder months.

Eating what we preserve allows us sensory access to a memory. Opening the lid on a jar of preserved tomatoes transports us back to that incredible day in August, when the fruit was warm and ripe and the sun was high. The flavour of that captured time keeps us going and makes our dishes exciting long after the beds have been emptied and turned over, the rotting vines adding to the rich compost.

Preserving means that the garden remains our muse year-round. When the produce is fresh, it fills our fridges, sinks and countertops, but when there is less to harvest, we are always happy to reach for it on our shelves, in jars, bottles and vessels, opening containers of sunny times in the greyer months.


Serves 4

12 ripe plums, halved and destoned
200g labneh (recipe below)
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
4 tbsp fruity vinegar (recipe below)
1 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste
200ml olive oil
2 handfuls of mixed salad leaves or other garnishes of your choice

For the fruit vinegar
500g soft fruit of choice, plums, black currants, raspberries, etc.
1l white or cider vinegar
100g of sugar, depending on fruit

Gently combine the fruit and pour into a sterilized tub or Kilner jar and seal. Allow to macerate for three weeks, stirring occasionally. Drain off the vinegar and use for dressing, shrubs, sauce, etc. This vinegar will last for a long time but will lose its fruitiness a little.

For the labneh
500ml yoghurt
½ tsp salt

Combine salt and the yoghurt and mix well. Line a sieve with a thin cloth or muslin. Transfer the yoghurt mixture to the sieve and place a bowl underneath to catch the whey. Leave in the fridge overnight to drain. By morning you should have a firm, tangy lump of fresh labneh.

To assemble the salad
Heat a frying pan and dry fry the halved plums for a few moments to get a slight char on them.

Meanwhile in a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients, combine the tarragon, vinegar, a little salt and pepper and olive oil to make the marinade.

Once the plums are toasted, tip them into the marinade and toss them to coat. Allow to marinate for a couple of hours at least.

Plate the dish as you like, with the labneh and garnish and serve with crusty bread, roast veg or it works very well with pigeon or venison.

Chris Onions runs the Old Dairy Kitchen. He caters for all our events, courses and farm lunches, hosts monthly feast nights, and teaches his own range of courses.