750 ml (1¼ pints) white wine vinegar
500 g (1 lb) caster sugar
7 rosemary sprigs
7 thyme sprigs
7 small bay leaves
4 lavender sprigs (optional)
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1.5 kg (3 lb) firm red plums, washed and pricked


1.Preheat the slow cooker if necessary. Pour the vinegar and sugar into the slow cooker pot, then add 4 sprigs each of the rosemary and thyme and the bay leaves, all the lavender, if using, the garlic cloves, salt and peppercorns.,
2.Cover with the lid and cook on high for 2-2½ hours, stirring once or twice. Warm the 3 sterilized jars in a low oven for 5 minutes. Pack the plums tightly into the jars.
3.Tuck the remaining fresh herbs into the jars. Strain in the hot vinegar, making sure that the plums are completely covered, then seal tightly with the rubber seals and jar lids.
4.Label the jars and leave to cool. Transfer to a cool, dark cupboard and store for 3-4 weeks before using. Once opened, store in the refrigerator.
5.FOR PICKLED SHALLOTS, trim a little off the tops and roots of 1.25 kg (2½ Ib) small shallots. Put them in a bowl and cover with boiling water, leave to soak for 3 minutes, then pour off the water and re-cover with cold water
6.Lift the shallots out 1 at a time and peel off the brown skins. Drain and layer in a second bowl with 40 g (1/2 oz) salt. Leave overnight.
7.Make up the vinegar mixture in the slow cooker as above, but using 250 g (8 oz) caster sugar and 250 g (8 oz) light muscovado sugar and omitting the lavender.
8. Tip the shallots into a colander and drain off as much liquid as possible. Rinse with cold water, drain and pat dry with kitchen paper.
9.Pack tightly into the warmed jars, adding a few extra herbs. Pour over the hot, strained vinegar, add crumpled greaseproof paper to keep the shallots beneath the surface of the vinegar and finish as above.

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