This sauce is not HP sauce, but on tasting it you would be forgiven for thinking it is. Being English and living in Italy, there some things that I have grown up with that are not available in the shops and supermarkets. HP sauce being one of them. Over the 10 years or more that we have lived here we have learnt to make do with alternatives to many ‘English’ foods, but there are no alternatives to this special brown sauce .
I do like HP sauce but I do not eat a great deal of it. It is spicy and I like it when I have chips (french fries/patate frite) on my plate. Joy, my wife, likes the sauce with baked beans on toast and with chips. No doubt I could buy this in Milan or Turin, but they are both over 60 miles (100 kms) or so away, and so several years ago I started researching by looking at recipes on the internet, and comparing those with what was actually written on a bottle of HP. After several trials I eventually refined my recipe until I arrived at this one. It is good, as good as the real stuff, if not better, but with one important difference: there are no unnecessary additives, fillers or flavour enhancers. This is the real deal, and it has good shelf life, anything up to 2 years or so.
The following list of ingredients will make over 2 litres/4 US pints/3½ UK pints, but I start with the quantity of plums that I can either forage or buy, and then adjust the other ingredients to suit. Yes I could buy 2 kg/4.5 lbs of plums but quite often I can buy more for a lower unit cost, and anyway there is a very healthy plum tree in the meadow behind our house that is loaded with small plums, and we have permission to pick.
2 kg/4½lbs plums , that are sweet and firm. If over ripe they will just dissolve and you will have to simmer the end product for longer to achieve a good pouring consistency.
1 litre/2 US pints/1.75 UK pints red wine vinegar or malted vinegar
175 gm/6 oz dates, stoned and chopped
115 gm/4 oz raisins
1 large onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
60 gm/2 oz/5 cm/2 in fresh ginger, grated or equivalent ginger paste or powder
1 tbsp coriander seeds, freshly ground
1 tsp allspice berries, freshly ground
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
200 gm/ tamarind seedless, cut into small cubes or paste
300 gm/10 oz dark sugar
Halve and stone the plums and chop if they are large.
I can pass on a small tip here. On each plum there is a groove running from top to bottom.
By cutting the plum at 90° to this groove, when you twist the 2 halves apart the stone is left edge-ways in one half and is then much easier to remove.
Put the plums pieces into a stainless steel pan with all the other ingredients.
Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally, and then simmer uncovered for about 1 hour. Stirring towards the end of the hour to ensure that it is not sticking.
Remove from the heat and using a stick blender, reduce thoroughly to a smooth consistency.
Taste for heat and add more cayenne if desired.
The consistency should be the same as that of commercial ketchups/catsups, so test by putting a tablespoonful on a cold tea plate. Allow it to cool. When cold, it should retain its shape and move slowly when the plate is tipped. If you want to thicken it, simmer for 20 minutes at a time and test again.
When it is ready, pour into clean, dry and very hot screw cap jars. Fill close to the rim and screw down the lid tight. Store in a cool, dry and dark place.