With the final batch of Victoria and round red plums I decide to make plum sauce. I want it for crispy duck pancakes and to smear on pork ribs. I want an authentic Chinese recipe, and find one. I stone and chop and stone and chop. The pot bubbles and I stir on and on for hours until I have a thick hoisiny mixture. I lean in to inhale and blast my sinuses adrift from their usual resting place. The acid of the vinegar is so overpowering my eyes water. So I taste. Bleurghhh. I recheck the recipe. The ratio of sugar to vinegar is very low, so I add some more, boil and bubble and retaste. And add more sugar. And reboil and retaste. And add yet more sugar and retaste. Hmm. That might be right.
I know, as an old chutney maker, that these things need to mellow over time, but there are limits. Acrid is never good.
So, just to check that there wasn't a typo in the recipe book I email the publisher who passes the message on toot sweet to the author.
Next morning there's an email in my inbox: "I'm sorry the recipe didn't work for you. I'm not sure why. I was picking plums last weekend in Buckinghamshire with Camilla, who passed me the original recipe. Her father opened the first Chinese restaurant in the UK and would make up this recipe seasonally as plum sauce wasn't available commercially then. Maybe the tartness of the plums has affected your recipe. In any case it's not nice when you invest time in a recipe and you don't like the end result. I am making some over the next couple of days and will send you some of mine."
And guess what dropped into the post box today? Isn't that lovely of him? I've sent a wee pot of my own back in exchange. Fair's fair.