Damsons

Damsons are beautiful fruit, black and smooth with a bloom on them that makes you want to stroke them.  They look like velvet.  The little Shropshire damson tree has never fruited before but this summer, its fourth, it has had a bumper crop.


In August 2009 Ian and a friend picked bags full of wild damsons from the hedgerow.  Last year we went down to the footpath hoping to gather more but the tree was bare of fruit.  Were we too late.  Had someone or something else been there before us?  We didn't know but it was wonderful to see our own crop ripening on the tree.


The fruit produces a jam which is dense and dark, its sweetness undercut by a delicious sophisticated tartness.  The downside of damsons is their stones.   Unlike plums, they are not easy to stone when they are uncooked so today Ian and I have both spent what feels like hours fishing stones out of the jam as it cooks.


This drove Ian to internet search for what other people do with damson stones and we might even have a try with a cherry stoner with the remaining smaller number, taking them out of the uncooked fruit.  It is quite impossible to do with a knife.

So we stand over the pan and the sieve and the pile of stones mounts and eventually the dark liquid seems without stones and it is time to bring the temperature up and boil for setting point.


The jars gleam and shine.  But what can you see in the second jar from the left?  How can it be a stone?  Tell me it is just a trick of the light.


Easier by far is damson gin.  You prick the damsons to release the juice.  This is not quite as vital as it is for sloe gin as damsons are softer and more yielding but it does speed the process.  Then you add half the  weight of sugar.  For every 450g of damsons you add 600ml of gin.  Ours is Tesco gin and, extraordinarily, Tesco value!  How wonderful is that?  If you are not a reader in the UK, Tesco is a big supermarket chain and Tesco Value products are the cheapest way of buying basics: flour, cereal, coffee, bread and, apparently, gin!  I love it.


Shake it every day for eight days and then every week for eight weeks.  Drain the resulting dark, sweet liquor into bottles and keep for Christmas.  Fight over what to do with the sugar soaked, gin soaked damsons.


Comments

  1. The Damsons ripened here a couple of weeks ago, and I made 3 litres of Damson Gin! hic! As you know, I cant drink it, but it does taste fabulous.
    I love the colour it goes - like the best garnets.

    Also made 6 lb of spiced Damson Chutney which I did sit and stone - took forever and my fingers ached afterwards, worth the effort though as damsons taste so good,

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  2. The Damsons look like some kind of small plum and they must be very good to eat just as they are picked from the tree. It sounds like an awful lot of work to make jam from them, but very rewarding I bet. You are almost obligated to make it with such a bumper crop. I hope you find an easy way to remove the stones and that would make making jam some much more fun. I like tart jams that pucker my mouth.

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  3. Yes, it looks like you've got a stone there. Perhaps that bottle should be a Christmas gift to a less-favoured neighbour.
    We got exactly one black plum from our tree this year and no yellow plums at all - a very disappointing year!

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  4. It looks gorgeous! Plum and cherry crops in our area have been fantastic this year, I've been picking cherries and wild plums and just eating them as I go from place to place. Even the goats got plenty.

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  5. Oh yes, looks like a good harvest, Elizabeth, and the jam - wonderful.

    Not heard of Damson gin, so I'll have to try that one.

    I must get a couple of trees for the orchard next year. Are there any particular varieties?

    The wild ones must have been poached by someone else. There's a Damson tree near my plot I've had my eye on that has also been stripped of fruit.

    Damn!(son)

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  6. Damson Vodka is pretty good too ;-)

    And IMO better than Sloe Gin/Vodka.

    We picked our Damsons yesterday - our own tree that is a direct descendant from my grandparents Damson Orchard.

    I agree they are the most deeply flavoured and coloured of all plums. I made Damson & Apple Cobbler last night - so rich!!!

    Can't quite decide whether the rest will be jam or vodka?

    Celia

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  7. You've probably done this already but . . . have you cut round the middle of the damson so the knife touches the stone all round, then twisting the top half from the bottom?

    Esther

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  8. I bet the smell was heavenly. We have damsons here for the first year ever, my dad travelled all the way to Shropshire and bought us back two damson trees, not a large enough crop yet for jam or gin, but I think it is the damson gin that we will be making.

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  9. In Shropshire they used to say that the Damson crop paid the rates. I wonder who they sold them to?

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  10. Hello Elizabeth. Glad it isn't just me who loathes the picking out of the stones! I have tried a cherry stoner but found that you need one with a very large bowl to fit the larger than cherry fruits in. Sure one would be available though. I love all the fruit gins/vodkas and we always have a very merry Christmas here! Definitely going to make Zoe's spiced chutney when I get a quiet afternoon x

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  11. What a fabulous crop. I love damson jam. When I lived in Worcestershire we had about six trees in our hedge and mum used to make damson jam. She'd cook up the fruit then run it all through a Kenwood mixer sieve attachment which removed all the stones and most of the skins and turned it into a puree. She'd then add the sugar and finish the jam as usual (with not a stone in sight).

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  12. There is a german coffee cake you can make with those plums. It is so delicious. This recipe is close to how my grandmother made it but she sprinkled streusel on top rather than sugar. Google should be able to translate for you and if you can't find quark, marscapone or uncreamed cottage cheese ought to work. http://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/332991116402386/Pflaumenkuchen.html

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  13. Lovely post - and on the stones, if you have an old-fashioned garlic press, it might have an olive stoner prong and cup. Perfect for damsons (well, my small ones, anyway). But I still end up with some stone sin the jam. Shows it's authentic!

    Give damson vodka a go too, sometime... hmmmmmmm.

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  14. Reminds me of a story that the army and navy both bought jam from the same supplier. The navy didn't want stones in the jam, the army didn't mind - so all the stones which came out of the navy's jam went into the army's - after all, jam is sold by weight.

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  15. I love damson jam and it seems to make jam more successfully than other fruit. The stones have never bothered me - a small price to pay. Never tried damson gin, but am wondering about damson wine. If you added water to that sugar instead of gin the it should ferment with the natural yeast - the result would be interesting - a sort of Cabernet Cymraeg.

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  16. This week, I have made 2 bottles of sloe gin. It will be ready in good time for Christmas :)

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  17. I love damsons - used to pick them in the hedgerow before I moved house. Damson gin is even better than dloe gin in my opinion!

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  18. Zoe - impressed by the stoning and love the sound of the chutney.
    Nora - you would like damson jam then. It has just that tart sweetness.

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  19. Pondside - I love the idea of the jar with the stone for the less favoured neighbour!
    Sproutling - hi and thanks for visiting. I am not sure I could have parted with any of my damsons to goats!

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  20. If I say it is a trick of the light, can I come for Christmas?

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  21. Damson gin making was the subject of conversation at the allotment yesterday afternoon. It appeals to me and sounds less time consuming than that seemingly never ending fishing for stones :)

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  22. The jam looks absolutely lovely, even though it sounds like an awful lot of work. The gin, on the other hand, sounds quite simple. I'm afraid if I lived somewhere where damsons grew, I would be much more likely to make the gin.....

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  23. Chris - we grow a Shropshire damson (that's the variety name) and it has produced a good sized fruit and a large crop. I'd recommend it.
    Celia - I'm liking both the apple and damson cobbler and the damson vodka ideas!
    Esther - had a go at your technique and it works fantastically well with really ripe damsons but not so easy on the harder ones. It might be damson vodka now.

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  24. Posie - the smell was divine. If your trees are like ours they will suddenly decide to crop!
    Cro - I hadn't heard that saying. We could pay our rates in beans I think up here.
    Pipany - the spiced chutney sounds fab but I might need to keep my chutney making powder dry for excesses of beans and courgettes (again).

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  25. Those damsons are just gorgeous! I know it's been a good year and maybe won't ever be again, but perhaps I will try to grow one on our windswept patch - nothing venture, and all that.

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  26. When I was a child Elizabeth, we had a huge damson tree which, in my memory, seemed to fruit well every year. My mother made pounds of damson jam and like you spent hours picking out the stones - she never succeeded in getting them all out. Nothing tastes and good and the colour is such a rich dark one.

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  27. Preseli mags - well I have an old ken wood mixer but not sure about a sieve attachment. Thanks for the tip. Must look it out
    Red witch - looks truly fantastic! My husband speaks german so we might be able to translate
    Kate - I have put damson vodka on the wishlist for next year!

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  28. The Damson gin sounds interesting. I like gin in any disguise. Not having to stone the fruit is a bonus too!

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  29. Esther - ah, classic jack sprat!
    Fennie - I think damson wine would be fabulous, after all if you can make wine from beetroot, which has to be unpromising, damsons must be a no brainer! So not sure why I haven't come across it? Must be something to do with stones!
    H - sloe gin is wonderful. Might endue with sloe and damson!

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  30. Egads... I feel tipsy just from reading this! It all looks so delicious!

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  31. Love the damson photos! Am very envious of your large harvest- from my haul I managed to make only a litre of damson gin with some left over for a damson & apple crumble...
    When I take the damson out of the gin, I heat gently in a pan so that the stones separate & I can scoop them out. Then I reduce to a thick jam paste, cool & add to my Christmas cake or puddings or just shove on top of ice cream.

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  32. I had thought that damsons were plums of some sort, now I am sure! Picking out all the stones must be tedious!

    The gin sounds good!

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  33. I do as Delia says and stew them in vinegar for a minute or two and then root through them with a pair of clean rubber gloves. Messy, time-consuming but quite satisfying!

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  34. i have never heard of damsons until this very minute! how interesting that you can make flavored gin out of them.

    yes it is still quite warm here and i'm loving it for as long as it lasts.

    xo
    janet

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  35. Su - I bought damson gin in a deli in
    Ludlow last year. fabulous
    Dobby - yes

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  36. Oh I think I might have missed the opportunity for damson gin. I'm rather cross with myself about that. There are sloes here though. LOTS of sloes. Thrifty Household and I will be making sloe gin I think. Your photos are so lovely and have made me rather hungry.

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