Damson Jam

I write many of my posts, food posts particularly, mostly as a sort of online journal for my own use. As in: “I know I’ve made raspberry jam before, how did I do it?”. It’s lovely bonus that other people seem to get some enjoyment from reading.

I picked another couple of kilos of slightly riper fruit this morning. I’ve made jam and 600g fruit is set aside (with a banana, covered in paper to ripen further) for tomorrow’s possible curd making experiment.

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This is a basic jam, but it took ages due to the small size of the fruit and the stone removal step.

2.7kg whole fruit (minus 400g stones=2.3kg)
~100ml water
2kg sugar

Rinse and drain fruit. Remove stalks and any nasty looking bits. Cut a slit each plum to help the stones emerge. Weigh. Put in a large pot (I used my 7L stock pot) with a little water over a low heat. Stir fairly often, first until the fruit liquidises, then to keep it from sticking and burning on the bottom of the pot. Continue stewing until the stones start emerging. I tend to encourage this by squishing the reluctant fruit against the side of the pan. It would likely be less work if I were more patient. Lift the stones out with a spoon into a sieve set over a dish. I then rub what plum juice and pulp I can back into the pan, you could not bother if you’d rather. Weigh what you’ve removed so you can judge how much sugar to add. For this, a 2kg bag of sugar was ~0.85:1 ratio, which is about how I like to do jam. Convenient eh?

I then turn off the heat, stir the sugar in gently and leave to sit for up to an hour. This is both to let the sugar dissolve and for me to have a rest. Then bring the pot up to a rolling boil for about 10min or until a set is achieved on testing. Bottle in sterilised jars.

I’m thinking these aren’t wonderful quality damsons. They have many of the characteristics but I haven’t yet managed to ripen them to the lovely dark colour one sees in pictures. I expected more flavour too I suppose. I’d love to know what variety they are, but the tree is from the Flemings range and they don’t give any more information than “Damson”. I’ve left some fruit on the tree to see how it develops over the next week.  On the other hand, I’ve never met fruit I know to be damsons other than mine, only seen pictures and heard descriptions.

 

 

 

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Damson Gin Beginnings

The damson harvest has started. They are not as ripe as I would like but I have only a few days to get them processed. This bowl is a neat 3kg from maybe about a quarter of the tree?

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I rinsed and drained them and picked through for the ripest ones. 900g of those have been pricked with a fork and loaded into a sealable jar with about 150g sugar and enough gin to cover (this time ~650ml Houndstooth brand). They look prettily wintery with just the sugar poured in.

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Here with the gin added.

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Now they have to sit in a dark cupboard for a year. Up end the jar a few times early on to dissolve the sugar. Then ignore. At harvest time next year, strain off the liquor and enjoy.

Tomorrow I’ll pick some more and make jam I think, despite the forecast being for horribly hot.

(mostly) Damson Chutney

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I have a young damson plum tree named Dorcas. She is laden with her first decent crop, now netted. I’m keenly monitoring the ripeness of the fruit. It’s starting to soften, I think I’ll be jamming in a few days.

The chutney is from fruit picked early for various reasons.  Mostly because I cut the top of the tree out to both make it easier to net and to keep tree small. Those branches had some underripe fruit which I’ve been ripening indoors. I’m turning this into chutney because any lack of flavour from the fruit will be masked by the heavy spicing.

There was only half a kilo of damsons, so I added some other plums and some cherry flesh that I’d pitted and frozen (they were disappointing eating as fresh fruit).

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I’ve used this recipe. It’s lovely, I’ve cooked it before. I altered the method a bit. Stew the fruit and spices with a tiny bit of water over a low heat until the stones are released. Pick out the stones, rub what fruit flesh came with them through a sieve back into the pot. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook until done.  It was only a tiny batch. ~900g fruit doesn’t fill many jars. Good colour though.

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Morello Cherries

Hello again. Very long time no post. I’ve been busy travelling, working on gifts and a large project that has so far escaped being posted here. So to get my hand back in, I’ll share with you what I did with my first tiny crop of morello cherries.

Teeny crop. Young tree. First time I’ve had more than one fruit.

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What to do with them? Morello cherries are sour, so they are more for cooking with than simply eating. A friend semi dries hers to good effect. So I pitted and halved them, and dried them in a low oven.

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How to make better use of such tiny scraps of dried fruit? Toast some pistachios, melt some dark choc with a bit of brandy and mix the lot together. The chocolate siezed but blended into a semi truffle sort of consistency.

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I’d not repeat that exact chocolate mix, but the resulting little balls made lovely little morsels. Papa and I demolished them with enthusiasm.

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Crab Apple Dyeing: Part 1.

An exercise in backwards project design. In stead of starting with the desire for an end product, I found myself with a raw material that I hadn’t planned for, and decided to work out a way to utilise it.

It all starts with my planting a crabapple tree in a too small space. I was pruning it each year to try to limit the size. I eventually did some research and concluded that I was just causing it to send up long unproductive growth. Basically it turns out that one can’t heavily prune a crabapple and still get fruit. Bother. So I decided to work towards pulling the tree out and replacing it with something more civilised.

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I had hacked off all the small branches and was enquiring as to which of my wood working friends wanted any of the sizable pieces. Another friend spoke up, saying that one can use the bark and twigs for dyeing. Oh, well then. I figured I had to try that.

I found this site which had something of a recipe. Happily, it didn’t seem to need any special mordant. I collected as much coloured bark and small twigs as I reasonably could, then filled the bucket that I was using with as many of the leaves as would fit. That little collection then sat on my back verandah for a couple of months. Then I looked at it and decided I simply must proceed, so the poor plastic bucket could be retired inside away from the nasty UV light.

Next step then was to boil up all that saved vegetation in water. I didn’t have oregano flowers, but I included some oregano sprigs just in case it helped. The recipe site also talks about doing the preparation in a copper pot. I have copper pots but they are all lined with either tin or stainless steel. So I sat the outside of a small one in the boil in case that was important.

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I loved making “witches brews” out of random things in the garden when I was a small child. This process touched that nerve, in a good and grin making way.

Here is what the liquor looked like straight after I put hot water over the veg mass. I reckon we will get a yellow dye, not a red one as the recipe says.

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This is after an hour simmering:

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Then leave it sit for a week, strain off the liquid which becomes the dyebath.

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There is certainly some pigment there. There is also a bit of mould, which I figured meant I had to get right on to trying the actual dyeing.

To be continued…………..

Parsley harvest time again

I grow parsley through the winter, but as soon as the weather warms, it bolts. I have tried replanting in the warmer months but as soon as it’s grown a little it bolts again. So before the winter crop goes completely manky, I harvest a few bunches, run it through the food processor with a little salt and a glug of olive oil.

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Oh, ok, I’ll do a second bunch.

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Then I pack the resulting mix into ice trays and freeze. I’m amused that this year, each bunch must have been almost identically sized because they both filled 13 places. When frozen, I pop them out into a ziplock bag and have parsley available until next winter’s crop has grown. The blocks works just fine in anything cooked, or wet mixed like a dip. Just not for anything where you want the fresh texture. I’ve tried just freezing with no liquid, and freezing with a little water. The oil seems to work better to keep the flavour.

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As usual, I’ve left one plant in the garden for fresh use until it goes well to seed.

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Fleurs

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In some ways I haven’t made these. In other ways I’ve made them thrice over. They grew in my garden, which I tend.  I cut and arrange them. Then take photographs.

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Initially, I started taking pictures to preserve the flowers for my later viewing pleasure. At some point it occurred to me to use these posy pictures as virtual cards, which I’ve been really enjoying. So nice to find that extra use for them. Usually this is for birthdays, but too many times lately for condolence. So in honour of the friend who passed away a few days ago, much too soon, and all the other loved ones who left us recently, I choose white flowers for this post.

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I don’t consider myself to be a wonderful photographer, but I’m increasingly happy with the outcomes. Anything I’d count as success though has been only with stationary inanimate objects. I have learned that it’s ok to only like one in ten or so pics. Take many!

I’m not keeping track of which photo I’ve used for what purpose, maybe I should.

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White dancer

(New news on an old post)

I’ve never seen a fuchsia I like more than this lovely thing. It makes me think of ballet dancers. This one was grown from a cutting that my longest friend kindly gave me. My plant has lived in a pot for years but getting less and less happy. At the end of July, I cut it right back and popped it in the garden bed I had recently dug up.

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It’s now about 6 weeks on and the main plant is looking happy.

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I had cut up the prunings and stuck them in the ground too as a back up option. All six are still alive and two have been transferred to little pots. There isn’t much root development yet, which I shouldn’t know but soil tends to fall off if there are no roots to hold it. Anyway, these are doing pretty well and will go as gifts if they keep that up. I’ll leave the rest of the cuttings undisturbed in the ground for a while longer. Fingers crossed there will be more of these beautiful flowers in my garden.

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