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.

IMG_4139

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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

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?

IMG_4117

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.

.

Here with the gin added.

.

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

.

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).

IMG_4081

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.

.

Blood Plum Fest

I said I wanted some plums to bulk out my teeny tiny crop of damsons. A friend of mine is in the process of selling her house and she offered me some of her last crop of mariposa plums. I offered to help her pick them. Ta da, a lovely time picking, chatting and meeting one of her other friends ensued and I got what turned out to be 9.4kg of plums to take home!

What few fruit my rather young damson tree offered up this year:
.

and the mariposa haul on a very different scale:

.

My first aim was to make another batch of the spicey plum sauce I like so much. It’s fabulous with sausages and coleslaw and I’m on my last bottle from the previous batch. It’s basically a ketchup type thing made from plums. The recipe I use is from Stephanie Alexander’s “Cooks companion”. Below is what I did, which is a slight change in method. However, her suggestion of stoning the plums first and using a bag for the stones is a much better plan. Passing the stewed fruit through a sieve gives a lovely texture but is a silly amount of work and my arm is hating me for it.

Spiced plum sauce

1.5kg plums (except I scaled the whole thing up for 2kg of plums)
1 1/2 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger (I cheated and used the stuff that comes in a jar)
3 cups cider vinegar
4 tiny hot chillis, seeded and chopped

Bring all to boil until plums collapse.
Pass through a sieve to remove stones and spices.
Boil uncovered until it thickens. Note it thickens further on cooling. (aiming for a bit thicker than regular tomato sauce).
Bottle in sterilised vessels.
Wait at least a month before using.

4 bottles of lovely dark plum sauce:

.

Erbowle is a medieval plum pudding thing. It is basically plums stewed in wine, passed through a sieve, sweetened with honey and flavoured with salt and spices (I used cinnamon, pepper, clove, nutmeg) all to taste. I made it on my recent trip while helping in the kitchen. It occurred to me a little later that I could make it, bottle it and preserve/”can” it by boiling in a water bath. So, I did, though I left out the rice flour thickening for fear it would catch in the water bath boil. Hopefully that separation will stir back in after opening.

.

This is a plum chutney I have made before. I made double the recipe and used half again as much sugar, for some crazy reason. Why? Silly me. Next time I’ll try to stick to recipe. It caught a bit towards the end of cooking. I really hope I didn’t burn it. I couldn’t taste burn, but there are so many other strong flavours. Fingers crossed.

.

I also made jam. I tend to think that plums need a bit of help in the flavour department to make a nice jam. I’ve used this this rather excellent spicy recipe before and it was lovely in a rather savoury kind of way, so I cooked it again. It makes a very dark jam because of the wine I suppose.

.

All the above recipes were done in 2kg batches. The remaining plums I stewed up with a little wine and sugar and froze in batches to eat with my breakfast. Yum.

Sadly, my arm now hates me. Boo. I have a huge list of things I want to do and all.