Category Archives: damsons

Damson ice cream

This time last year our damson trees were groaning under the weight of their fruit. We picked kilos and kilos. The best damsons (like the best blackberries) are always the ones out of easy reach, so last year I spent a fair amount of time perched high on a ladder on the back of a flatbed truck. I wouldn’t have wanted a visit from a health and safety advisor, shall we say. This year, this is pretty much it:

From four trees I managed to get just under 600g. I am glad I don’t rely on my damsons trees to provide the rent.

This situation called for something special. I could have gone for stewed damsons, pickled damsons, or even a small bottle of damson vodka. But it strikes me that these are all for years of plenty, and this is not a year of plenty. One of my favourite things is stewed damsons and custard. So why not damson ice cream? Which, after all, is frozen stewed damsons and custard.

Oh my, it is delicious. It intensifies the punchiness of the damson but offers that lovely creaminess of the custard. It is not one for the children, well not my children anyway. Which, perhaps, make it all the more special – just me and my tub of damson ice cream ( I am debating whether I should tell Mr OC about its presence in the freezer).

500g damsons
100g granulated or caster sugar

4 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
375ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method 

Put the damsons and 100g sugar in a pan and place over a medium heat. Bring up to a gentle boil and simmer for about five minutes until all of the damsons have burst their skins and there is plenty of juice in the pan. Leave to cool slightly.

When cool enough to handle safely, strain the damsons through a sieve to get rid of the skin and stones. You end up with the most beautiful purply red puree.

Make the custard by whisking the egg yolks and caster sugar together until light, thick and smooth. The whisks should leave a trail as you lift them out of the mixture.

Put the cream and vanilla extract into a saucepan and scald by bringing it up to just under boiling point, you should see the surface shimmer slightly. Pour this over the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time. Return the custard to the pan and stir over a gentle to medium heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Take the custard off the heat and continue to stir for a minute or two to bring the temperature of it down. Add the damson puree to the custard and leave it to cool.

Now, either use an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions or place the custard into a plastic container and fit a lid. Place in the freezer for about half an hour. Take out and then beat well, either with a fork or in a processor. Return to the freezer and repeat the freezing and beating process another two times.

Eat greedily and celebrate the few damsons that you may have. Please do tell me if you are lucky enough to have a damson tree that is heaving with damsons so that I can be terribly envious.

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Damson or Plum Jam

Damson jam is a big favourite in this house.  I love it and my youngest adores it too.  We are lucky enough to have a couple of damson trees in the garden and they produce well most years.  I usually make something with them before freezing some for that lovely winter treat stewed damsons.  Sometimes I will make pickled damsons, otherwise damson vodka (very popular round here for some reason) or damson jam and if I am feeling especially productive I will manage all three.  This week is the turn of the jam. It is very easy to make and very delicious to eat. The same recipe can be used for plums of any description.

This makes about 6-7 jars of varying sizes or 8 lb jars

1.5kg damsons
1.25kg granulated sugar
400ml water

Method

I can never be faffed to stone my damsons before making this jam and so I cook them whole and then scoop most of the stones out before pouring into the jars and then take the rest out when spreading on my  bread. But if you have more patience than I do then go ahead and stone the damsons/plums.

Put the prepared damsons/ plums (i.e stems removed, any over ripe ones removed, washed) into a preserving pan with the water.  Simmer for about ten minutes until the fruit is soft. It may take longer for some varieties and some may be ready sooner so keep an eye on things.

Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Bring to boiling point and boil rapidly until setting point is achieved.  Setting point can be tested by placing 4 saucers in the fridge before you start making the jam and then you pour a teaspoonful of the jam onto a cold saucer.  Leave to cool for a minute or so and then push the jam with your finger, if it wrinkles, it is at setting point. If it doesn’t wrinkle then boil for a few more minutes and then test again.  Otherwise use a jam thermometer and it is ready when it reaches 104.5°c.

Remove any scum that has risen to the surface. Pot into sterilised jars and cover whilst hot.

 

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Bread, cheese and pickled damsons

Well this isn’t a recipe but it is a photo of my supper.  Lovely bread, lovely cheese and lovely pickled damsons.  The damsons I pickled in September are now very good and combined with the walnut bread and mature cheddar made for a very good snack.

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Stewed damsons

stewed damsons

I think one of the best things to do with damsons is to keep it simple and stew them with sugar. I tend to cook them straight from frozen, they just need a little bit longer in the oven.  It’s hard to beat them when they are served with custard.  My girls love to mix the damson juice with the custard to make a vivid pink pudding.  We each save all the damson stones and then see who we are going to marry by counting them saying “Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief’ and then we count them again to see how we are going to travel to church on the wedding day “coach, carriage, wheelbarrow, muck cart”. It’s daft but it has to be done.

It’s hard to give precise measurements here because it will depend on how tart or sweet you like your damsons.  I like mine to taste tart and then be sweetened by the custard.

Serves 4

300g (10oz) frozen damsons
5 dessertspoons demerara sugar

Put the damsons and sugar into an ovenproof bowl and bake at 180°c for 20 minutes until the damsons are soft and have begun to burst out of their skins.

Serve warm with plenty of warm custard.

damsons and custard

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Damson Vodka or Gin

Preparing the damsons

Preparing the damsons

This is a great way to use up a glut of damsons, it transforms the gin or vodka into a heavenly tipple, capturing the essence of the damson.  Be warned though it is very easy to drink and very alcoholic!

For every 1 pint (570ml) damsons use 6oz (175g) sugar
gin or vodka

You will need a large screw top jar, we use the old fashioned sweet jars but you could use a large kilner jar too.

Prick the damsons with a fork or skewer and place in the jar.  It’s best to fill the jar with damsons for maximum flavour. You will need to measure them as they go in because for every pint (570ml)of damsons that you use you need to add 60z (175g) of sugar.  Fill the jar with either gin or vodka. You will need to shake the damsons gently to help the liquid seep to the bottom. Tightly fit the lid.  You now need to shake the jar daily until all of the sugar has dissolved (this can take two weeks of daily shaking). Put the jar in a dark place for six months and then decant into bottles.

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Pickled Damsons

Pickling damsons

Pickling damsons

We have a couple of damson trees in our garden.  Last year a late frost damaged the blossom and there was not a damson to be seen. This year the trees have been loaded. We have frozen some ready for making stewed damsons this winter, I have made damson jam and damson vodka and pickled damsons.  I was introduced to the idea of pickled damsons by my husband and I must admit that I was appalled at the very thought until I tried them!  Now I am a convert, they are absolutely delicious with cold ham, sweet with a sour tang. If you haven’t tried them they are very easy to make and really worth it.  Once tried you will be making them again and again. This is a recipe from my mother-in-law from an old pamphlet collecting local people’s favourite recipes.

Sterilise 3 x 1 lb jars by washing them thoroughly, swilling with hot water and then placing in a low oven (100°c) for 20 mins

2 lbs (900g) damsons
½ pint (275ml) malt vinegar
2 lbs (900g) dark brown sugar
1 oz (25g) ground cinnamon or a cinnamon stick
2 tsp ground cloves or 6 whole cloves

Method
Prick the damsons with a fork or several times with a skewer and put into a large jar or bowl.  Tie the spices into a muslin bag and place in a large saucepan with the sugar and vinegar and bring to the boil. Pour this mixture over the damsons and leave for 24 hours.  Turn all into a large saucepan and bring to the boil.  Boil for 3 mins.  Carefully spoon into the hot sterilised jars and cover when cold.  These are best stored for 6 weeks before tucking in and they last for ages and ages.  I have had jars for a year or more and still tasting delicious.

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