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

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

35 thoughts on “Pickled Damsons”

  1. I have tried making the pickled damsons, using a different recipe (Katie Stewart, Times Cookery Book). The damsons were pricked, placed in large bowl, liquid boiled and placed over damsons three times, before reducing liquid and pouring over damsons packed in jars. However, damsons quickly became rather shrivelled, hard and chewy rather than soft and yummy. I will try this recipe as perhaps cooking the damsons for 3 minutes will make a difference. I live in the Lake District, so have access to beautiful Lyth Valley damsons. A local firm sells pickled damsons and they are gorgeous! plump and soft and a wonderful flavour. Fingers crossed!

  2. Dear moneypennie,
    This version of the recipe is very easy and our damsons stay soft and plump for ages, we found a jar two years after we had made them and they still tasted good. I hope it works for you, let me know how you get on. I haven’t been lucky enough to try Lyth Valley damsons, hopefully one day…

  3. Hello Kath,

    Thank you so much for the encouragement! I will try your recipe tomorrow (Sunday). By the way, I discovered a lovely recipe for Damson Jam. I had made some a few weeks ago with a traditional recipe, which was very nice. However, last weekend I tried something different from my Cordon Bleu Book:

    8 lbs of damson, washed and drained
    4 lbs of jam sugar

    Slit each damson lengthways on one side only (labourious!), placing in a large earthenware bowl and layering 3 lbs of the sugar as you go. Leave overnight and next day, pour the damsons and the resulting juice into your jam pan. Bring gently to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes until the damsons are just tender then shake in the remaining l lb of sugar. Boil rapidly for 15 – 20 minutes, then test. (I found that I had to boil for at 30 minutes as the original recipe says more sugar than I used). Allow the jam to cool to warm before putting into jars as this allows the fruit to stay suspended in the jam, rather than it rising to the top. Because no water is added, this jam has the most intense, delicious flavour although it is not as set as a traditional jam. It should be eaten within three or four months.

    The original recipe says 8lbs of damsons to 12-16 oz sugar to each lb of damsons. I wanted a more ‘tart’ result, so tried less sugar which I’m really pleased with. I didn’t remove any stones as I think they are all part of real damson jam!

    Recipe from Cordon Bleu Monthly Cookery Course, number 8 page 10.

    Damson gin next! Moneypennie

  4. Thank you Moneypennie, this is brilliant, I will give it a go. I was looking through my books the other week for a good damson jam recipe. I made Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Dampote and his Damson Chilli Sauce, which is a by-product using some of the excess liquid. It was very nice. But you can never have enough damson jam in the house. Enjoy your pickling tomorrow.

  5. Hi Kath,

    Pickled the damsons and they seem to be much better than my first attempt! Thank you so much for posting the recipe. I made another batch of jam, too. I think the first batch was slightly better; I didn’t boil it for quite as long – probably between 20 and 25 mins, whereas the second time, I boiled for 30 mins and also made a slightly smaller quantity (using 6lbs damsons rather than 8lbs). It is still delicious, though!

    It’s fun sharing recipes. Alexandra

  6. Hi Alexandra,
    I am really pleased that all has gone well with the pickling. I am sure you will find them delicious when it’s time to crack open a jar.
    Thanks for the tip on boiling the jam for less time.
    I agree it is fun sharing recipes, I have only recently started this blog but I am loving every minute of it.

  7. Pingback: Mackerel and feta stuffed baked potatoes « The Ordinary Cook

  8. Pingback: Bread, cheese and pickled damsons « The Ordinary Cook

  9. Hi Kath,
    I discovered your website as I have a glut of of damsons, and am getting bored of making just jam!
    I’ve just made your pickled damsons – they look amazing, and they taste really delicious. Thanks for posting this recipe. I just wondered if you put wax covers on your jars after putting it all in? Or if they stayed good (and not moldy) without the wax covers?

    Thanks so much!


    1. Hi Roisin,
      I am really pleased that you found me and made the pickled damsons. I adore them. I don’t use waxed discs and I have had damsons keep well for a couple of years. As long as the jar is sterile they should keep well. I hope you continue to enjoy them.
      Best wishes

    1. Hi Giruem,
      Really glad you are giving these a go, they are delicious. I haven’t made it very clear in my instructions have I? I remove the spice bag at the end when I am pouring it into jars. This gives a really good spicy flavour. I hope you enjoy them.

  10. I have made my jam in the microwave for the past 35-years. Quick, easy and clean!
    Damson or plum jam or any other i.e. blackcurrent
    3 stages – A) soften fruit B) dissolve sugar C) cook

    Large container – mine is 4.5″ tall x 9″ wide. Can use large a mixing bowl or see Lakeland Microwave Multi Steamer

    Based on a 900watt oven

    2.5 lbs damsons/plums
    2.5 lbs sugar (warm in oven first – it will dissolve quicker)
    1 tablespoon water & one of lemon juice (I use Jiff)

    A) Soften fruit –
    10 minutes @ 80% Stir well

    B) Dissolve sugar
    3 minutes @ 80% Stir well
    Repeat twice more – 9 minutes in total

    C) Cook jam
    5 minutes @ 80% Stir well
    Repeat twice more – 15 minutes in total

    You will find that almost all the stones will be on the top, takes very little time to scoop them out. I’ve timed it & from start to washing up 45 minutes
    You can test on a cold plate if wish – I’ve made it so often I no longer bother 🙂
    I have a glut of damsons this year and am about to try your recipe for pickling, sounds very tasty

  11. Hi there,

    I am in the process of canning my first batch of pickled damson. I don’t know if they are going to be any good, but I know for sure that the vinegar+sugar mixture is to die for… I have been sampling it pretty much no stop since yesterday 🙂
    You say to use “dark brown sugar”, but I wasn’t sure what you meant so I went for some demerara along with red malt vinegar.

    My question is… what else can I pickle using the same principle? I am thinking of having these delicacies in my Christmas hampers…

    1. Hi Andrea,
      I am really glad that you like the pickling mix. Pickled damsons are one of my favourites. You could try any stone fruit – plums, greengages etc. I have a recipe for pickled peaches that you might like to try too. They are lovely too. Christmas hampers are a lovely idea – lucky friends and family. Dark brown sugar is also known as muscovado, it has finer crystals than demerara and a more treacly flavour. If you google it you will see some images that give you an idea of what it looks like. Enjoy pickling and let me know how you get on.
      Best wishes, Kath

      1. A little update: we have tried the plums and are indeed delicious,
        HOWEVER…. the biggest discovery took place last night. I had some leftover juice and a Christmas pudding still unopened that we found in a cupboard. In the spur of the moment I decided to get some pudding, heat it in the microwave and add the vinegard juice on top, instead of the usual cream/brandy sauce/whatever.
        Well… it was GLORIOUS. There is some left over for tonight, then I will have to wait till Christmas to try more 🙁
        Do try it 🙂

      2. Sorry for the tardy reply, we have been on our hols. That sounds so delicious. I have a xmas pud in the cupboard. It might have to be fetched out on Sunday so I can try it with pickled damson juice. Thanks for the tip.

  12. Hi Kath
    I was given some damsons yesterday by a friend and set about pickling some to your recipe. I have never pickled damsons before and wondered if the syrup should be as runny as mine turned out? I somehow expected it to be gloopy like a loose jam. The taste, though, is scrumptious!

    1. Hi Jackie,
      They are lovely with cold meats, so perhaps alongside a piece of ham. I also like them with cheese and crackers. Also good with cheese on toast, or a jacket potato. Whenever you feel like eating them basically. And you will want to eat them a lot once you try them. Let me know how you get on. Best Kath

  13. Hi Jackie

    I think they would go lovely with pork chops or quiches too. Anything savoury would work… Incidentally when I made mine on Saturday I had too much liquid so I reduced it down and served this thickened liquid with cold cooked ham for Sunday tea and called it ‘Damson Jus’. My grandchildren were soooo impressed! Ha! It was delicious!
    Enjoy – Gill

  14. I have used this recipe last year, I loved them and have impressed friends and relatives, they complement well with salads as relish. Thanks I will be making them again this year.

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment Rachel. I love these too and I will definitely be making them again this year as well. I am eyeing up the damsons already although they are no way near to being ripe yet.

  15. Pingback: Damson and rosehip jelly | The Ordinary Cook

  16. I have just made the delicious picked damsons…a quick question…during the final 3 min boil, my damson skins split and lost form somewhat…is this right or should i have scooped them out first and just boiled the liquid?

  17. Just about to try your pickled damsons & wondered if the stones stay hard & you have to remove them. Or do you leave them in & they soften like pickled walnuts do….Thanks Roger.

    1. Hi Roger, the stones will remain hard and will need to be picked out as you eat. They don’t soften. You can, of course, remove them before, but it’s a bit of a pain. Enjoy the damsons, they are delicious. I will be making them myself this week, hopefully.

  18. Hi Kath
    Thank you so much for this recipe. I am 75 now and still remember as a child delicious pickled damsons produced by a great aunt. I looked for a recipe for years. I am so going to try yours.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.