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


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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29 thoughts on “Damson ice cream”

  1. Yes, damson ice cream is the very best in the whole world. And do you know what? We can’t get damsons here, in southern France, for love nor money. But you’ll have eaten all of that precious pot you made by now, and I don’t blame you one bit!

  2. Yikes! a world without damsons? – An unbearable thought. I think they are quite particular about where they grow. They seem to prefer the central belt of England. I know that people have commented that they don’t grow in southern England. Can you get them when you are in Ripon?

  3. my backyard plum tree (which isn’t damson–don’t really know what kind) did produce its most ever this year (early bloomer–harvested in June) I have lots of jars of pureed plums—your ice cream recipe is perfect for a jar or two. thanks, Kath!

  4. Rest assured not a single fruit tree in our garden, laden or otherwise. I suspect damson trees wouldn’t survive this far north. I love homemade ice cream – its the best.

  5. Sounds very nice. Damsons are a very under-rated fruit. Damson gin is also good.

    This has reminded me, I really need to crack on and actually make some ice-cream (otherwise Mrs VBB may send my ice-cream maker to the great gadget shop in the sky).

  6. I like how you have decided to use this year’s offering of fruit … but maybe you should have a stern talking to your 4 trees, surely a year without Damson Vodka cannot be repeated ;0)

  7. Thank you so much for your warm comments.

    I so envy your damson trees – I don’t think I have ever had damsons and so want to tuck into yoru damson ice-cream. Fabulous colour too.

  8. Ha ha, Kath, perhaps you could allow Mr OC just a little taster – always good to have them begging for more! It looks fabulous and something I now really want to try. I can imagine the tart damsons would go brilliantly well in ice-cream and offset some of the sweetness and it’s such a lovely colour. Pity you got so few, but it seems to be a rubbish year for fruit, it is here in Cornwall anyway.

  9. Isn’t it odd how some things do well some years and not others – it’s always a good year for one and a bad year for another. Your ham looked good in the last post – I remember you and I started our ‘aquaintance’ with how to cook ham in the aga some years ago! xCathy

  10. i love damsons but unfortunately have to buy mine. How disappointing to get so few from your trees – I had no idea it was a poor year for damsons. Using most them for ice cream seems like a great idea to me and still left you with 100g.

  11. I’ve never heard of damsons before- and I’m very curious about why your trees bore so little fruit this year. Do these beauties taste like plums?
    So glad you didn’t hurt yourself last year during the harvest. What a funny image- and you are so right about having to work to get the best fruit. I think there is a little life lesson in that one. Don’t you think?

    1. Hi Beth, I am not sure whether we had a late frost which got to the blossom or it was the colder, wetter summer which was to blame. Damsons look like plums but are sharper. The things I do for the sake of a harvest! Definitely a lesson in there somewhere πŸ˜‰

  12. The ice cream sounds perfect. I already have a freezer full of Damson plum pulp and am searching for ways to use it other than jam. Any idea what quantity, in liquid, the 500 g will become so that I may substitute? I’ve already done that cooking step but have no way to know what measure of pulp I’ll need to use. Thank you.

    1. Hello Kathejo,
      To be honest I don’t know the absolute answer to this. However if I was using a plum puree I would probably use 500g of that. I don’t think that you can go far wrong with this, it will just be even more damsony. If you are hesitant then start with 300g and taste and add more if you think it needs it. I would just go for it though with the full 500g. Let me know how you get on as I am interested in ow it turns out. Best Kath

      1. I like your thinking. I’ll start with the 300 g and taste the mixture. And more plummy sounds good to me. I’ll just go on until I’m pleased with the taste. Thank you.

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