Damson and rosehip jelly

damsons and rosehips

I think damsons might be my favourite fruit. Not straight off the tree; that way they have a bitter edge which makes you purse your lips. But when they are cooked with sugar they are rich, perfumed and glorious. One of the most lovely things about them is their purplish bloom which imprints itself on your fingers when you pick it from the tree. I picked these beauties on Sunday and the tree stands next to a rose that due to my lazy gardening has suckers that have naturalised. My lazy gardening of course has its benefits, in this case the beautiful rosehips that are hanging heavy. I couldn’t resist picking some to add to my damsons.

I am not sure that the rosehips add anything in terms of taste to this jelly. The damsons overwhelm their delicate taste, but maybe some of their goodness will have hung in there through the boiling process. I am glad I added them for the photo above alone. Look at those colours! Autumn on a plate.

Damson and rosehip jelly

Makes about 3 jars

1kg damsons
300g rosehips
1 litre water
Granulated sugar

Wash the rosehips well and remove the old flowers and check for insects. Chop these finely (wearing gloves if you do this by hand as the hairy seeds are an irritant, I use my food processor). Add to a large pan. Wash the damsons and add to the pan with 1 litre of water. Bring to the boil and simmer away until the fruit is soft. I mashed it with my potato masher. Strain the fruit through a jelly bag or large square of muslin tied at the top and hang over a bowl. The weight of the fruit and damson stones will mean that the majority of the juice will have strained through in 1 hour, but you can leave it overnight. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag though as this will make the jelly cloudy.

Pop a couple of saucers into the fridge to get cold.

Measure the juice and to every 600ml of juice add 450g of sugar. Return it all to a clean large pan and bring slowly to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved increase the heat to bring it to a rolling boil. Check to see if it’s set by pouring a small amount onto a cold saucer. When it’s cooled push your finger through it and if it wrinkles it’s ready. Pour into warm sterilised jars and seal.

Use it like jam on your toast or as an accompaniment to meat, cheese or anything else that you fancy.

If you like this, then you might also like my pickled damsons, stewed damsons, damson ice cream, damson vodka or damson jam.

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Gooseberry and elderflower jam

Gooseberries and elderflowers

I haven’t made jam for a long time. I keep meaning to fetch some damsons out of the freezer, but I always find that something else has jogged its way to the top of my to-do list. This morning though, our broadband connection was down. The horror! It’s only when you don’t have the internet that you realise how much you use it.  I decided to change my plans and I remembered that when I had gone to feed the chickens yesterday that I had thought about the elderflowers being ready. I was chatting at the weekend about elderflower champagne. I decided it was now or never.

I went out in my sandals (why do I always do that?) to forage. The tree by the chickens wasn’t very fruitful. I managed a couple of sprigs, but realised that this is probably the tree that the jackdaws sit in waiting for their opportunity to do their own foraging in the chicken corn. There was just too much bird poo. So I ended up half way down a steep, fairly muddy bank in my sandals precariously reaching for the best blooms.

You have to take great care when picking elderflowers. Not only do I suggest your wellies or a pair of sturdy shoes, but that you very gently grasp the bloom and snip carefully. Carry said bloom with care to the waiting bowl and gently lay it in there. When you are ready to use them do a thorough examination for insects and carefully lift any off. Do not be tempted to give the blooms a shake. The sweet scent of the elderflower is captured in its pollen and it is this that you want in your jam/cordial/champagne/ vinegar. No matter how careful you are when you pick them a cloud of pollen will still be released, reminding you to be even more careful with the next snip, whether you are threatened with tipping yourself down that steep bank or not.

I bought my elderflower heads inside and wondered what I should do with them.  I have made elderflower cordial before and I love it, but I fancied something a bit different. I fancied a scented vinegar, so I started with that (recipe to follow in another blog post) and then I thought about the gooseberries that Mr OC and I had been admiring in our garden on Saturday. Mr OC had mentioned gooseberry jam. I took that as a hint. Out I went, still in sandals, to tackle the gooseberries. Those little bushes really don’t want you to take their fruit. Several exclamations later I emerged with just over 1 kilo of gooseberries and my hands prickled and thorn ridden. There are plenty left to ripen further for a fool or an ice-cream. Perhaps gloves might be an idea next time.

The resulting jam is heavenly. It has a sherbet fizz to it, that makes your lips pucker, ever so slightly, then the heady scent of elderflower and the sweet tang of  gooseberries. If someone were ever to ask me what the colour green tastes like I would say this jam, after wondering whether they required help. The jam itself has a rose hue to it that just makes you feel happy. I am glad the internet was broken this morning.

Makes 5-6 random sized but about 300-400g jars

1kg gooseberries, topped and tailed and washed
6-8 elderflower heads, carefully picked and carefully inspected for insects
500ml of water
1 kg white sugar


Place the topped and tailed gooseberries in a jam pan or large saucepan, pour over 500ml water and place the elderflower heads on the top. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and cook until the gooseberries are soft but still whole. Remove the elderflower heads (which will have gone brown in the heat). Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Bring the jam to a rolling boil and boil until the jam is set. To test, place a couple of saucers in the freezer to get really cold. After nearly ten minutes of boiling spoon a little of the jam onto a cold saucer and leave for a minute. Push the tip of your finger through and if the jam wrinkles it is set, if not leave to boil for a few minutes more. My jam took about 15-18 minutes today and it is very softly set, which is the way I prefer it. Leave the jam to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then spoon into warm sterile jars and seal.

To sterilise my jars, I wash them really well in soapy hot water, rinse really well in clean water. Place on a baking tray and place in a low oven for twenty minutes. I then fill them as soon as they come out of the oven.


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Crabapple and rosehip jelly

rosehip and crabapple jelly

I intended to make rowan berry and crabapple jelly this year. The rowan berries have drooped heavily this year. In fact, on our usual walk I have noticed several new rowan trees. Obviously they aren’t actually new trees I just haven’t noticed them before. Which makes me think that this year the trees must be particularly heavy with berries as I am not usually one to miss a foraging opportunity. Anyway, off I marched with my carrier bags, one for the crabapples, one for rowan berries and one just in case. You never know what you might spot.

It wasn’t until I came to actually pick the rowan berries that I noticed quite how tall each of my newly spotted trees was. Why hadn’t I noticed before that I needed to be several feet higher to get the berries? I managed a handful from a sapling growing on the side of a brook. Time for a rethink. That was when the spare carrier bag came in handy for the rosehips.

I made rosehip syrup last year in an effort to ward off any chesty coughs. So this year, we will be having crabapple and rosehip jelly by the spoonful if the common cold dares to visit. The rosehip is high in vitamin C and during World War II people were paid by the pound for rosehips so that the syrup could be made and given to children.

The apples and rosehips are bubbling as I write this draft and the scent is mesmerisingly good. I am looking forward to this jelly accompanying our winter sunday roasts and perhaps added to some herb teas. I think a spoonful might be a good addition to a sage tea to sooth sore throats.

750g crab apples
300g rosehips
water to cover
sugar, 450g for every 600ml of juice


Wash the crab apples well and cut out any bruises. Chop roughly.

Wash the rosehips and remove the old flower and check for any creatures that might be hiding there. Blitz them in a food processor or chop finely. Bearing in mind that they are famed by schoolchildren everywhere for their qualities as itching powder, so you might want to wear gloves when handling them.

Place the apples and rosehips in a large pan and just cover with water. Bring to a simmer and simmer away until the fruit is soft. Put the pulp into a  jelly bag or a clean tea towel (I boil one in a pan two thirds filled with water for about ten minutes to make sure it is clean) and allow the fruit to strain over a large bowl. Don’t squeeze the bag or the jelly will be cloudy. A lot of recipes say that you need to leave it overnight, but the liquid in mine had drained through in a couple of hours, leaving a dry pulp behind.

Place a couple of saucers in the fridge for testing your jelly later. Measure your juice and pour into a large clean pan. Bring to boiling point. Add 450g sugar for every 600ml of juice and stir to dissolve. Boil rapidly once the sugar has dissolved and boil until setting point has been reached. You may have a scum come to the surface. Scoop this out. Setting point should take about ten minutes. But test for setting point after five minutes. To test for setting point take out one of the cold saucers and place a teaspoonful of the jelly onto it. Allow to cool and then push your finger through it. If it wrinkles then it is ready. Pour into hot sterile jars and seal.

I love the colour of this jelly, it’s much paler than the crabapple jelly I made two years ago. It has more of a rose blush about it. It’s well worth a try.


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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


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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