Damson Plums
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damson jam, gin & crumble

Roguestone Damson Jam - skim out the stones during cooking!

Makes 4-6 jars, depending on size

What you’ll need

Damsons and sugar in a ratio of about 3:2 – 3lbs damsons, 2lbs sugar (a kilo bag); 500 ml water (for each 3lbs damsons)


Saucepan – big, wide and deep is good; Long-handled wooden spoon for stirring; Slotted spoon; Ladle; Jam funnel if you like; Jam jars and lids

How to do it

CAUTION – boiling fruit and sugar gets red hot and hurts if it splashes on your skin. Take care, especially if there are kids around, and

  • use a ring at the back of your cooker
  • don’t fill the saucepan right to the top
  • use a wooden spoon longer than the saucepan is deep
  • use oven gloves when handling hot pans and jars
  • don’t wear white clothes that you don’t want stained when making purple jam!

Soak/scrape any labels off the jam jars, wash and rinse them, put them upside down in your (cold) oven. Do this for a couple more than you think you’ll need and you won’t be left with no jar to put jam in! Wash, rinse and dry the jam jar lids.

Put 3-4 saucers into your freezer to get really cold.

Rinse the damsons, pop them in the saucepan, put the pan on a ring on your cooker - no need to take the stones out!

Add the water to the saucepan, bring to the boil, turn down and simmer for a good 20-30 minutes with no lid on, stirring with the wooden spoon from time to time.

At this point you can use the slotted spoon to take out damson stones. You won’t get them all, and you may take too much pulp out with the stones - if you do, don’t worry, have another go later (see below).

Add the sugar and stir thoroughly until it’s all dissolved.

Turn up the heat, stirring now and then, until the fruit, water and sugar mix gets to a rolling boil.

Turn your oven on low to blast dry the jam jars.

Keep the jam mix boiling for 10-15 minutes, stirring now and then to stop it from sticking. Carefully lift out any rising stones with the slotted spoon.

Take a saucer out of the freezer, put a spoonful of the boiling jam mix onto it. After a few seconds, push the jam blob with your finger. If it wrinkles up, it’s done. If it doesn’t wrinkle up, boil away for few more minutes and do the ‘saucer test’ again with another cold saucer. Repeat the crinkly wrinkly test until you’re happy that the jam is ‘set’. Don’t boil away for ages or you’ll burn the jam and get a dark, overdone spread.

Turn off the heat and let the hot jam rest for 5-10 minutes.

Take the hot jam jars out of the oven and put them on a stable surface that won’t burn or crack. Use the ladle (and jam funnel if you like) to fill the jars with the jam. Put the lids on the jars, and put them somewhere safe to cool down for a few hours.

Your damson jam is now ready to eat, or to keep for many months ahead!

Warn anyone who’ll be eating it that there may be the odd, rogue stone – you’ll probably spot it as you spread it!


Spit-out Damson Crumble

What you’ll need
2 lbs of damsons, 6 oz sugar, 3 oz butter (at room temperature), 8 oz plain flour; ovenproof pie dish, bowl to make crumble in, spoon and fork.

Wash the damsons and put them in the dish. No need to take the stones out, you’ll do that as you eat the crumble! Sprinkle 3oz of the sugar on top.

Make the crumble : Tip the flour into the bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mix looks crumbly. Add 3 oz sugar and stir in with a spoon. Tip this crumble mixture over the damsons, spreading it and pushing it down with the fork. Cook the dish for 30 to 40 minutes in the oven at gas mark 4 (350 F, 180 C).

Serve hot with cream, clotted cream, or ice cream, and remember to spit out the stones as you go!


Tart Damson Gin (low sugar)

Ingredients : damsons, gin, sugar
Equipment : a pin or needle, and Kilner-type jars in August to October; Screw-top or stoppered bottles (HP Sauce bottles are ideal), sieve, and jug at Christmas.

In August to October, buy or pick a few pounds of damsons. Buy a litre bottle of cheap gin, and one or two Kilner jars or similar. Tip the damsons into the jars to see how many it takes to fill them up. Wash and rinse the jars, and blast them dry in the oven for few minutes, then take out to cool. Wash the damsons, pull off any stalks and leaves. Prick a few holes into each one with a pin and drop them one-by-one into the jars. For this tart version, sprinkle a teaspoon or two of sugar over the pricked damsons, when the jars are 1/3 full, 2/3 full, and full (add more sugar to give a sweeter taste, if desired). Fill up the jars with gin so the damsons are covered, close the tops, and twist vigorously to shake them up a bit.

Put the jars in a cool, dry, dark place, until just before Christmas. You really don’t need to shake or turn them every day, or at all after the initial twisting, because there’s very little sugar to dissolve.

Near Christmas, thoroughly wash and rinse the bottles, blast them dry in the oven, and take out and let them cool. Pour the gin from the jars through a sieve, lined with kitchen towel, coffee filter paper or muslin, into a jug, then into the bottles.

Screw or push the tops on, make some labels and give as Christmas presents (save a few for yourself !). This dry version makes for a wonderful anytime tart sip; or mix with tonic, ice and lemon for a cool refreshing summertime drink.

It's tempting to make a fruit pie with the swollen, ginny damsons that you've filtered out, but this is best avoided as they are very alcoholic ! Beware:

A drunken Labrador needed emergency treatment after it ate 2lbs of damsons soaked in gin from a compost heap in Whitchurch, Shropshire.
Dog needs emergency treatment after eating damsons soaked in gin,
Daily Mirror, 13 October 2011.

You could take out the stones and drop the damsons into melted chocolate that you’ve poured into ice cube trays, to make damson gin chocolates. Or, you can put the ginny damsons in a jar, cover them with another drink such as cider or tonic water, close the lid, and after a day or two strain off the fruit and drink that!

The gin will keep for a couple of years easily (try making it last that long!), but you may find you have to pour older batches through a filter again to strain out any blobby bits – that’s home-made for you!

You can make Sloe Gin in exactly the same way, substituting sloes for damsons, usually a bit later in the year than with damsons.

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