Well, compared to last year’s flurry of preserving, we’re very quiet this year. Our apple trees seem to take one year on, one year off, and this is an off year. My polytunnel was invaded by red spider mite, so I have no tomatoes or courgettes. But through the wonders of Freecycle, I got hold of some damsons. Well, lots of damsons.
I wanted to make some jam. Last time I made damson jam, I believed the recipe when it said blithely that you didn’t need to stone them, just scrape the stones off as it cooked. Well, that might work for a small batch but not for a big one. By the time I got the blinking stones out, the jam had overboiled and set like a rock. So this year, I decided to stone them. I don’t have a cherry stoner. I did have several kilos of plums. Stoning them with a knife was going to take ages and, I realised, waste half the fruit because the stones weren’t coming away cleanly.
So I cheated. Damsons onto baking trays, like this:
and into the oven (at about 150C) for 10 minutes or so, so they look more like this:
This made them much easier to destone. I made the jam, which is stashed away in the larder. It’s not my year for perfect damson jam – the damsons were quite tanniny (they were all windfalls, so they were ripe – maybe it’s the variety?) so the jam is probably one to have with cheese rather than on toast. Still, onwards and upwards!
The good thing about the tannins is that I also made some damson gin. I imagine the tannins will be very effective there. Damson gin is lovely – not as popular as the ubiquitous sloe gin, but I like it just as much. Recipes vary – I use about half the weight of sugar to damsons. My proportions are something like: one pound fruit to half a pound sugar to just over a pint of gin (not very scientific, but that’s what my jars hold). I don’t stone the damsons, just prick them all over and put them in the jars, followed by the sugar, then top up with gin. I give it a good shake, and shake a couple of times a day until all the sugar’s dissolved. It won’t be ready for a good while, but it’s already looking promising: