As a mathematics teacher (in my spare time) numbers are a bit of a thing with me, but today I’m glad I can count. This lot of stones represents a batch of Damson Plum jam, all 150 of them! I counted the plums in and counted the stones out. When we make Black Doris plum jam, we halve the plums and flick the stones out before cooking the fruit so stones in the jam is never an issue. Not so with Damsons as they are often so small that it would take forever, if indeed one could halve them successfully. I have pressed the fruit through a colander in previous seasons to get the stones out but that does tend to be wasteful as the skins get strained out as well. It is much easier to cook the fruit wtih a little water and add the sugar before worrying about the stones. As you stir the now, almost jam, the stones come to the surface, very clean and you can just pick them out. because I was making this to sell, it was important to get all the stones out, hence the counting of the plums first, and after making. The plums in this kilogram of fruit were small so the yield was not large – four and a half 195 ml jars from 1 kg fruit and 800g sugar – but the flavour is wonderful and the set is well, set. It is quite difficult to not get it to set so it’s a good jam for a beginner jam maker. We don’t (yet) make damson paste as there is a fine line between jam and a burnt offering but the jam fits the bill with cheese and crackers, very nicely thank you!
Some of the damsons didn’t make it in to jam this year. The birds took one entire tree’s worth. The wind blew the netting off enough for the little blighters to get in and they must have had a feast. But, (and this won’t be for sale) we also made some Damson gin.
And yes!!!! This is a longer process than making jam, but oh so yummy, later in the year. To make the gin, first you have to prick the fruit. We just used forks though I have seen needles used in some recipes. We used 300g of Damsons and originally put them into a kilner jar with about 150g of sugar and 600ml of gin. The recipe said to shake the jar until the sugar dissolved, but when I did this I managed to spray gin all over myself as the seal wasn’t tight (!) so I left it to sit by itself overnight and then decanted the lot into a screw top jar the next morning (and washed my t-shirt so no-one thought I had a problem!!) I gently shook it daily for a week and now I only do so when I remember. it should be ready in about six months. At that stage the flesh of the plums can be used for making jam or using in an apple crumble (for grown ups) and the liquid bottled.
There are still four or five bags of Damsons in the freezer, so I’ll make more batches of jam later in the season. Maybe this is the year that I should learn to make Damson paste.