Ahh scrumptious September! It’s that time of year when the fruit of the summer sun’s labour really comes to light and hedgerows are filled with free sweet delights to see us through the onset of Autumn. Ours is unseasonably warm this year and while writing this blog the girls are at the park enjoying a warm dusk and the windows of my home are flung open wide to entice in the cooling late summer breeze.
We are luckily enough to live very close to lots of productive foraging sites; as well as the usual nettles and dandelions we are lucky to have blackberries, rose hips, and of course, damsons, just a short stroll away and we are accustomed now to bringing an array of baskets and bowls with us whenever we walk, for the acquisition of the ripest of nature’s sweets.
Damsons are a relation of the plum, although they are much much smaller (about the size of a very large grape) and are recognisable by their beautiful dark indigo colouring, which is usually covered in a white ‘pith’ which rubs away with the oils of your hands. Damsons contain a single small stone and should have a fairly pale amber flesh. They have a very tart taste when eaten off the tree and a juice that will cut through grease and clear your palate. I just love damsons, and this damson jam recipe will bring the essence of a hazy Indian summer into your darkening mornings as Winter sets in.
This recipe makes about six jars.
1.25kg preserving sugar
*De-stoning the fruit:
There are two options here and in my most recent batch I used the method detailed below, but another way to ensure a stone free jam is to cut the fruit in half and remove each stone before using them. Time consuming, but ultimately worth it!
Put the fruit and the water into a big high-sided pan and simmer until the skins are soft and the liquid has reduced by a third. As the fruit is softening, press it against the side of the pan to release the stones and remove with a slotted spoon. (Turn the heat off if this process is taking a while – you don’t want to burn the fruit)
Take the pan off the heat and add the sugar, stirring gently until it’s all dissolved. (It can help if you warm the sugar first, by putting it in the oven for 10 minutes)
When the sugar has dissolved, return the pan to the heat and boil it rapidly until the setting point is reached. Take the pan off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes. Skim off any scum that has formed, then pot up into sterilised* jars and store in a cool dark place until ready for use.
Why not tie ribbons around some of the jars and give them out as Christmas presents this year? There are some fab editable and printable labelling tools online, give it a go!
*to sterilise your jars simply wash them and put them through the dishwasher (alternatively use a microwave) on its hot setting while you’re making the jam. Spoon the mixture into the still-warm jars and seal immediately with a lid. The heat of the mixture and the jar will enable it to seal effectively and prevent any bacteria from disturbing your beautiful batch of jam.