Damson Jam, Jelly & Gin

This entry is filed under Editorial, Preserves & Chutneys.

If you know someone with a damson tree, or know someone who knows someone with a damson tree then befriend them immediately and bag yourself some before they disappear. Damsons are unique, they have an intense fruity flavour – slightly tart, yet sweet. Plus they’re loaded with pectin making them perfect for jam and jelly.


Damson jamson…

Anyway, word went round that I was looking for damsons so Mable a keen gardener and fruit and veg grower from the next village, got Stan the man to drop a large carrier bag off here yesterday.

After rinsing the damsons and picking out any blemished and bruised fruit, my bounty weighed 1.5kg,  just enough to make two pots of damson jam and  two of jelly plus a medium sized jar of damson gin. One of the great things about damsons is that nothing gets wasted.

If you want to make all three items you will need approximately 1.5kg damson fruit (weighed once the fruit has been prepared) 1kg granulated sugar and about 1/2 litre gin.

gently simmer the damson

Here’s What I Did
I began by gently simmering all the damsons for 20 minutes in 600ml water, then using a slotted spoon I transferred the fruit to a baking tray, leaving the damson liquid in the pan.

The jelly was first up because it needed 24 hours for all the juice to collect.

Using a large spoon I shovelled half of the cooked dsc073081damsons into a pop sock then suspended it from the kitchen cupboard. Once I got the jug positioned underneath to catch all the juice, I poured half the damson liquid from the saucepan into the pop sock and left it to slowly drip its way through the fruit.

picking out the stonesNext up was the jam. I started by picking over the stewed damsons in the baking tray and removing the stones. The easiest way is to spread out the cooked damsons and feel over them removing any stones as you go. N.B: It’s worth going the extra mile and doing this because the stones could easily crack a tooth if you accidentally bit down on one.

With the stones gone, I re-weighed the fruit and was left with 400g which I returned to the pan containing the damson liquid and placed it over a low heat with 300g granulated sugar (I use a ratio of ¾ sugar to fruit rather than equal quantities so it’s less sweet) and once it had dissolved I boiled the pan rapidly for  approximately 10-15 minutes, skimming off any scum as it rose to the surface.

Temp 150C 220FJam sets at 105C/220F, but if you don’t have a thermometer you can tell it’s ready when the jam is firm and the juice has set. Then all I did was pour the hot jam into clean sterililsed jars.

jug-of-damson-juiceAfter 24 hours the pop sock had produced 750ml of damson juice, which duly went into a clean pan along with equal quantities of sugar, (in this instance 750g’s) as you need the same ratio of sugar to juice where jelly is concerned. Once the sugar had dissolved the jelly was boiled rapidly for 15-20 minutes.

The best way to tell if jelly has set is to chill a plate in the freezer then splosh a bit of jelly onto it and return to the freezer for 10 minutes. But meanwhile be sure to take the pan off the heat first otherwise the jelly will carry on cooking and may become too thick. You can tell if jelly has set by drawing your finger over the surface of the chilled jelly sample. If it wrinkles up and no liquid seeps out from underneath, it is done.

Some recipes suggest adding a knob of butter dsc07388 to reduce any frothing, but I scoop it off with a spoon instead. I can’t help thinking adding animal fat is wrong and liable to contaminate the jelly’s lovely clean cut quality. Anyway, once the jelly had reached a set, I bottled it in the same way as the damson jam.

damson-ginLastly, to make the gin I took the now dry fruit pulp lodged in the pop sock and weighing 200g then tipped it into a large glass jar with a wide opening.

Next, using the ratio of half sugar to fruit, I poured over 100g granulated sugar and topped it up with 400ml gin followed by 6 cloves.

For some reason it feels right stirring the gin rather than shaking it,  but I don’t imagine it makes much difference either way. What is important though, is dating and labelling the jar then transferring it to a nice cool, dark cupboard  to mature and forgetting about it until Christmas time.


Damson – king of jams

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