Damson jam

Jars of homemade damson jam

We moved into our little Welsh cottage at the beginning of August in 2019 (just before any of us had ever heard the word ‘Coronavirus’). Less than 2 months later, we discovered that we have a damson tree in the garden that was plentiful with fruit ready to be picked.

Unfortunately, our range cooker was yet to be installed, so we had no way of cooking them; wed were preparing all our meals in a 2nd hand microwave that we brought with us from Yorkshire. We told one of our new neighbours to come over and pick as many as they could take away with them – there were many kilos. We were soon duly rewarded with a few jars of delicious, homemade damson jam – not a bad swap, we thought!

Small trug of damsons picked from trees in our garden

The next three summers saw not a single damson fruit on our tree, we thought it was dying. When September 2023 arrived, we managed to harvest about half a kilo… and discovered another young damson tree in one of our hedges. We picked about ¾ of a kilo in total.

Small trug of damsons picked from trees in our garden

I found a Damson jam recipe on the BBC website; however, looking at the comments, many people that followed it reported that there was way too much sugar stated (which was a weight ratio of 1-1 fruit to granulated sugar).

I left the fruit stones in the jam when I decanted it into the jars – I’m not fussy, and I know to look out for them when putting it on toast and in sandwiches. If you’d prefer to make jam without stones, you can remove them before cooking or by putting the just-cooked jam through a sieve before decanting.

Personally, I don’t mind a few stones in my jam jars. De-stoning the fruit is before cooking is time-consuming (especially if you’re preparing many kilos). Alternatively, sieving it while it’s still piping hot can be dangerous.

Jars of homemade damson jam

Damson jam

Course Condiment
Cuisine British
Servings 4 jars

Ingredients
  

  • 750 g damsons halved, stones left in
  • 500 g granulated sugar

Instructions
 

  • Wash jars & lids in hot, soapy water, rinse, then place on a baking tray and put in a low oven for 10 mins or until completely dry. If you're using rubber/plastic seals, remove the seals and cover in just-boiled water. Ensure you also sterilise any funnels, ladles and spoons that you’ll be using.
  • Put the halved damsons into a jam pan or a large, wide, heavy-based saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to stop any skin sticking to the bottom. Put a couple of saucers into the freezer. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the fruit has softened.
  • Add the sugar and stir over a very low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, up to 10 mins. This step is vital; if you don’t dissolve the sugar, the bottom of the pan may catch and burn and affect the final taste of the jam. Raise the heat, bring to a full rolling boil, then rapidly boil for 10 minutes. Don’t stir until the setting point of 105ºC is reached. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the jam by spooning a little onto a cold saucer (that you've put in the freezer). Wait a few seconds, then push the jam with your fingertip. If it wrinkles, the jam is ready. If not, cook for a few more minutes and test again, with another cold saucer. Once you've reached the 105ºC or setting point, stir the jam thoroughly.
  • Remove from the heat, skim off any excess scum. Leave for about 15 minutes to allow the fruit to settle; if you decant the jam too soon, all the fruit will sink to the bottom. Pour into the sterilised jars, label and seal.
 
I left the fruit stones in the jam when I decanted it into the jars. If you'd prefer to have jam without stones, you can remove them before cooking or by putting the just cooked jam through a sieve before decanting.
Personally, I don't mind a few stones in my jars. De-stoning the fruit is before cooking is time-consuming (especially if you're preparing many kilos). Alternatively, sieving it while still piping hot can be dangerous.
Keyword damsons, jam, preserves

Cakes & Bakes: Jam-filled pound cupcakes

Plate of home-made jam-filled pound cupcakes | H is for Home

Are cupcakes still all the rage? I never really got that into them, perhaps because I’m terrible at decorating them. The icing has to be perfect for me to really enjoy them. Crunchy icing puts my teeth on edge. It needs to be a sweet, flavoursome butter cream or cream cheese.

Separated eggs | H is for Home Whisked egg whites | H is for Home

These jam-filled pound cupcakes don’t need any topping because the interest is all in the middle. I used some of my home-made mixed berry jelly from last autumn – there are always a few jars in the store cupboard. You can use any fruit jam, marmalade or lemon curd instead. Or what about a spoonful of Nutella? Mmmmmmmm…

Putting cake dough into cupcake cases | H is for Home Putting jam into cupcake cases | H is for Home

I used a pound cake recipe I found in Marvellous Mini-Cakes – a little book full of teensy sweet & savoury cakes. I used to think a pound cake was a cake that weighed a pound! In actual fact, it’s a cake traditionally made with a pound each of its four main ingredients – butter, sugar, flour and eggs… so I guess it’s really a 4lb cake!

Home-made jam-filled pound cupcakes | H is for Home

As tempting as they may be, please don’t attempt to eat these straight from the oven. The hot, molten jam will scald the roof of your mouth!

Click here to save this recipe for later.

Jam-filled pound cupcakes
Yields 6
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 120g/4¼oz salted butter
  2. 120g/4¼oz caster sugar
  3. 2 eggs, separated
  4. 120g/4¼oz plain flour, sifted
  5. 2 scant tsp baking powder
  6. pinch of salt
  7. jamHome-made jam-filled pound cupcakes ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
  2. Grease a muffin tin and dust with flour or add cupcake/muffin cases
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture turns pale and becomes smooth
  4. Add the egg yolks, flour and salt and combine
  5. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites
  6. Add them gradually to the mixture
  7. Add the baking powder
  8. As soon as you have stirred in the baking powder, put a dessert-spoonful of cake mixture in each cupcake hole/case
  9. Add a teaspoonful of jam to the centre of each cake
  10. Cover with the remaining cake mixture, ensuring that the jam is fully covered by the cake mix
  11. Put in the oven straight away
  12. Bake for about 20 minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time, prick with a skewer if it comes away clean, the cupcakes are done
  13. Allow to cool slightly before turning them out of the tin
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Adapted from Les Petits Plats Francais: Marvellous Mini-Cakes
H is for Home Harbinger https://hisforhomeblog.com/

Price Points: Preserve starter kits

Preserving starter kits | H is for Home

  1. Kitchen Craft preserving starter set, 4 pieces: £10, hobbycraft
  2. VonShef 9L Maslin pan jam preserving starter set bundle: £32.99, Amazon
  3. 5-Pieces preserve starter set by Kilner: £69.99, Wayfair

One of the things I love about the start of autumn is making jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys and all manner of other preserves. I made a batch of apple and chilli jelly this week… the first of the season.

Late summer is spent foraging for fruit such as wild raspberries, elderberries and blackberries. They’re added to the redcurrants that were harvested from our allotment in and are made into mixed fruit jelly.

You really should try it – it’s really easy, satisfying and far superior to most shop bought stuff. Get yourself one of these preserve starter kits and you’ll be quickly on your way to making your own.

Each has its own merits however, I’ve chosen #2 as the best of the preserve starter kits for a number of reasons. The most important component is the jam/maslin pan. It needs to be large, sturdy and made of the right material. It needs to be made of a non-reactive material such as stainless steel. Reactive metals such as aluminium and untreated cast iron can give a metallic taste to the food and can also cause discolouration. The pan also needs to be a good conductor of heat, for example, copper so that it achieves the high temperatures necessary in jam-making.

The next most important component is the thermometer. It’s not absolutely essential but, if you’re not entirely confident with using the cold saucer method, a thermometer is the foolproof way of knowing that the magic 105ºC/220ºF temperature has been reached.

A jam funnel is very useful if you’ve got shaky hands like mine, however buying the other components are less necessary. I have a huge store of different sized & shaped jars – I never put the finished jars of honey, mayonnaise, pesto etc into the recycling. With a little pre-planning, you shouldn’t need to buy jars specially for preserving. Just make sure ones you’re reusing have no chips or cracks and have their original airtight lids.

Having said all that – yes, both #2 and come with jars as part of their kits. The former has the edge over the latter as the single 1-litre jar is much less practical than 6 smaller ones. If you store a litre of jam, jelly, chutney etc in a single jar you’ll have to eat all the contents within a couple of weeks of opening or it will go off. Also, you should store your preserves in the fridge once they’ve been opened. I usually have too much other stuff in the fridge to accommodate a litre-sized pot of jam.

In the years I’ve been preserving, I’ve never used a jar lifter (I use a pair of kitchen tongs), a jar wrench (just twist a dinner knife between the space between the lid and the jar) or a magnetic stick (again, I use kitchen tongs). So that’s 3 of the 4 Kitchen Craft items that would be neglected at the back of the cupboard. You could buy each preserve making component you think you’ll need singly – but it’s often cheaper to buy them as a bundle.

Cakes & Bakes: Jammie dodger hearts

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Plate of jammie dodger hearts and mug of tea

Do you love a jammie dodger? We’ve got the perfect Cakes & Bakes recipe for you if the answer is an enthusiastic ‘yes’!

making biscuit pastry for jammie dodger hearts

They’re quite a retro biscuit aren’t they? We think of them as very ‘seventies’. We were certainly eating a lot of them around that time.

chilled and halved biscuit pastry for jammie dodger hearts

They first appeared about fifty years ago so are actually mid sixties in origin if we’re being totally accurate. They’ve definitely graced a lot of kids’ party tables over the decades.

making heart shapes from biscuit pastry for jammie dodger hearts

They’re not just for kids though –  apparently, about 40% of jammie dodgers purchased are consumed by adults.

spooning jam on to heart shaped biscuit pastry for jammie dodger hearts

We think that these home made versions are even better than the shop bought. They’re crispy, but have a fresh softness too which the packet variety have inevitably lost. And you can add all kinds of interesting and luxurious jams if you want to feel a bit more grown up as you eat a fourth one.

heart-shaped biscuits cooling on a rack

We went for the pretty heart shaped cookie cutters which works really well with the red jam. The ‘cut outs’ make nice little biscuits too so don’t throw them away.

jammie dodger hearts cooling on a rack

Could you resist one of these jammie dodger hearts straight out of the oven?

Jammie dodger hearts
Yields 25
Cook Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 125g softened butter
  2. 110g caster sugar
  3. 1 egg
  4. 2 tsp vanilla essence
  5. 225g plain flour
  6. 2tbs raspberry jam/jellyjammie dodger hearts ingredients
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Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl or using a food processor cream the butter and caster sugar
  2. Add the egg and vanilla essence and combine well
  3. Mix in the flour and combine until it forms a smooth dough
  4. Wrap in cling film and put into the freezer for half an hour
  5. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas mark 4
  6. Grease a large baking tray
  7. Halve the dough, re-wrap one of the pieces with cling film and put it in the fridge
  8. On a floured work surface, roll out the other half of the dough to a ½cm and cut out heart shapes with a cookie cutter
  9. Put the shapes on the greased baking tray
  10. Repeat with the other half of the dough, this time using the smallest cookie cutter to cut a hole in the centre of each heart
  11. Put a small dollop of jam/jelly into the centre of each of the first lot of hearts before topping with the hearts with cut-outs
  12. Cook for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are just turning brown
  13. Cool on a wire rack before eating - careful with the boiling jam!
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