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

Home-made elderflower curd

Elderflower curd with cup & pot of tea

My beautiful sambucus nigra is still blooming, so I was on the lookout for another recipe in which I could use the flowers. These days, I find so much inspiration on Instagram; one of my Insta-buddies had just posted a photo of some delicious-looking elderflower curd she’d made, so I thought I’d give that a go.

zesting and juicing lemons Elderflower curd ingredients in a saucepan

She used the wild variety of elderflower which has delicate off white flowers however, the flowers on mine are tinged purple. I wondered how that would affect the colour of the resulting curd. I was worried that it would turn out a sludgy brown, but I needn’t have been apprehensive. It had a slight pinkish blush to the usual yellow colour.

This recipe makes a single, average-sized jar, but you can easily multiply the quantities. If you don’t think that you’ll consume all the curd in a week or two, make sure that you thoroughly sterilise all your post-cooking equipment; jars, lids, jelly bag/sieve, spoon/spatula, funnel etc. Simply boil them up in a large jam pan/saucepan of water.

straining elderflower curd through a jelly bag into a measuring jug Elderflower curd in a glass jar

The taste was gorgeous; rich and fragrant. So far, we’ve had it on fruit scones, but it would be perfect in sandwiches, toast or between the layers of a Victoria sponge. This is definitely an elderflower recipe I’ll be returning to every summer.

Click here or on the image below to save this elderflower curd recipe to Pinterest

Home-made elderflower curd recipe

Elderflower curd with cup & pot of tea

Elderflower curd

Cook Time 1 hour
Course Condiment
Cuisine British

Ingredients
  

  • 3 large or 6 small elderflower heads you can use either white or pink flowers
  • 50 g/1¾oz unsalted butter
  • 200 g/7oz white granulated sugar
  • lemons zest & juice
  • 2 eggs

Instructions
 

  • Sterilise a lidded jam jar, jelly bag or sieve, spatula and measuring jug. Set aside for the end
  • Put all the ingredients except the eggs into a saucepan over a low heat. Stir until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved
  • Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl and allow the contents to cool slightly (about 5 minutes)
  • In the meantime, bring a saucepan of water to a simmer (ensure the heatproof bowl can sit on top of the saucepan without the water coming into contact with the base)
  • Add the eggs to the mixture and put the heatproof bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water
  • Stir occasionally until the mixture thickens to the consistency of custard (about 45 minutes)
  • Pour the mixture through the sterilised jelly bag/sieve into the measuring jug. Push the contents through using the spatula, if necessary
  • Transfer the curd into the sterilised jar and cover immediately with the lid. Allow to cool completely before using
Elderflower curd ingredients
Keyword curd, elderflower, forage

Home-made damson cheese

Home-made damson cheese with cheese board | H is for Home

After making use of some of the plum crop in our garden, I needed to find something to make with the damsons.

Cooking damsons in a jam pan | H is for Home Cooking damsons in a jam pan | H is for Home

We inherited two mature damson trees – both about 20 foot tall. This autumn, they’ve both been laden with fruit, some we gave away, some we couldn’t reach to harvest. We kept about 5 kilos of fruit for ourselves.

Sieving damson purée | H is for Home Damson purée and bag of granulated sugar | H is for Home

I found lots of recipes for jam and jelly – however, it was a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe for damson cheese that I fancied trying. There are only 2 ingredients; damsons and sugar – and you don’t need to undertake the time-consuming task of de-stoning the fruit either.

Spooning damson cheese from heavy-bottomed saucepan | H is for Home Damson cheese setting in moulds | H is for Home

The damson cheese mixture sat bubbling away on top of the simmering hob of our new Esse for a couple of hours until it resembled a thick chocolate sauce. All it needed was the occasional stir to make sure it didn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. I could get on with other little jobs while it did its thing.

Damson cheese with grapes and cheese & biscuits | H is for Home

Like jam and jelly, damson cheese keeps for months once wrapped and refrigerated. Have it as a component on your cheeseboard – it’s lovely with a ripe brie. It’s also a great accompaniment to hot & cold meats.

Home-made damson cheese recipe | H is for Home #autumn #damson #damsoncheese #damsons #food #fruit #garden #gardening #HughFearnleyWhittingstall #preserves #recipe

Click here to repin the recipe to Pinterest

Home-made damson cheese with cheese board | H is for Home

Home-made damson cheese

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall
Course Condiment
Cuisine British

Ingredients
  

  • 5 kg damsons washed
  • 2 kg granulated sugar approx.

Instructions
 

  • Put the damsons in a large preserving pan, add a couple of tablespoons of water and bring slowly to a simmer, stirring as the fruit begins to release its juices. Leave to simmer until completely soft
  • Tip the contents of the pan into a sieve and rub it through to remove the stones and skin, leaving you with a smooth damson purée
  • Measure the purée by volume. For every 500ml, add 350g sugar
  • Combine in a large, heavy-based pan bringing it to a simmer over a low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then cook gently, stirring regularly so it doesn't catch, until reduced to a thick purée. It's ready when you drag the spoon across the bottom of the pan and the base stays clearly visible for a second or two. This can take up to an hour of gentle, popping simmering and stirring
  • Pour the 'cheese' into very lightly-oiled, shallow containers and leave to cool and set
It will keep almost indefinitely in the fridge. Serve in slices with bread and cheese
Keyword baked cheesecake, damsons, fruit




Home-made piccalilli

Home-made piccalilli with pork pie and watercress | H is for Home

This month, I’ve been making a lot of my usual preserves – raspberry jelly, elderflower cordial and the like. One I’ve not made before is piccalilli.

Chopped vegetables, sea salt and water | H is for Home

Growing up, a jar of piccalilli was always prominent on the Christmas dinner table. It used to be a staple accompaniment to the roast ham  – and the cold meat sandwiches, cheese and pies in the following days.

Piccalilli pickling spices | H is for Home

I found numerous recipes in my collection of cook books; all much the same, with slight variations on the ratios of spices. I’ve made the recipe my own by adding mustard seeds and a couple of chillies for bite and colour.

Piccalilli veg and liquid | H is for Home

The preparation takes place over two days – the veg needs to be soaked in salted water (the brine) for 24 hours.

Ladling piccalilli into jars | H is for Home Filling jars with piccalilli | H is for Home

Once that’s done, cooking is a quick 20-minute affair before decanting into jars.

Jars of home-made piccalilli | H is for Home

The piccalilli is best left for at least 3 months before using to allow the flavours to develop. That leaves plenty of time before Christmas!

Save my recipe to Pinterest here.

Home-made piccalilli
Ingredients
  1. 1.4kg/3lbs vegetables (I used 800g cauliflower, 300g courgettes, 160g onions, 125g fine beans, 15g red chillies)
  2. 2l/3½pts water
  3. 200g/7oz salt
  4. 1l/1¾pt distilled white vinegar or malt vinegar for pickling
  5. 140g/5oz Demerara sugar
  6. 1tbsp mustard seeds
  7. 1tbsp mustard powder
  8. 2tsp turmeric
  9. 1tsp ground ginger
  10. 1tsp mixed spice
  11. 1tbsp plain flourHome-made piccalilli ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Dissolve the salt into the water
  2. Into a large mixing bowl, cut all the vegetables into even sized pieces
  3. Pour the salted water (brine) over the vegetables making sure they're all submerged. Weigh them down with a plate and cover the bowl over with a tea towel. Leave to stand for 24 hours
  4. Drain and put the vegetables into a large pan with the vinegar, sugar and spices. Simmer for 10-20 minutes depending on how soft or crunchy you like your veg
  5. Using a slotted spoon or ladle, decant the vegetables into hot, sterilised jars (I needed 5 mayonnaise-sized jars)
  6. Mix the flour into the spiced vinegar and boil for 1 minute before pouring into the jars of vegetables
  7. Seal the lids tightly on to the jars
  8. Store in a cool, dry cupboard for at least 3 months before using
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