Damsons are a proper old school English fruit, a small plum with indigo skin and green flesh, about the size of a queen olive. I'm lucky enough to have grown up with a damson tree in our back garden which faithfully produced a great crop every year of these little blue beauties. They made their way into many a good damson crumble throughout my childhood.
Now that my brother and I have left home, even though my dad loves a crumble and happily eats it for breakfast, there are way too many for him to get through on his own. Luckily I'm here to rescue the whole crop every year to turn into jam - it would be a crime to let them rot on the tree.
This year Melissa and I gathered just over 1.5 kilos which we rushed back to Brighton to make into a beautiful preserve (I learned the hard way last year that damsons don't last long at all once picked). This just happened to be the perfect amount for my Damson & Sloe Gin Jam recipe. The sloe gin adds an extra dimension without being overpowering and it has a lovely set - perfect for spreading onto hot buttered crumpets or on a scone with clotted cream and a pot of tea. Mmmm.
Damson & Sloe Gin Jam
Makes about 6 x 340g jars
1.25kg granulated sugar
50ml sloe gin
1. Start off cutting each damson in half and removing the stones (there's no need to wash the fruit beforehand). Place a side plate in your freezer for later.
2. Pop the stoned damsons in a large preserving pan and cover with 400ml water. Bring the fruit up to a simmer and cook gently until the skins have softened and the flesh is tender (about 25 minutes, but keep checking). While this is happening, sterilise your jars and lids.*
3. Once the fruit is tender, add the sugar to the pan and stir until the crystals have all dissolved. Bring the mixture up to a full rolling boil until you reach the setting point,** usually about 12-15 minutes. Remove from the heat. If you notice the fruit is bobbing on the surface then give it another couple of minutes as it's probably not cooked enough for the fruit to have absorbed the sugar.
4. Stir in the sloe gin (bask in the lovely aroma mmmm) and pour into your sterilised jars while still hot and cover immediately. This deep purple preserve will keep well for a year in a cool dark place - refrigerate after opening.
I hope you enjoy the recipe - if you make it please leave a comment and let me know how it turns out!
* To sterilise jars, I wash the jars in very hot soapy water and rinse clean and leave to drain. Then place the jars upright in a large roasting tin lined with a teatowel and dry the jars in a low oven at 120C for about 20 minutes. Keep them warm until ready to use. Sterilise the lids by boiling in a pan of water for 10 minutes.
** To test for a set, the foamy bubbles will have given way to deeper glossier bubbles and it starts to look more jammy. Take your side plate out of the freezer and place a teaspoonful on the plate and leave for a minute (take the jam off the heat while you're testing so it doesn't over set). Push the jam with your little finger - if it crinkles then the jam is done, if not give it another couple of minutes at a rolling boil and test again.