How are you making the most of this glorious summer? As the stone fruit slowly begins to ripen, we begin gathering the damsons and plums from the orchard and begin preserving in the kitchen.
This recipe always evokes fond memories of a friend who lived at the farmhouse many years ago. I used to visit her and we would walk the dogs together. Once they were settled back in the stables, we would retreat to the kitchen and she would proudly present a freshly baked treat generously filled with jam. Or possibly invite me to stay for supper which would consist of boiled ham, local cheese and some fruit from the garden. Bliss.
Passing the fruit through a sieve takes a reasonable amount of effort, but it will produce a preserve that is rich and plummy with a hint of liquorice. Ideal to serve with a savoury course, or to partner game and cheese. It makes an ideal edible gift, and will store unopened in a cool, dry larder for a year. Perfect for planning ahead of Christmas.
For my recipe, in memory of my dear friend, you will need…
Pick over 1.35 kg (3 lb) damsons and add them to a large lidded pan with 300 ml (half pint) water, place the pan on the AGA boiling plate or over a high heat on your conventional hob, bring the water to the boil.
Place the lidded pan in the simmering oven and continue cooking the fruit until it is soft or reduce the heat on your conventional stove and allow the fruit to simmer very gently so that it does not catch. Check it regularly so that the fruit does not boil dry.
When the fruit is soft, pass the flesh through a fine sieve and reserve.
Measure the pulp and for every 600 ml or (1 pint) of fruit, weigh 25 g (1 oz) unsalted butter and 450 g (1 lb) cane sugar.
Place everything into a clean, preserving pan and place over the simmering plate or a low heat and stir carefully to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved and the butter is melted.
Increase the heat and bring to setting point. Test with a sugar thermometer to check the preserve has reached 104.5 C
Pot into sterilized jars and label when cool.
For every 450 g (1 lb) sugar, this recipe should make 750 g (1 lb 6 oz) fruit preserve or ‘cheese’.
This recipes is equally as delicious with greengages and cooking plums.