Since making Seville orange marmalade at the start of this year I have been looking forward to making more preserves. I’m still very much a novice—learning the rules and regulations and the ‘science’ of preserving. Although I absolutely hate anything scientific, preserve-making draws me in with the promise of a ‘store’ of food, or the possibility of enjoying my favourite fruits at any time of the year, whether they are steeped in vinegar or intensely sweetened by sugar. There really is something that’s utterly rewarding when you make your own preserves and share it with others.
Damsons are my new favourite fruit. I didn’t even know what they were until recently, when I came across these miniature plums at Maltby Street market. They are a bit tart to eat raw, but I love the taste of them when cooked and the deep jewel-toned burgundy they take on when cooked. It is just so torturous having to stone them! It took me over 2 hours to remove the stones from over 1 kilo, but I must admit, it was worth the hideously stained fingertips and nails for this amazingly delicious, delicious, plummy sweet jam.
Makes about 1kg
750g caster sugar
Wash the damsons and pat them dry, getting rid of any that are bruised or badly blemished. Remove the stones.
Place the damsons and sugar into a preserving pan with the water and put over a low heat. Cook for 15 minutes on a gentle heat, stirring often until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and cook for another 10–15 minutes until the fruit is tender and the skins are soft. At this point, use a slotted spoon to skim off any scum that rises to the surface.
Once the jam looks firm, test for setting. As soon as it is ready, take it off the heat and spoon into warm sterilised jars. Cover the surface with a disc of waxed paper and allow to cool, then seal with a lid. This should keep for 1 year if kept in a cool, dark place.
(Recipe from Skye Gyngell’s How I cook, Quadrille, 2010)