'Damsons mark the point in the year when I start to relax, my shoulders unhunch, I can begin to feel the safety of dark nights and damp mornings, the supreme comfort of a favourite holey jumper. Just as so many are saddened at the end of the summer, I feel curiously rejuvenated, my sap rising as others' does in the spring,'
Nigel Slater, Tender Volume II
I do so agree with with Nigel.
Each September I become ever so slightly obsessed with this spicy, little, blue plum, just as in October I become obsessed with the large, golden quince. Both fruits have their origins in the same part of the world. The quince comes from the Caucasus and the damson from the Levant, Damascus to be precise, hence its older name, the Damascene plum.
If you don't like cooking then you won't get much joy from a damson. Sometimes they can be sweet enough to eat from the tree but mostly they are extremely sour. The alchemy of heat, sugar and fruit transforms the damson into the very essence of purple; winey, spicy, rich, intense.
Less trouble than jam. Cook the damsons whole with enough water to just cover. When completely soft strain it overnight in a jelly bag. Measure the juice and for every pint add a pound of sugar. Heat gently and stir to dissolve. Bring to a full rolling boil and test for setting after five minutes. Mine took twenty. Pot into sterilised jars.
A jelly bag and stand like this is well worth buying if you want to make jellies.
Damsons cooked with sugar until soft then rubbed through a sieve to get rid of the stones.
Lovely to have tucked away in the freezer to cheer up your morning yogurt or to stir into softly whipped cream for a fabulous fool. I do this with quince too.
Damson and plum crumble.
Nigel Slater says life is too short to stone damsons, but I would rather spend a little time doing this not difficult task than deal with a mouthful of stones, and for children, stones in your pudding are a deal-breaker.
Ground almonds in the crumble make this particularly gorgeous.
Cream is pretty much essential.
Sweet, sharp fruit, buttery, crunchy crumble and thick cream.