The Damascene Plum

'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.

Damson jelly. 
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.

Damson purée.
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.



  1. Anonymous9:28 am BST

    That damson jelly looks so good! Absolutely amazing colour and texture!

  2. Oh glory be, you are at it again Sue. I am sitting at the breakfast table salivating at your glorious photos and working out where I can get my hands on some damsons. What a colour for autumnal days, rich and jewel like, yummy.

  3. I really wish I had bought those that I saw at £1.00 per pound...

    Beautiful pictures, especially of the scones.

  4. Stones a deal breaker? do they not tinker tailor? Yeh, no too many I fear. yummy photography, got to try the fool.

  5. Too old for tinker tailor Louise :o)

  6. I had never known there was such a thing as a jelly stand, and now it has shot to the top of my wishlist so that I can imagine myself reaching this lovely height of domesticity.

  7. So, when is your cookbook coming out? Your photos and prose are so enjoyable, and your inventive way with food rivals anything I've seen out there. I want to cook everything you do, and I doubt I'm alone with that thought.

  8. YUMMY!! You are making me jealous with all these good things to eat.

  9. Loving checking out what you are doing on the cooking front. Nothing beats the sharpness of damson jam. Finger tapping till October till first big batch of quinces. I have brought some windfalls in just to smell them and have decided they remind me of the really sweet smell of sweetie "cigarettes" we used to "smoke" as children. I think you will have been too young to do this. They later were renamed as candy sticks and manufacturers stopped paiting the ends red as it was considered un "PC".

  10. I've made some damson gin this year, I do like the look of the damson cream...yum xox

  11. Beautiful! I love damsons and agree 100% with Nigel too!
    Karen @ Lavender and Lovage

  12. This made my mouth water. Love those drops beside the freshly made jars of jelly. Hmmm, seems to me someone should be selling something labled "The Quince Tree Jellies"!

  13. Oh, and I forgot to ask...at one time, if you said "jelly" in England...it was taken to mean what we call gelatine here in the States or "Jello" as the brand name. I only remember Jam or Preserves (fondly remember the Strawberry Preserves from M&S... or were they called Conserve? I'm so confused!)

    1. Jams are made from the fruit boiled with sugar to setting point - the pulp of the fruit is included. Jelly is the fruit boiled down on it's own, strained through a cloth, then the resultant liquor boiled with sugar to setting point. Jellies should be clear and bright - a conserve is just a 'posh' name for either!

  14. Delicious. And those scones look perfect.

  15. My mouth is now watering!

  16. I must say - even though I didn't like their tartness they were an absolute breeze to cook with.

    Love the idea of puree.

    Nina x

  17. My mouth is watering - lovely photos and very tempting food, too!

  18. Kay, it is very confusing isn't it?

    Yes jelly is jello -a gelatine dessert. But, it is also a clear jam with no solid bits of fruit in. Jam is made by cooking fruit and sugar together until it reaches setting point. Jelly is made by cooking fruit, straining it and then boiling the juice with sugar until it reaches setting point. As for conserves or preserves, well, I.m not entirely sure how they fit in the preserving scheme of things. I think they may be a jelly with whole fruits suspended in them.

  19. I was brought up with damson and crab apple jelly as well as other homemade jam. I can't do it as I have to be careful with sugar - I get headaches. Such a shame. I love the colours that you get with jellies, they have a translucence to them. My mum used to be a very busy bee, I am lazy in comparison. That surely cannot be said of you Sue!

  20. Anonymous7:33 pm BST

    Most of my damsons are going to be mixed with gin, but I must make some puree too. I love the idea of mixing it with yoghurt.
    I'm not completely sure on this, but I think jam has to be at least 50% sugar to fruit ratio, and conserve is allowed to have less sugar than fruit.

  21. Stones in the damson crumble weren't a deal breaker when I was a child. My Mum left them in the jam too.
    The damson cream looks divine.
    We used to eat damsons straight from the tree - the first one was a bit tart, but after that you got used to it

  22. Fabulous post - and I am fascinated by the bit about damsons/Damascus. I am taking a service in church tomorrow, all about Paul on the road to Damascus. Now wondering how I can possibly manage a reference ot plums in my sermon!

  23. Those photographs are droolworthy in the extreme, Am now craving cold crumble for breakfast (one of my guilty pleasures).

  24. Yummy! I have had neither a quince or a damson but you have made them look absolutely yummy!

  25. I love the colour of the swirl and that dollop of cream looks gorgeous.

  26. Yum! I have a tree just bursting with them - I have watching and waiting, they are almost there... I am very envious of your jelly bag stand! I suspend mine from the cupboard door, trichy when you want something from inside!

    Sarah x

  27. Pati from London10:56 am BST

    Thanks for the info on damsons... I've never tried them before and wouldn't know where to find them but they do look good when transformed into jelly, with a crumble or mixed with yogurt.... mmmm... x Pati
    Ps: I really like Mads Mikkelsen :-) - especially as the "falcon man" in the film King Arthur (with Clive Owen).

  28. Oh, I do miss Damsons. Can't get them here in Oz. Whenever I go back to the UK, I seek out damson jam. A jar (or two) always comes back with me.

    Your blog is lovely. It is making me homesick for the UK!

  29. Anonymous11:07 am BST

    For an easy jelly stand, turn a kitchen chair upside down with its seat resting on the kitchen table. The four legs will then be pointing up to the ceiling. Put a bowl to catch the juice onto the seat, and suspend a jelly bag or muslin cloth between the four upturned chair legs. Fill, and watch! Simples... EdMagnolia


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