I’m down to my last colander full of damsons. They need using up in the next day or two, otherwise they’ll be over and done with and I hate to waste any of this glorious fruit. I’ve made half a dozen jars of damson chutney, which is already pretty fantastic (if I say so myself) even without its mellowing off period of at least 6 weeks and there’s now several containers full of fruit in the freezer, cooked and stoned to use later.
I always remove the stones from damsons even though it very quickly becomes an arduous job, but it is so worth it after the event. I’ve had several evening sessions of filching these tiny stones out of the cooked fruit by hand, with the pan on my lap whilst watching tv. Here’s a tip; before you plunge your scrupulously clean hands into the pan of squidgy fruity mush, be sure you have chosen your tv channel. The other night I had to decide whether to abandon the stoning in order to get cleaned up to switch channels, or to watch Rambo. I ended up watching an hour of Rambo.
I need to start some damson gin, so some of the remaining damsons are designated for that. The other day I donated some 2 year old damson gin to my neighbour Steve, to include as part of a hamper he was making up for a friend’s wedding gift. I love to make these things, then don’t get round to drinking them. The deal was that he’d replace the gin so I could start off another batch.
I never bother straining the matured gin off the fruit so wasn’t sure whether this would have had a detrimental effect on the taste. We decided we had better sample it first to be on the safe side, so the two of us stood in his kitchen, sipping and savouring, to see if it would pass muster and discussing the finer points of the flavour. It was like a heavenly nectar with just the slightest hint of almond, which was very lovely indeed. As is the way with fruit containing stones, such as apricots, peaches, cherries and plums, the kernels do have this almondy vibe, and damson stones left to steep in gin for any length of time will likewise imbue this flavour.
In Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book she includes a recipe for Plum Stone Noyeau, a flavouring to use for puddings and cakes made before the advent of almond essence. Basically you steep cracked plum kernels in eau de vie or vodka for several months. I intend to give this a go using my discarded damson stones, though bruising and cracking them with a hammer could prove a particularly dangerous occupation.