The Last of the Damsons

The day before we returned from our trip up the Caldon Canal, the Captain and I discovered yet another tree groaning with yet more damsons.  I utterly failed in walking on by.  Or even boating on by.

I have done many things with damsons so far.  Gin, chutney, jams, pies.  I kept thinking they were rare.  Every time I saw them my heart was thrilled.  It has taken me till now to realise that at least around here, they are two a penny.  Common as muck.  All over the place.  That does not make them any less wonderful.  There really is something very special about seeing the blue-black fruits dripping from the branches.

Having studied the photo below, which came to me via twitter but I can not remember from whom so apologies for not attributing, the damsons I am finding are Shropshire Prunes:

They are tart, juicy and delicious.  And no one seems to pick them!  Bizarre.

The tree that called to the Captain and I was just south of Stone on the Trent and Mersey.  We had just come down through Aston lock and moored temporarily while we spent ten minutes picking.  In that time we filled a carrier bag and ended up with three kilos.  I washed, sorted and then froze them on our return home as I did not have time to deal with them initially.

It was not until this weekend that I finally got around to making the following damson jam.  It is unusual because it contains balsamic vinegar, remains sweet and yet has less sugar than most jams.  And you do not have to bother with all the boiling until setting point malarkey.  Bit of a winner in my book.

Balsamic Damson Preserve

3kg ripe damsons, frozen

500g soft brown sugar

250ml balsamic vinegar

1tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

grated zest of 1 lemon

80g dried apricots, finely chopped

Place all ingredients in preserving pan and leave for several hours while damsons defrost.  When thoroughly thawed, stir well and heat slowly stirring until sugar dissolved.  Simmer uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally for 5-6 hours.  It needs to be thick enough to leave expose the base of the pan when a spoon is drawn across it for a few seconds.  At some point during the process, while the mixture is still very liquid, remove the damson stones, either with a slotted spoon or simply sieve it.  Once the desired consistency is reached, pour into sterilised jars and seal.

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