When we bought the cottage we were lucky enough to acquire an old damson tree. The trunk and branches were mossy and gnarled and, come autumn, it turned out that the fruit wasn’t great either. I never quite got Nigel Slater’s ongoing obsession with it! Still, we got some batches of jam and one memorable bottle of Damson Gin out of that tree (very good with Tea Brack) before we had to move it to make a new entrance. It was too old for that kind of treatment.
Since then, I’ve had the best intentions of acquiring another damson tree to join the variety of cherry, plum, quince, hazelnut, eating, cooking and crab apple trees that we have planted behind the cottage. It just hasn’t quite happened yet.
This year, however, we made a Discovery. On one of our Sunday walks by the nearby river, just 10 minutes away, across a couple of fields, I discovered a small tree, heavily laden with those distinctive round, purple fruit. Last Sunday, a week ago, we went down there with a basket and came home with enough for this year’s jam, with a portion set aside for Damson Vodka.
It’s now sitting in the pantry, getting its daily shake to dissolve the sugar. Roll on Christmas 2012!
These damsons were very sweet and all but irresistible – Little Missy kept coming back to the basket for more – so I’ve kept the sugar:fruit:spirit ratio low. Like my Sloe Gin, I like to taste the actual fruit rather than it being too syrupy. When you strain and bottle it, have a taste and add a little more sugar if you feel that it is too sharp.
Damsons – 450g
Granulated sugar – 125g
Vodka – 75cl bottle
Wash the damsons, pick off all the stems and discard any bad fruit. Prick several times with a fork and place in a 1 litre Kilner jar that has been rinsed out with boiling water.
Add the sugar and vodka. Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved.
Keep in a cool, dark place for at least three months before straining and bottling. It’s definitely worth letting this mature for at least 12 months as the flavour seems to improve with age.