How To Make Damson Jam

IMG_1452Dawn: I love foraging for food and with my passion for foraging came a recent discovery of a massive hedgerow amass with the velvety purple fruit known as damsons, with their ‘come hither’ look and smouldering under-lashes-look just right for picking.IMG_1453Andrew: They were once very popular but damsons are now quite difficult to find.

Dawn: I read something along those lines. They are considered a very English fruit and take their name from Damascus…think damsels in long flowing gowns and tendrils of glossy locks in distress, knights in shining silver armour astride their mighty steeds, the jubilant slaying of fire breathing dragons and the courageous winning of many-a crusade.

Andrew: I think you’ll find the majestic damson owes its introduction to our shores from the Romans and not Richard the Lionheart, Dawn.

Dawn: Whoever was responsible for unleashing this culinary delight upon these fair lands, thank Heavens they did. Albeit the damson’s popularity has waned since it’s heyday of pre-WWII, many a British table was then festooned with this flavoursome and versatile fruit which yielded jams, conserves and even damson cheese.

Andrew: And a little known fact…it’s juices came in very handy for the dying of cloth in the 18Th and 19th Centuries.

Dawn: Commercially grown in the Midlands and North West, the damson lost mass popular appeal after WWII and nowadays tends to be grown by gardeners.

Andrew: There are still pockets of areas that favour growing the damson and these include Ludlow which gives us what they call the Shropshire prune, a smaller version of the damson, and the Lyth Valley in Cumbria lays claim to producing a relative of the Shropshire prune which is alleged to be “improved by unique conditions”.

Dawn: Prune? Interesting as the damson is a subspecies of the plum.

Andrew: Yes, and further afield in South and Southeast Asia, as well as in Jamaica can be found variations of the damson.

Dawn: In the here and now, this velvety purple gem of a fruit can give a very swashbuckling taste but not if eaten straight from a hedge as its rather astringent pre-cooking. Cooking unleashes these beautiful fruits depth of flavour making their end products ideal as accompaniments to meats, such as in the form of pickles or made into puddings as well as jams, conserves and the often forgotten damson cheese.

Ingredients

500ml water

1.5kg damsons, washed

1.5kg sugar

Knob of butter

Method

  • Place a small side plate or saucer in the fridge.
  • Place 3-4 jars (454g size are ideal) washed jars in a warm oven, at gas mark 3, electricity 160⁰C, electricity (fan) 140⁰C for about 10-15 minutes. Remove and set aside to slightly cool while you get on with the recipe.
  • In a large saucepan or preserving pan, put the damsons and water.IMG_1455

Andrew: Do we need any lemon juice, Dawn?

Dawn: No, as damsons are high in pectin which is the natural setting agent giving a good set to the conserve.

  • Bring the ingredients up to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar, stirring continuously, until the sugar is dissolved.IMG_1462IMG_1465
  • Return the pan to the heat, bring to the boil and boil for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.IMG_1459
  • The damsons will start to ‘pop’ as they begin to ferment. At this point, start to look for the pips and with a large, slatted spoon begin to lift out the pips, leaving behind the fruit flesh.IMG_1469

Dawn: Be patient as the fruity flesh parts company with the pips. The rewards are well worth the endeavour here to make sure you have removed all the pips.IMG_1468

  • Test for a set and when the setting point is reached, take the pan off the heat and remove any scum that may have accumulated on the surface with a slatted spoon.

Andrew: Test for the set of the conserve by simply taking the chilled saucer from the fridge, plopping a small amount of the jam on to it, allow the jam to cool and with a clean finger, gently push through the jam: if the surface wrinkles, the setting point has been reached.

Dawn: Do remember to remove the pan from the heat as you test for the setting point as you don’t want the jammy fruity mixture to become over boiled, which weakens its setting property.

  • Leave to stand for 15 minutes before potting and covering.IMG_1588

Dawn: Wipe the outside and inner lip of the jars with a damp warm cloth while the jars are still warm and tradition sees us put wax discs on the surface of the jam, making sure the discs lie flat.

Andrew: We used small pieces of greaseproof paper making sure they covered all the jam and came up the sides of the jar slightly.

Dawn: Don’t forget to label the jars with their contents along with the date, and they should, if stored in a cool, dry and dark place, keep for up to a year…if not devoured beforehand!

For more in the series “How To…” follow the Love Food team at www.forfoodlovers.wordpress.com either via email (your email address is safe and we take privacy very seriously) as well as daily doses of food insights, inspirational ideas and thoughts, and the odd cat photo or two on Twitter @Love_Food_UK as well as Facebook and Mumsnet, too. And let us know what you cook and how it goes, please: we love to hear from you.

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Dreamy Leftovers Christmas Pudding Custard-style Ice Cream

The Eleventh Day of The Twelve Days of Christmas Recipes brings a tantalizingly delicious creation to whet tastebuds

Leftover Christmas Pudding and Dreamy Custard-style Ice Cream

Dawn: This combines the coolness of luscious ice cream with the textures of Christmas pud and in contrast, the crispness of sharp dark chocolate (sang merrily to accompany this rich and yummy pudding!)

Andrew: WOW! I like the sound of this!

Dawn: I know…I have a divine singing voice, I’m told. And the ice cream is quite a centre stage act, too. You’ll be even more impressed when you sample it, Andrew.

IMG_3778

Ingredients

Serves 4-6 persons

150g Leftover Christmas pudding

For the dreamy custard:

6 large egg yolks

100g castor sugar

2tsps of cornflour

550ml of whipping or double cream

2 vanilla pod or 2tsps of vanilla essence

Topping:

150g Dark 70% cocoa chocolate

A sprinkling of icing sugar to dust

Method

  • Put the egg yolks, cornflour and castor sugar in a bowl and mix together until they are combined to become a bright, yellow jewel. Set aside while you make the custard.
  • Put the whipping or double cream in a saucepan adding either the vanilla pods which are first cut in length and then the seeds scraped out along the outer pods lengths; put the pods into the cream, too or add the 2tsps of vanilla essence.
  • Gently heat the cream and vanilla mixture on a hob until hot then add to the egg mixture which you have previously prepared in a mixing bowl, stirring as you do to combine the ingredients.
  • Now pour the custard ingredients back into the saucepan that you’ve used for heating up the cream and return to the hob. Break up the Christmas pudding into very small chunks and add to the saucepan.
  • Heat gently, stirring constantly. Make sure the Christmas pudding is blending well into the custard mixture.
  • The custard will begin to thicken and you’ll feel the spoon start to ‘drag’ on the saucepan’s bottom as it does so.
  • Once thick enough that it’s the consistency of whipped cream, pour into a container and set aside to cool.

Dawn: The Christmas pudding bowl comes in very useful here!

Andrew: No salt with this ice cream, Dawn?

Dawn: That’s right, Andre: no salt. The alcohol in the pudding makes the ice cream soft enough to scoop.

  • When it’s cool, put in the freezer to set.
  • Every two hours, remove from the freezer and stir the ice cream. Do this 3 or 4 times. Then allow to fully set.
  • When ready to serve, remove the ice cream from the freezer for approximately 20 minutes beforehand.
  • During this waiting time, put a pudding basin over a small saucepan of boiling water, remembering to not let the bottom touch the water. Break the chocolate into small chunks and put into the suspended pudding basin. On a medium heat, allow the saucepan of water to gently melt the chocolate.
  • Once the chocolate is melted, pour over the pudding-like ice cream and dust with a little icing sugar.

Andrew: Yes, we stir the ice cream to prevent ice crystals forming and so the freeze is even.

Dawn: And we’ve finished this creation off with a pouring of melted dark chocolate over it.

Andrew: Looks just like a Christmas pudding!

For more in this series of festively inspired food ideas, then follow this blog here and keep up-to-date on Twitter. Facebook and Mumsnet are websites you’ll find us on, too – so keep looking for tasty recipes coming!

Marvellous Mocktails

The Twelve Recipes of Christmas continues with nine ladies dancing…merrily with their mocktails infusing their evening.

We give you: Marvellous Mocktails

Dawn: (Singing away) On the ninth day of Christmas my true Love Food gave to me…

COUGH COUGH CROAK!!! Something tasty to drink after all this merry melody-making and fun-filled dancing!

Andrew: I have just the thing or three!

Dawn: I could empty a Cinderella slipper of more-ish delicious liquid! I’m that parched!

Andrew: How about some alcohol-free cocktails?

Dawn: Ideal! Refreshing and just the thing for our readers who are looking for a healthier option after the indulgences of the season.

Andrew: Something more interesting for our designated drivers, too!

Dawn: So have you had your inventing hat on?

Andrew: Indeed I have! Three varieties for you to sample!

Dawn: Excellent! Can’t wait (perches in a ladylike fashion on a high-backed cocktail bar stool after all the merry dancing and watches Andrew start to mix his magic).

20160102_210233(1)Mango and Ginger Fizz

Ingredients

Stem ginger, peeled and diced into small cubes

Mango juice

Drop of lime cordial

Lemonade

Ice cubes

Method

  • Place a teaspoonful of stem ginger at the bottom of a glass.
  • Half fill the glass with mango juice. Stir well.
  • Add a ‘finger’ of lime cordial. Continue to stir.
  • Add ice if desired. Top with lemonade.
  • Garnish with a sprig of mint and a sliver of lime.

20160103_182509Cranberry and Elderflower with a Pomegranate Punch

Ingredients

Elderflower cordial

Cranberry juice

Pomegranate seeds

Sprig of mint

Ice cubes

Method

  • Half fill a glass with ice cubes.
  • Pour in elderflower cordial to about one third of the way up the glass.
  • Add cranberry juice to a little below the top of the glass. Stir well, as the cranberry will sit on top of the elderflower.
  • Sprinkle on 2-3 teaspoons of pomegranate seeds. Some will sink and others will sit on the ice cubes.
  • Serve with a sprig of mint.

20160103_191849Strawberry and Rhubarb with a Rosemary Twist

Ingredients

2 Sticks of rhubarb

12 Strawberries, ripe and juicy

Elderflower cordial

Sparkling water OR lemonade

Sprig of rosemary

Pomegranate seeds

Ice cubes

Method

  • Stew two sticks of rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces, in a little water and sugar in a pan until tender. Drain, cool then press through a sieve, collecting the juice in a glass below.
  • Press half a dozen very ripe strawberries though a clean sieve, collecting the juice in the same glass.
  • Half fill the glass with crushed ice. Top up with dilute elderflower cordial (1:1 with sparkling water or lemonade).
  • Add a sprig of rosemary, and a few pomegranate seeds for an extra sparkle.

Dawn: Beautiful colours and wonderful textures, too.

Andrew: Refreshing and vibrant; a tasty homemade alternative soft drink combination for the festive season.

Dawn: Congratulations, Andrew! You’ve given Tom Cruise a run for his money, that’s for certain! They are absolutely delicious! More, please, Sir!

For more in this series of festively inspired food ideas, then follow this blog here and keep up-to-date on Twitter. Facebook and Mumsnet are websites you’ll find us on, too – so keep looking for tasty recipes coming!