Monday, 12 September 2011

Damson jam




I think I became truly middle-aged the day I got home from university. What I reallly wanted, I decided, was some fucking peace and quiet, Radio 4 and something baking in the oven. I became obsessed with storage solutions, even though I didn't have anything to store, and bookmarked Lakeland and Farrow and Ball.

I had recently got into the West Wing and while I went wibbly like everyone else over the general smart-arsery and political blah-blah (like the easily impressed fool I am) I also fell in love with the sets. That plush, wholesome Americana thing. Tobacco-coloured lamps on polished wood. Rugs on floors. Wide-striped wallpaper. Plantation shutters. Comfort. Quality.

I think it was around about then that I first started having - admittedly rather lateral - thoughts that maybe I ought to learn how to cook. It didn't really happen because I tried one or two things and they didn't work out, so with typical determination and perseverence, I gave up.

But the feeling lingered. That middle-aged feeling, (despite being 22), and for a long time, whenever autumn rolled around, I wanted to make jam. But because I lived at home, which has no fruit trees, and then subsequently in a high-rise flat on Kensington High Street, if I wanted to make jam I would have to buy the fruit to make it, from a shop. And even I knew that there was something not quite right about that.

So I never made jam. But I always wanted to. I made marmalade a few years ago to test out a recipe for a cookbook and in fact it turned out to be quite easy.

Then I went to stay with next-eldest sister in Oxfordshire who suggested I make some jam from then damsons weighing down her tree and using a  mash-up of my own bumptiousness and Delia, made some damson jam that worked out really quite well. Alas, in the chaos of packing up for Kitty for even one night I forgot the flaming camera, so there are no dreamy photos of the damson tree in autumnal light.

I can't give you exact quantities, because I didn't weigh anything, but this is the idea of the recipe. Exact quantities can be found on Delia Online.

Damson jam

A quantity of damnsons - about a big saucepan-full
water
A 2 kg bag of caster sugar - you won't use the whole thing but you might as well buy a huge bag just in case

1 Put the damsons in a large pan and fill with water until just covered. Stew for about an hour.

2 Pass the resulting mixture through a colander to get rid of skin and stones. Don't do it through a sieve because you'll be there all week.

3 Set your strained mixture on the highest head you can on the hob. Now, here I added sugar to taste. I don't like a really over-sweet jam and wanted to keep some of the tartness of the damsons. So I shook in as much sugar as I wanted to flavour it. You can do that, or you can follow Delia's quantities religiously, if you don't feel confident going off-road.

4 Now boil the shit out of it. For about 45 minutes, I'd say. My sister turned down the heat after about 25 minutes because the jam was bubbling and "going everywhere". But it still set. To test if your jam is ready, put a small plate in the fridge and after about 40 minutes' boiling dab a blob on the plate and leave it. The coldness of the plate hastens the cooling of the jam and you can only tell whether jam is set when it's cold.

You can sterilise some jars by putting them in a 180C oven for about 5 minutes. Then pour in the jam while it's still warm and runny.

Label artistically and pretend you are a lady novelist living in a river cottage in Sussex.



22 comments:

  1. Shit, I must be middle-aged already and I'm only 18!! I like cooking (baking in particular) and am choosing Farrow and Ball colours for my flat at university...

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  2. Arrived at your blog while looking for chicken liver pate recipe.Made it and now am hero in eyes of husband. Yay!. Satisfy yourself with the knowledge that a forgotten camera is NOTHING. When my boy was a baby i packed all his stuff (of course) but left ALL MY CLOTHES (even pants) left the front door open, not just unlocked and sailed off in the car. Jeeze. Love your blog, thank you.

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  3. OK, now any clues what to do with hawthorn? You try it and I'll follow.

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  4. yay! a new entry *devours hungrily*

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  5. I am 22. I fucking love Farrow and Ball. When do I collect my river cottage and my lady novels?

    xxx

    ps I would totally make this jam if I had any damsons

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  6. I've always wanted to try Nigella's recipe for hands-free raspberry jam, which involves heating the fruit and sugar separately in the oven, then mixing them together so that they magically become jam.

    http://www.publicradio.org/columns/splendid-table/recipes/sauce_raspjam.html

    Although there may be a tut of disapproval from your inner middle-aged woman at such a departure from the traditional method.

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  7. If you have any spare damsons then you could make damson gin which is YUM and miles tastier than sloe gin (does anyone REALLY like sloe gin?). It's also extremely lethal. My sister had a historic wedding reception last year which featured bottles of said gin on the tables right from the word go and resulted in all manner of trouble, including an aunt with a broken arm.

    I wouldn't worry about forgetting the camera too much. We forgot ours at the birth of our third child, and the music too. Obviously far too casual about it all by that point.

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  8. Remember when a friend came to stay with us and my husband realised I wasn't the only person who took paint sample booklets to bed to read
    :-/ When was in ones twenties...
    Lovely jam. There is NOTHING like homemade jam.

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  9. It was very good of your sister to let you make jam in her kitchen. Mine won't let me cook/mess up her kitchen

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  10. I like sloe gin. I imagine I'd like damson gin too. Currently infusing some rum with blackberries to see how it goes - can I join the middle-aged club or is jam required?

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  11. am I the only person though that gets really annoyed that the descriptions on the back of the Farrow and Ball chart are not in the same order as the colours on the front?

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  12. Pleaseeee can we have more photos?

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  13. You'll be solving murders next! (Miss Marple fans anywhere?). I may have a go at this one, have to google a Damson tree first *raises one eyebrow and looks towards garden*

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  14. Regularly make jam with damsons scrumped from neighbour's tree. And damson gin, which is the shizzle. Make a fool with the soaked fruit after straining the gin, too... ooh, lovely :)

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  15. I'm afraid that with phrases such as 'boil the shit out of it' and 'all I wanted was some fucking peace and quiet'... A Lady you shall not make... even if your jam is heavenly...

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  16. I bet Miss Marple swore like a trooper when Agatha Christie wasn't looking.

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  17. Sloe gin is fucking amazing!
    However, have recently discovered a theory where you have add equal parts sherry and gin to damsons, apparently it tastes just like aged Damson gin.
    Delia has an amazing Damson Chutney recipe.
    I am totally ancient before my time, I'm 25 and have made 86 pots of jam/marmalade this year.

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  18. Right, this looks awsome. I am sooo going to go and *coughs* "borrow" the damsons from my neihhbours tree, well the branch is v deffo in our garden and dripping with fruit, so fair game I say!

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  19. I am partial to jam & chutney making, it feels very satisfying .
    Now I am not sure how you feel about spelling, you may not mind the odd error, or you may be a sticker for such like.
    So if you mind, then in point 3, I think it should be highest heat not head!
    Anyway, cooking's great isn't it.........

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  20. I tend to write posts in one go and post them mostly un-read and uncorrected and then can never be bothered to go back and change typos. I'm even more recluctant to correct typos once someone has pointed them about because I'm THAT cussed.

    E

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  21. I'm so pleased that I'm not the only one that loves to be middle aged, even in my mid 20s (OK, late, but who's counting?). I recently started seeing a younger man, all my friends thought this was superb, but he wanted to GO OUT and things when I just wanted to potter about the house, watch TV with the cat and bake cakes. it didn't last.

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