Each Peach Pear Damson
I first made Damson Jam the evening Obama was elected president. It was Autumn 2008, I’d just finished university and had started a job in a gallery in London, living back at home to save up to move out. The damsons arrived in a plastic carrier bag from a friend’s mum in London, by way of my brother. I can’t remember what recipe we used, but we wholeheartedly skipped the step where we should have carefully picked out every single stone in the mixture. Instead we wrote about the high possibility that there would be at least 10 stones per jar on the front, just under large letters saying ‘OBAMA JAM’.
In fact, Damson Jam is the only type of jam I’ve ever made - now an annual event thanks to the two large damson trees in our Devon garden, currently still full of fruit despite numerous full trugs picked. We have been picking the fruit and eating them straight from the tree now as they’re a little overripe and delicious if you can catch them before the wasps.
Using Delia Smith’s bible of cooking as a guide we made a bit-too-much of a batch - too much for our largest saucepan - I hadn’t read the top tips for jamming where Delia advises smaller batches to work better. Oops. But after half an hour of vigorous boiling (over) on the hot plate that never quite got up to temperature, and what felt like hours spooning out (hopefully) all the stones we now have Damson jam every morning for breakfast. On toast or porridge. And now the temperature’s dropping steadily it’s nearly time to get back into slow baked rice puddings in the bottom oven, which will also need a splodge of the jam. Perhaps I should get back into semolina puddings too…
The recipe is delightfully vague. Add sugar (caster is fine, jam sugar not necessary) approximately 750g for every kilo of Damsons. Give or take. Simmer the fruit first on a low heat in the largest pan possible in a little water (just to soften), without stirring too much. Put the sugar in an oven proof bowl and sit in in a warm (low) oven, and then when the fruit is soft tip in the hot sugar and leave on the heat until the sugar crystals have completely dissolved. Then turn the heat as high as possible a boil the jam until when you spoon it onto a cold plate it crinkles. It should reach 105, but ours doesn't due to a very inefficient aga - and it still sets just enough.
While it's boiling, spoon out the stones - as many as possible - nothing worse than breaking a tooth on your morning toast. Sterilise the jars by washing and warming them in a low oven for five minutes, and pour in the jam when it's hot. And then spoon over everything.