Dusky-skinned damsons are the ultimate culinary plum as they imbue any dish with an intense sweet-sour plum taste. They have been grown in Britain since Roman times and have a relatively short season that spans the end of August and the start of September. They make wonderful jams, jellies, fruit cheeses and chutneys, particularly as their high pectin level ensures a good set. They can also be lightly cooked and layered in the base of a crème brûlée or stoned and combined with plums in a pudding such as a baked sponge or cobbler. Damson gin is delicious added to fruit puddings or served as a winter drink. You can change the quantities but stick to the same proportions of sugar to damsons and gin. For each 100g fruit, use 25g sugar and 200ml gin. You can use sloes instead of damsons.
Damson Gin with Orange
- Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 3 months standing
- Total time: 15 minutes, plus 3 months standing
Makes: Makes about 1.2 litres
- 500g damsons
- 125g caster sugar
- 1 orange
- 1 litre gin
- Sterilise one or two preserving jars (with a total capacity of at least 1.2 litres) by washing in soapy water, then rinsing and drying in a low oven. Alternatively, wash in the dishwasher and leave to steam dry.
- Wash and dry the damsons, prick each one in several places with a darning needle or a sharp knife tip. Layer the damsons in the sterilised jars with the sugar. Wash and dry the orange, then using a potato peeler, pare 4 long strips of peel, free from white pith. Add to the damsons and cover with gin. Seal the bottles and leave in a cool, dark place for around three months, giving them an occasional shake.
- After three months, you can strain and rebottle the gin, but this is not essential - you can serve it straight from the jar. Drink within a year.