After speaking to a friend who also harvested his damson tree last weekend, I decided to hurry up with my plum recipes as 2011 looks set to be the year of the damson and I had to share this delicious damson plum jam.
Normally ready from late August and throughout September, my little buddies are in a hurry to be preserved and so am I. The fastest and most lasting solution is to turn these little gems into jam. At first I was struck with pure horror of how to de-stone my mountain of plums. When making the plum pudding cake, I discovered my batch wasn’t going to give up their stones without a fight (they were very soft). Thinking back of my time in Munich, I remembered my mum’s secret weapon: the “Zwetschgenentsteiner”, a handy de-stoner which simultaneously semi-quarters plums.
I had to get one quickly but my first hurdle was to find out what it was called in English, the second, where to get it from in the UK. Luckily, my first and only stop – eBay. Searching for “plum pitter” I found exactly what I wanted and couldn’t believe my luck, when I discovered the Bentley of all pitters: solid German engineering, the stainless steel “WMF Plum Stoner/Remover/Pitter/Cutter “.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to get the same one, or any at all, you can always cut out the stones (which might be a bit more time consuming). Two days later and my pitting marathon commenced.
Making jam is a lot of fun and really easy but certain rules must be obeyed. Don’t even think of starting if you’re in a rush or feel under the weather as you’re dealing with very hot liquid which can be very harmful if not handled with care! I love cooking with kids but this one definitely isn’t suitable for little people or pets for that matter.
It also helps having clean, uncluttered surfaces giving you enough space to set up your little assembly line. Making jam is a bit like yoga, relax, don’t think of anything else, just be present and take one step at a time!
Preparation Yum, Yum, Damson Plum Jam
Source: my mum
Preparation Time: 20 min to 1 hour + 2 hours to macerate the fruit
Cooking Time: 1.5-3 hours
Keeps for 1-2 years
- 1kg/35 oz damson plums (de-stoned & quartered)
- 500g/17.5 oz sugar (Fairtrade golden granulated, unrefined sugar)
- 1-2 tsp cinnamon (if you like)
(No lemons or other additives are required as plums are full of pectin, ensuring it sets)
You will also need
- 7x 200ml/approx. 5.5 oz jars & twist tops (I only needed 5 for 1kg/35 oz of fruit but it’s good to have a couple spare, just in case)
- Jam funnel
- Large pan (avoids being burned by splashing jam)
- Wooden spoon
- Oven gloves
It’s hard to define the time for when your jam is ready. Some like it runnier others prefer it thicker. I started testing mine after 1.5 hours but reached the right consistency after 2 hours. Damsons contain plenty of pectin, required for a good set, making it the perfect fruit for jams. After an hour and half I did several tests by putting a tablespoon of jam on a small plate which is cooled down for 2-3 minutes in the fridge or freezer. If the cold jam has hardened, it’s done, if not boil for 3-4 more minutes and try the set test again! (I pop the tested jam back in the pan for further cooking)
Preheat the oven to 160ºC/320ºF. Rinse the jars and lids in hot soapy water, rinse in clear water and turn upside-down to drain. Dry with a clean kitchen towel and place in a small baking tray. Pop in the oven for 5-10 minutes. The jars should be still warm but not hot when filling. Make sure you use oven gloves when handling the jars, especially once filled with jam!
As soon as you’ve filled your jar, pop on your oven gloves, screw on the lid as tight as you can (don’t try doing this with your bare hands, you’ll burn them!) and turn immediately upside-down. A vacuum will form, sealing the jar. Turn back after 5 minutes. When you open the jar later, you will hear the familiar “plop”, indicating it was sealed properly. This will ensure your jam will keep for at least a year if not longer.
The jam will get very hot, make sure after bringing it to its initial boil, to turn it down so it SLOWLY bubbles away. It not only will burn, but based on the high content of sugar it can cause severe and very painful damage to the skin. A big pan will ensure that you don’t get burned when it splashes during cooking.
In any case, keep kids and pets out of the kitchen. If you still get scorched, move the pan off the heat (if you’re capable) and make sure you immediately run cold water for at least 10 minutes over the burn to avoid tissue damage!
1. Wash, dry and de-stone the damsons. (I’ve heard you can leave the stones in as they should come up to the surface during cooking but I’ve never tried that method as I’m too afraid of breaking a tooth in case I miss one)
2. Place the plums and sugar in a large pan, stir properly and leave for about two hours to macerate which will allow the fruit to release its juices.
Tip: I like fruity bits in my jam. Damsons boil down very well without being able to spot the skin from the fruit. If you prefer a smoother jam you can blend it at this stage.
3. Stir again and bring to boil. Let it boil on high for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally but be careful not to be burned by splashing jam.
4. Turn down the heat so the jam bubbles away gently for approx. 1.5 hours. The longer you cook it the more often you will have to stir, making sure it doesn’t burn.
Tip: This jam cooks in reverse to many other jam recipes. To get the best out of plums, according to Croatian cooking, a damson plum jam needs to bubble away gently for a long period of time.
5. Add the cinnamon (if used).
6. If the jam starts to become harder to stir and you think it might be thick and sticky enough do a set test from above.
7. Once you’re happy with the consistency of your damson plum jam and you’ve tested it will set, it’s time to fill your jars.
Tip: You might wonder why no acidity (lemon) was used in this recipe. The skin of damsons is very acidic (plums are often sour, almost tart when eating straight from the tree) making it the perfect fruit for jams and chutneys as it contains plenty of pectin to ensure it sets.
8. As screw twist tops are used in this recipe it is important to fill the jars immediately while still very hot.
9. Make sure you don’t drip any jam onto the glass rim. It has to be clean to ensure the twist top seals correctly. Those little splatters encourage mould growth so wipe of any spills immediately with a clean kitchen towel.
10. Due to the hot liquid, it is recommended to use a jam funnel but a glass jug will do the trick. Please use oven gloves to avoid any burns when screwing on the lids.
11. As explained at the start, turn the jars immediately upside-down to ensure it forms a vacuum seal. Turn back after 5 minutes as otherwise the damson plum jam will get hard and not slide back, creating a gap at the bottom. This doesn’t impact the quality of the jam, just looks nicer.
12. Label your jars and store in a dry and dark place for up to 2 years.
- British plums are the best for flavour (telegraph.co.uk)
- scavenging for freebies (thelocalfoodie.wordpress.com)
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