If Ambrosia is the food of gods then a nice home made jam must surely be the accompaniment of choice.
It has been a good growing season for soft fruits and everywhere I look there’s ripe produce. My parents have a thriving allotment, friends are giving away excess goodies and even my own put-upon fan-tree is churning out more plums than can be comfortably devoured by myself and the nuisance bloody squirrel in my garden.
This particular bank holiday Monday I set about some cookery with a view to denting the plum mountain. I didn’t use the Victorias from my garden – great for eating but something of a waste in jam. Nor did I call upon the freebies that still occupy my fridge. Instead I defrosted a carrier bag full of damsons I was given last year. This might sound perverse – using frozen fruit when there’s fresh stock available. Not at all, not only did they keep amazingly well but the freezing process helpfully broke down the insides and that helps the jam making process.
But I’m not making plum jam, I’m making Damson Cheese. Let me explain – this is jam to all intents and purposes but it is more solid than conventional jam – ie: it can be sliced like cheese. That’s as far as it goes – don’t think you can add this to pizza. It is also incredibly simple to make – damsons are rich in pectin so you don’t need any setting agent.
I have withheld on quantities because you have to taste your way around this one. That said I ended up using 500g of sugar for 1.2kg of fruit and this was about right for me.
1) Wash the plums and throw away any bad fruit
2) Place the damsons in a large pan along with approx 150ml of water per kg of fruit, bring to simmering point.
3) Once the fruit has softened and broken down take the pan off the heat and let cool slightly before mashing the pulp through a sieve into another pan. Obviously you are going to have residual stones and skin for which I can offer no use.
4) Heat the puree. Add sugar gradually, stirring and tasting so you know when the sweetness level is right.
5) I have read various jam recipes and some say you should simmer until the temperature is 105 degrees but I kept stirring until I could move the spoon along the bottom of the pan and the liquid took a moment to cover the tracks. This level of viscosity means it’s ready. Take off the heat and leave until the puree is merely warm.
6) Now you are ready to bottle the magic. Old jars can be sterilised by washing them and then leaving them in a 160 degree oven for 10 minutes. If at this point you have not left the jam/cheese to cool enough you will receive a painful reminder as you try to spoon it into the jars.
And that’s it. Damson Cheese can be treated like a traditional sweet jam (try it with Ambrosia) or it makes a suitable condiment to rich meats like venison or bloody squirrel.