Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Damson Plums

Damson Plums
Damson plums are an ancient fruit, and were well known to the Romans, who were likely responsible for introducing them throughout Europe. They were known as prunus damascenum, the Damascus plum, which became corrupted to damson. It is likely that they did indeed originate near Damascus, now in modern-day Syria. They were cooked, dried, made into wines and liqueurs, and even used as dye. German plum kuchen, the slavic drink Slivovitz, English plum jam and flavoured gins, and Hungarian plum dumplings are all based on the Damson plum.

They came to North America with the earliest European settlers, and remained popular until quite recently. They are losing ground now, as fewer people grow them, know them, and consume them. Their downfall is the fact that they are not very nice to eat raw, being small and sour. They are also a bit tedious to pick, being small, so farmers don't necessarily love them. When you do find them, then, you will likely pay more for them than other plums. The fact is they are also a bit of a chore to cook with, as they are clingstone, meaning that the pits must be wrestled out of the flesh, or the fruit must first be cooked then de-pitted. In spite of these drawbacks, I eagerly hunt them out every September: they are worth all the effort. They are, without exception, the best domesticated plum for cooking. Damson plum jam is suberb.

However, when I bought mine the lady who was selling them was bubbling over about plum liqueur, and couldn't be stopped from giving me the recipe in great detail until I had to flat-out tell her I don't drink alcohol. I will pass on to you the gist of it, in case you do drink alcohol, and I am told this is a treat not to be missed. Wash and lightly stab (with a pin, or some such thing) your damsons, and put them in a sterilized jar of sufficient size to hold both damsons and alcohol. Take some alcohol; brandy, vodka or gin according to your desire, (I've heard kirsch suggested) and pour it over. Seal up, and set it away in a cool dark spot for a month or two. Then, strain it, discarding the plums. Taste the resulting liqueur, and add as much sugar as seems good to you.




Damson Plum on Foodista

18 comments:

Nickname unavailable said...

Hi - I just came across your blog and it is very interesting. Perhaps you can visit Norfolk County some time, which is Ontario's leading grower of many fruits and vegetables. Please come to the Norfolk FlavourFest exhibit at the Norfolk County Fair & Horse Show (October 6-12, 2009). For more info, visit us at http://www.norfolkfarms.com or http://www.norfolktourism.ca.

All the best,

Clark Hoskin
Manager, Tourism & Economic Development
Norfolk County

"Know Where Your Food Comes From"

Sophie said...

My father has these damson plums in his garden!!

I love the tastes of this fab fruit!!

Ferdzy said...

Sophie, how lucky for your father! And maybe for you too, eh? They really are marvellous.

tony.hnz said...

hi are these purple fleshed real damsons or yellow fleshed damsenes Tony

tony.hnz said...

hi are these real damsons with purple flesh or damsenes with yellow flesh .my grandfather planted real damsons in his orchard at castlemorton worcestershire england in 1900

Ferdzy said...

Tony, I think these were yellow fleshed. It's been a couple of years since I bought them. I didn't even know there were two colours, I'm pretty sure I've only ever seen the one.

I wish I could find any kind of Damson tree for sale; I'd plant them too. They are scarce as hens teeth around here.

zacker said...

I have been making damson plum jam for 30 years according to my grandmother's recipe. I have been unable to find a source for damsons in Ontario, preferably in the Niagara or York region areas. No luck with St. Lawrence Market retailers (Toronto).
For damsons I will travel!! Can anyone help?
Linda

Ferdzy said...

Linda, I know they are hard to find around here. Probably the best place to ask is on the Chow boards. There is a big readership there including many Torontonians.

http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/23

zacker said...

I have damson plums for jam making if you want to come to York region to get them (Newmarket/Aurora area)
this weekend Sept 1 - 5.

Email me at asap linda.zack@live.com

zacker said...

I have damson plums to share if you can pick them up in York Region (Newmarket Aurora) this weekend (Sep 1 - 5).

hnash said...

Hi I would really be interested in picking them up... I have been looking for them and haven't been successful. How can we connect. i am in Scar. and can drive up.

hnash said...

Would really be interested in the plums. I would be coming from Scar. this weekend

hnash said...

Hi would really be interested in the plums. I would be driving from Scar. on the weekend.

Unknown said...

does anyone know a source of Damson plums in southern california? larry

Steve said...

I stumbled across this blog in search of a Damson Plum preserve or jam recipe. I live in Northern Vermont and recently moved into a home there. I have one of these fruit trees in the yard. This year it is loaded with plums. I am very excited about this and would to utilize this bounty of fruit throughout the long winter. Unfortunately, I have never preserved/canned any fruit before. I am more than willing to try. I was hoping someone out there might have a good recipe they would like to share. Thanks! email me: sgorniak2@yahoo.com

Ferdzy said...

Steve, please see my recipe for Damson plum jam here:

http://www.food.com/recipe/damson-plum-jam-66582

Ariana said...

Stumbled into this blog today. I have a Damson tree that I purchased bare-root from www.StarkBros.com 4 years ago. This year is the first year it's had fruit. Just picked 13 lbs! Making jam today.

duckslilgoose said...

We just found a ton of them on a tree near our tim Horton's parking lot.