In a rush to harvest the damson plums, that had the audacity to ripen shortly before I was due to depart on holiday, the kitchen was turned into a plum stewing factory. To top it all, it was an exceptionally prolific harvest this year. You could probably call it a glut of damsons.
Instead of a jam, I decided to experiment with a fruit butter – those sweetened, thickened and often spiced and flavoured fruit pulps used in similar ways to jams. Apple butter (which I make every year) is more common, but all sorts of fruit make excellent butters. Besides, I had some leftover Armagnac from verjus making…. The result was a luscious damson, Armagnac and cardamom fruit butter. I thought it perfect for toast, but also would make a stunning glaze for ham or pork, and could even top a cheesecake, a custard tart or swirled into yoghurt. All sorts of possibilities!
Alas, only a portion of the damsons were converted into the fruit butter. I timed out and froze the rest of the unsweetened pulp to deal with when I returned home. Damson cheese, damson curd, damson and ginger sauce and all sorts of damson things that can be made will have to wait!
Damson, Armagnac & Cardomom Butter
The following measurements are proportional. Simply adapt to the amount of puree that you extract from the cooked fruit.
- 1kg damson purée
- 500g castor sugar
- 50ml Armagnac (Cognac or Brandy)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Clean the damsons and remove any attached stems. Place in a large jam pot with a small amount of water (about 100ml per litre of damsons). Heat and let the damsons begin to get soft and breakup. Stir occasionally. When all of the fruit have broken up, turn off the heat.
Put the stewed fruit and juices through a moulin à légume (food mill) set over a large bowl, pressing the pulp through and discarding the skins and pips. Clean the jam pot and set aside. Weigh the pulp and adjust the proportions of the other ingredients accordingly.
Put all of the ingredients back into the cleaned jam pot, stir and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and let it gently bubble, continuing to stir occasionally to ensure that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Be careful when you stir as the sweetened pulp is very hot and can burn.
It should reduce by about a third and take about 20 to 25 minutes. Test the fruit butter by taking a spoonful and cooling it on a cold plate. It should gel when cool and wrinkle slightly when pushed with the side of your finger. Ladle the damson butter into sterilised jam pots and seal.
I use vacuum sealed jam jars which allow the preserves to be kept in the larder up to a year. Fantastic on toast, with blue cheeses or warmed and used as a glaze.