I'm not sure if we are particularly lucky regarding free food in our area - I suspect the profusion of cherries in our vicinity is very fortunate - but I seem to be continually discovering new sources of free fruit. A mere 3 minutes walk down the road from our house for example, I suddenly discover a damson tree, laden with beautiful purple fruit! It is definitely on public land (so no fruit-stealing worries here) and within a few minutes of not-very-arduous picking Rob and I managed to gather a large box full.
Now I wouldn't say I'm sick of jam... but I do now have a cupboard full of it, 5 different varieties in all, and a total of about 10 jars which will take us about a year to eat. So I really wanted to do something different with these damsons. Thankfully inspiration came in the form of my Dad who often makes this wonderful Spiced Damson Sauce which is a perfect accompaniment to meats. We have had it with the Christmas Turkey as an alternative to the traditional cranberry sauce, but it's also perfect with chicken. I'd probably eat it with pork too. I just love fruit-sauces with meats. It's not too sweet, with the tartness provided by the fruit and the vinegar, and the flavours of the spices really shine through, especially the mace. I don't usually like cloves much, but they work so well in this sauce.
Here's the recipe - so incredibly simple as you can see:
2lb / 900g damsons
1lb / 450g demerara sugar
A blade of mace
4 cloves (I threw in a few more than this)
4 peppercorns (Likewise - life's too short to count out peppercorns)
half tsp salt
half pint / 250ml vinegar (malt or wine)
Place all ingredients except the vinegar in a pan and simmer for 15 minutes. (Add 2 tablespoons of water to get it going). Add the vinegar and continue simmering for an hour. Rub the mixture through a coarse sieve, return the pulp to the pan and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring well so it doesn't catch. Pot and keep for at last 2 weeks before eating.
I made 2 batches of this and discovered - erm, accidentally - with batch 1 that if you forget about timing the final 10-minute boiling and leave it bubbling away for 15-20 minutes, when potted it will set into a firm jelly. Batch 2 was more carefully timed so is a fairly liquid sauce, but I actually prefer the firmer version for use when making sandwiches as it doesn't make the bread soggy. Do as you please.
And it seems as though we're not the only ones who like damsons...
(Careless fruit-picking by Rob there - honestly, you can't get the staff!) And yes, I did wash the fruit before using it!