Sunday, August 19, 2012

A second damson crop

This year the damson plum tree produced some fruit again, and more than last year, despite the drought and the usual pests. We got 18 lbs this time! I have to cook the plum jam in batches, because I don't have a big enough canner to do more than about a dozen jars. Anyway, damsons are fiddly and hard to prepare -they're small and little pits usually cling and have to be cut out. I've done 2 batches of about a dozen jars each, and they both involved over 2 hours of standing! First cutting the plums, then half an hour stirring as they cook.

One year I decided to save time and labour by cooking them whole, pits and all, and then passing the cooked plums through a food grinder to remove the pits. It worked, but it also ground up the skins so the jam was a smooth puree. That's NOT the way my Mom made it, and it's not the best way. The best is to cut out the pits so when the jam is cooked the skins are still intact - broken into smaller pieces, of course, but still there. Those tasty, sour skins are the best part!

So now I have about 8 jars-worth left to cook, and I'll probably do them tomorrow.

We still have the usual problems with the tree: the plum cucurlios were back, and diminished the crop by at least 25-30%, so you can see how much more we would have had if only I had the pesticides to kill these bugs. There were some aphids early in the summer, but when it got really hot and dry they disappeared. And of course the canker is there - I'll cut off as much as I can without injuring the tree; there's not much else you CAN do about that problem. I wish I knew what caused it.

UPDATE: Finished the damson plum jam making, and made a total of 42 half-pint jars! That's quite a lot; I think I only made more the first year I discovered a farm that sold damson plums and bought 20 or 25 lbs. not knowing just how much work I was letting myself in for. Now if I prune the tree back hard this year to get rid of the canker, it won't matter if it doesn't produce any fruit next year; we've got enough jam to last a long time, as well as still having jars left over from last year.


Blogger Priscilla said...

When we lived in England, I noticed that most of the damson pies I had were WITH pits. It was strange at first, but I believe they felt there was some value in leaving the pits in. It was supposed to enhance the flavor of the plums. They also made killer Damson Gin!

9:27 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I can see that - they say the same thing about peaches or apricots, I'm not sure which. I've seen jam recipes that call for cracking the pits and taking out the kernels, and boiling them with the fruit-it adds some additional flavour. But I think you have to take them out before finishing - the kernels aren't edible.

9:50 pm  

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