Friday 21st August 2015
If it is August, it must be time for vandotsch speculaas spice damson jam. As you probably know, damsons are part of the plum family, shaped oval and when ripe very dark blue purple, almost black.
Several years ago I planted a damson tree in our garden in north-London, and this year, for the first time, I harvested about 3kg of fresh and juicy damsons. I decided to pair them with home grown blackberries and vandotsch speculaas spice to make speculaas spice damson jam.
While making speculaas damson jam, I adapted a recipe that was written by Grainne McCloskey having participated in a jam making session organised by the Incredible Edible Cloughmills in Northern Ireland that was led by Liz Dowds - a local lady well known for her delicious cakes and jams.
What follows is an overview of the ingredients that I used to make vandotsch speculaas spice damson jam, including:
Makes approximately ten jars of vandotsch speculaas damson jam – I used Bonne Maman jam glass jars (370g)
Directions to make vandotsch speculaas spice damson jam :
Wash the damsons and blackberries. Put the fruit in a pan with 0.75ltr of cold water
Bring to the boil, crush the damsons with a potato masher, and simmer for about 35 minutes. You mash the fruit to get the flavour and to encourage the pectin to react.
What is pectin?
Jam, jelly and marmalade set because of pectin and it occurs naturally in fruit. When cooked with sugar the naturally occurring acid in the fruit thickens and sets the preserve.
Citrus fruit, blackberries, apples and redcurrants have higher pectin levels. Soft fruits are lower. If fruits are low in pectin then fruits with a higher level need to be added.
Alternatively, a few squeezes of lemon juice will help them to set. When possible use slightly under ripe fruit when pectin levels will be at the highest.
What about the stones in the damsons?
At some stage you will need to remove the damson stones. Some people prefer to cut the damsons in four parts and remove the stones before boiling the fruit.
As I was lacking time, I just cooked the damsons with their stones.
Once I mashed the fruit, I waited for the stones to come to the surface and then I fished them out using a metal strainer.
Add the sugar once the fruit is softened and broken down, stirring continuously until the sugar is dissolved.
Sterilise your glass jars
Now is a good moment to sterilise your glass jars. A clean sterilised jar is essential to the success and longevity of the jams and preserves you spend a lot of time making.
It is important to sterilise any jars used for preserves to remove any bacteria, yeasts or fungi to protect the food you put into the jar.
Click: How to sterialise glass jars
After boiling for approximately 35 minutes the liquid should about be ready to set
Before testing for jam setting add the vandotsch speculaas spice mix and stir continuously until it is dissolved. Your kitchen will now start to smell divine!
The method of testing for a good set is to place several dishes in the fridge to chill and at regular intervals take a half teaspoon of the liquid and pour it onto the edge of the chilled dish.
Return the dish into the fridge for 1 minute. When the jam is “about right” the liquid will stick to the side of the dish and producing a soft skin that will wrinkle when gently touched. If it doesn’t wrinkle, re-boil the liquid for another 3 minutes and test again.
When the jam has reached setting point, remove the pan from the heat. Using a ladle, small jar or cup pour the jam while really hot into the warm sterilised jam jars, filling them right to the brim – jam shrinks considerably on cooling). Immediately, put the lid on the jar.
Store your jars in a cool, dry, preferably dark place. Label them. Only store in the refrigerator once opened.
What do I suggest you do with your damson jam . . .
vandotsch speculaas damson jam is wonderful spooned over Greek yogurt, vanilla ice cream, or, indeed vandotsch speculaas spice ice cream or as filling in the vandotsch speculaas damson cheesecake, but the best is probably on well-buttered toast or Matzos, along with a cup of strong coffee at breakfast.
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