Damsons have been part of the Herefordshire landscape for centuries and are common in Cumbria, Shropshire and Herefordshire. Their uses are various and include use as a boundary hedging plant, for dye-stuff and for culinary uses. Daiv Sizer has written a quite overwhelmingly comprehensive guide to Damsons that is well worth looking at if you are thinking of planting or using Damsons in any way, shape or form.
It is thought that in Herefordshire and the Forest of Dean squatters and free miners planted Damsons as boundaries on common land. Between the first and second world wars Damson orchards flourished and increased in number – partly because damson was used to dye wool, leather and cotton military uniforms and kit. The culinary uses are boundless, so I’ve just picked a perennial recipe in our household, Damson Vodka, now anticipated by family members at Christmas.
Ok, I know that vodka featured in our last calendar post about potatoes (!) but there really is no better use for these lovely fruits of the hedgerow that to give a fantastic flavour to vodka.
Recipe and Method for Damson Vodka
In a litre bottle (with a neck wide enough for damsons to fit) , half fill with 500ml of vodka, add 150g of sugar (although this is a matter of taste – if you have a sweet tooth then add 200g or less if you are not so keen on a liqueur-type beverage). Wash, remove stalks and prick each damson 2 or 3 times with a pin before dropping as many fruits as as will fit into the bottle.
Agitate until the sugar is dissolved and then daily for a fortnight. The colour and flavour will speedily transfer in to the vodka. Drain and bottle for use. Great with cheese (also worth making, damson cheese) or after dinner drink.
N.B. Far from suggesting that you increase your vodka intake, I multiply the above to fill 3 demi johns (3.78ltrs) each autumn and bottle the liquer in nice stoppered bottles or hip-flasks ready to go under the Christmas tree.
The only problem, that I am yet to solve, is what to do with the vodka soaked fruit. It seems such a shame to throw these away. I have tried making damson vodka ice cream but the alcohol content makes it tricky to get the ice cream to freeze. Any suggestions?