Monday, September 17, 2007

Damsons in Distress

Last week I was called to the rescue of a huge bag full of damsons, plucked from my Aunt's garden in Berkshire. With a bumper crop and enough damson gin to last a lifetime, it was suggested by my cousin that I might find a use for the surplus lovely little purple beauties.

Indeed, readers, I did find a use for these small fruits. By happy co-incidence, I had recently received an ice-cream maker for my birthday and felt that this would be an excellent opportunity to flex my new-found ice-cream-making skills.

The night before I was due to take delivery of said damsons I was partaking in a spot of food blog browsing and discovered that my damson ice cream would be a good entry for this month's 'In the Bag' food blogging event which is hosted this months by Scott at Real Epicurean. This great event focuses on seasonal produce and was founded by Scott, Cherry at Cherry's English Kitchen and Julia from A Slice of Cherry Pie. This month the theme is seasonal fruits. Autumn is my favourite season for fruit - apples, pears, blackberries all lend themselves so beautifully to the comforting puddings I crave as the nights draw in. But as we are enjoying the sunshine we should have had in August, I thought I'd clutch onto the last piece of summer and make ice-cream. For good measure I also whipped up some damson gin and a batch of blackberry ice cream. Both such gorgeous colours.

For a novice with the ice-cream maker, I was pretty chuffed with the results. I have to confess that I'm not overly keen on damsons (I have a strange, inexplicable dislike of all stone fruits), but it ice-cream form they are rather delicious with a flavour half way between cherries and plums. As for the gin, I'll have to wait until Christmas to report back. But gin is fairly high on my list so I can't see that I'll have any problems there!

Damson Ice-Cream

I decided to make this with a custard base. I've always thought plums and custard went well together so it seemed like the right choice. I made the custard base from the Magimix guide to my machine. It was rather sweet - less time I'd go easy on the sugar.

Ingredients (makes around 1 1/2 pints)

1lb damsons

4 egg yolks

4 oz caster sugar (plus extra for damsons to taste)

1/2 pint milk

1/2 pint double cream

1 lemon

1. Wash the damsons and remove any that are split or mouldy. Place into a large pan whilst still slightly wet (add a touch more water if they are very dry). Sprinkle over a little sugar to taste, cover and heat gently until soft and pulpy.

(I would start with - say - 2oz of sugar. You can always add more if not sweet enough, but it is hard to get rid of the sweetness once it is there).

2. Push the pulpy mixture through a sieve. Once cool, place in the fridge.

3. Make the custard. Pour milk into saucepan and slowly heat until just boiling.

4. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and then gradually beat in the hot milk, whisking all the time.

5. Pour mixture back into pan and place over a low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is slightly thickened and creates a film over the back of a wooden spoon. Do not let it boil as it will separate.

6. Remove pan from heat and leave to cool. Once cool, add cream, straight from fridge.

7. Add the damson purée and mix until you have a beautifully coloured mixture. Taste and add lemon juice to taste.

8. Churn the well-chilled mixture in an ice-cream maker according to the maker's instructions.

Notes - My mixture was far too sweet so I added the juice of 2 lemons to balance. Next time, I will add less sugar to the damsons.

Damson Gin

If I'm honest, I didn't really have enough damsons left to make gin. But I almost had enough. So I decided to give it a shot anyhow. I've not made it before but have made sloe gin in the past and felt it couldn't be much different in terms of method.

I simply pricked the damsons, placed them in a Kilner jar and topped up the jar with gin and around 150g sugar. I'll give it a quick shake each day for a few weeks and then leave it to steep for around 3 months. Should be ready just in time for Christmas!

I've gone easy-ish on the sugar as I can always add more. I'll definitely need to have a wee taste after a month or so - I can adjust accordingly!

For far better instructions and lots of brilliant tips, do take a look at this post from The Cottage Smallholder.

As you can see, when I woke up this morning the gin was already taking on a fabulous damson colour. Mmmm.

Blackberry Ice-Cream

This was the first ice-cream I attempted in the new machine. The best ice-cream I ever sampled was in Italy (no surprises there) and was blackberry flavour. It was black as the night and so wonderful I can almost taste it now just thinking about it. I was unable to re-create the magic 100%, but I came pretty close. Let's just say that this was the second best ice-cream I've ever eaten. I think this would be great served on top of a traditional apple crumble.


1lb blackberries

1/2 pint double cream

40z caster sugar

Juice of a lemon

1. Push the blackberries through a sieve. You could always whizz them in a food processor, but I'm always keen to get rid of the seeds - it is a bore, but the seeds can impart a bitter flavour.

2. Mix the sugar, cream and lemon juice into the purée. Chill and then churn in the ice-cream maker according to instructions.

Notes - this couldn't be simpler. And it tastes heavenly!


Rosie said...

Hi Antonia,
Just peeking in on your blog, which by the way is fantastic :-)
Your damson Ice cream looks wonderful and great pics too, one I MUST try out! I will add you to my blog on places I visit.


Nan said...

The colors on those ice creams are really amazing! Wish I had some damsons to play around with...

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

Home made ice cream is a great way to use up any fruit growing in your garden. I make my own blackberry and blackcurrant ice cream too.

Antonia said...

Rosie - thank you for the kind words. I really enjoy reading your blog too - so many tempting things to try. The damson ice cream is great - I have just been away for a few days and can't wait to eat some more!
Nan - thank you. I just love the colours too - they almost don't look real, but I can assure you they are!
Scott - blackcurrant sounds good too. I can't wait to experiment some more with the new machine. It is just so easy!

Margaret said...

The ice creams look amazing. Pleased to see you are enjoying playing with your ice cream maker!

Wendy said...

That is some pretty ice-cream! Gorgeous.

Jules said...

Your damson ice-cream, looks beautiful! I'm awaiting a huge bag of damsons any day now and will probably make a load of damson gin.

Nora B. said...

Hi Antonia, thanks for dropping by my blog. Damsons are new to me - your ice-cream sounds and looks delicious, such bright pink colours and I'll bet that your gin will taste so good! Too bad you have to wait a couple of months.