Finding the elusive Damson plum in the wild (aka the farmers’ market) is like hitting the culinary jackpot. I somehow stumbled across the diminutive fruit two years ago, where I made a batch of what is still one of my favorite jams. It was a complete fluke that I saw the fruit that first time, and sheer luck that I stopped and took a closer look, rather than dismissing them as abnormally large grapes (I can’t stand grapes).
Alas, last year I struck out, not quite remembering when I had found them the year before so I didn’t know whether to start looking in July or September. My plum-lessness could have also been due to the unusual heat that assaulted us last summer, perhaps preventing the plums from coming to fruition at all (or fruit-ion, if you will). Either way, I was bummed. Plum bummed.
This year, I struck gold indigo. During a quick trip to the market for a tomato or two, I could barely contain my glee when I spotted a vendor filling a basket with dark purple gems. In fact, they kind of look like mutant blueberries, with the same mottled skin and clear flesh. Giant blueberries with pits.
As I observed two years ago, the plums themselves aren’t anything special. The skins are tart and tannic, and the flesh, while clear and sweet is not nearly as flavorful as the more common plum varieties. They’re really not worth eating on their own.
In my mind, they are destined for one thing and one thing only: jam. Glorious jam.
This year, however, while I used the same base recipe as before, I decide to add a generous swig of gin. I know one of the other uses for these plums is an infused gin, so I figured that gin and plums are a proven combination. While the gin flavor is subtle, it does add a slight herbal fragrance and spicy finish that the jam wouldn’t have otherwise.
I hope you all don’t think I have a drinking problem, despite the boozy nature of my posts recently. Rather, I have a baking problem: the bottles of bourbon and gin and wine and Taylor’s precious beer are more apt to end up in baked goods or jam than my glass, which 90% of the time is filled with ice water or gingerale. Go figure.
Be sure to click through for the recipe and BONUS printable labels!
Damson Plum & Gin Jam
- 3 pounds damson plums, pitted
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup gin
- Place pitted plums in the bowl of a food processor; pulse briefly until coarsely chopped (do not purée). You can also chop the plums by hand if you prefer a coarser texture.
- In a large nonreactive bowl, gently toss the plums with the sugar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 4 hours or in the refrigerator overnight.
- Prepare canner and wash/sterilize 6 half-pint (or equivalent) canning jars. Keep jars in hot (not boiling) water until ready to use. Place 2 or 3 small plates in the freezer.
- Transfer the plums to a large nonreactive saucepan and add lemon juice and gin. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Spoon 1 teaspoon of jam onto a chilled plate to test if the jam is ready (the jam is ready if it wrinkles when nudged gently with a finger). If it isn’t yet ready, continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then test again on a clean plate.
- Ladle hot jam into jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Remove any air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary. Wipe the rims clean and top with lid; screw on ring until finger tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let cool completely, 12 to 24 hours. Check seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within 1 month.
Adapted from The Art of Preserving.All images and text © Lindsay Landis / Love & Olive Oil
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Bonus! Because there’s nothing more depressing than a naked jar. These pretty, rustic labels will make your jam as sweet on the outside as it is on the inside.
I’m offering these jam labels to you, free for personal use. Simply download the printable file, then print onto full-sheet sticker paper (I used a brown kraft label paper from onlinelabels.com, but you could use white or any color, really). Cut out the labels and apply directly to the the finished jars. These labels were designed to fit these 6 oz oval hex jars, but should fit most standard mason jars as well.
Disclaimer: Copyright Love & Olive Oil. For personal use only. If you post about or share these labels, please credit appropriately and do not link directly to the downloadable file but rather to this post. Please do not distribute these downloadable files. Thank you much!
I was intrigued when I came across this recipe, but tweaked it a bit based on a recipe I made before. Instead of pitting the Damsons, I cooked them in 225 ml of water until they softened, and then passed them through a sieve to extract the pits.
Instead of the lemon juice I substituted unsweetened cranberry juice, because I have a bit of a citrus allergy.
It’s so delicious. Thanks for the inspiration. :)
I had some Gingerbread Gin left over from Christmas, so I made this jam and added a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger too. YUM!
I live in the UK and recently rented a holiday cottage in Pershore, a town famous for its yearly plum festival, came home with a car loaded with damsons and plums from local pick your own farms. Have made damson chutney and plum jam but still have a freezer full of fruits to use. I find pitting the fruit a chore but freezing and then thawing makes the fruit soft enough to pop the stones out much quicker and doesn’t seem to affect the finished jam.Thank you for your boozy recipe, I now have plans to make a selection of festive jams to give as Christmas gifts.
That’s a great tip about freezing the plums first! Will definitely try that the next time I have a bunch of plums to pit. :) Happy canning!!
Newbie question here!! I just found your recipe as I was gifted a large bag of damson plums. When processing do I leave the skins or do I remove when I take the pits out? Thanks so much!!
I chop them up pretty finely but leave them in for a chunkier Jam. If you want to strain them you can too, just do it after cooking since the skins are where all the good flavor and pectin is. ;)
I love these jars and have been looking for this style for ages – can you tell me where they are from?! x
Link to the exact jars in the bonus section below the recipe!
I have found that an olive pit remover is ideal for removing damson plum pits, although it gets wearing on your fingers you are dealing with a large quantity of damsons.
The Farmer’s Market at Union Square in Manhattan has sold damsons for at least the past three years.
SF October 14, 2018
Made 2 batches. First was spectacular! Second I got a little cocky and skipped the freezer plate gel test. Naturally, its not set up as much. To reprocess this, should I add in any other lemon juice or sugar or gin? Or just dumped, cook to gel test, and reprocess according to recipe above? Thanks for any help!!
To reprocess you’d just need to bring it up to temperature again. You could also try adding a little more pectin (either from a pectin-rich fruit like apple or lemon or a packaged pectin) to help it along.
Recently made plum gin all looking good and they should be ready around xmas time. We were wondering if when we have bottled it is it possible to make jam with the drained plums, does anybody know?
I don’t see why not (it sounds delightfully boozy!) I might make just a simple refrigerator jam, though, as I can’t attest to the safety of a jam made with gin-soaked-plums, it may have affected the acidity of the fruit.
Having a lot of pitted plums in my freezer I was considering cooking plum butter. But since plums are a bit dull I suddenly had the taste of gin come to mind. My fríend told me it would not taste good, but your recipe convinced me!
Cooking away on the stove right now.
Sounds great!!! I normally add Whisky in my marmalade towards the end (just before bottling). Have been looking for a good Plum Jam recipe and this sounds interesting.
Could I marinate the plums in the sugar and the Gin overnight?
I simmered my jam for more than an hour as opposed to the recommended 10minutes. Next time I will throw the stones in the mix to increase the pectin and decreae cooking time.
I was just hunting around to see if anyone had mentioned this. I actually did 1/3 of recipe quantity and still had to simmer for over 30mins. Wondered if I should’ve just cooked longer as not quite ‘jammy’ but thick and delicious none the less. Did yours set well after the hour simmering? I wondered where or if I’d gone wrong!
Can’t wait to make this, but I had a question. I’m making Damson Gin right now, but once that is decanted after 3 months, what is left is lots of gin-soaked Damsons. Do you think the gin flavor would be too intense to use these to make jam? A friend once made fruit leather (that was rather gooey but yummy) out of them and that didn’t taste too much like gin.
I accidentally found your website, which I LOVE and LOVE.
Where did you get this glass jar?
This year I experimented with a several fruit/wine combinations and discovered Damsons go really well with a good quality Merlot. I used six cups of cooked fruit (pits removed) and 2 cups of merlot. The boiling process drives off the alcohol, but leaves the “bouquet” behind.
As described by Pam from the UK, I, too, have made Damson Plum liqueur for several years now. It is a perennial favorite especially a year later after it has aged in the bottle.
I live in the UK and only discovered damsons a couple of years ago in the hedgerows close to our weekend holiday home. We were unsure of what they were at first so picked one and asked a friend then went back and picked a bag full. The jam we made was amazing and we had not tasted anything like it before! That was it, we are now hooked on anything damson and make as much damson jam (with Gin I might add) and damson vodka and damson gin which is gorgeous and very easy to make.
To make damson gin, prick 1lb damsons with a pin, put in a large jar and add a bottle of gin ( or vodka – we make both) and add 4 to 6 oz sugar. Put a lid on and shake well for about a week then store somewhere dark and cold for 2-3 months until Christmas and strain and bottle. Taste before bottling and add more sugar if you want it any sweeter then allow the sugar dissolve again for a few days before bottling. This drink gets better with age too :-)
I just made a big batch of this and it came out amazing! Thank you for sharing :)
This delicious recipe looks lovely for Autumn! I shall look forward to giving it a go!
Just found some coincidentally at the grocery store after coming across this post on Pinterest. Can’t wait to try it! I might have to drive back and buy some more since it sounds like they are quite scarce!
I’m from the UK and Damson Jam is VERY popular here. Mainly grown in Hereford/Worcestershire along with plums, pears and apples. There are huge damson/plum festivals at harvest time. We regularly B&B at a farm in Worecestershire that has a small damson orchard and we are regularly sent home with huge boxes of damsons. Skimming off the very small stones is a pain-in-the-butt exercise but so worth it to see the jars in the cupboard afterwards. They also make the BEST crumbles, slumps and pies imaginable – if anyone in the US ever sees them in the supermarket/farmers market snap them up – you will not be disappointed. Also look on the web for a damson crumble recipe from British chef Nigel Slater – sublime!
Love these labels.
good idea, thank you for sharing!
I love your labels… makes things so pretty
LOVE the jam labels! Looks so clean and professional. I seriously thought that you had bottled and placed this jam up for sale (which I would purchase).
Wow, your jam looks absolutely gorgeous! Wonderful recipe! (:
I love adding a splash of bourbon or rum to so many things – it generally cooks off and the flavor that’s left behind is subtle, but rich and wonderful. I can imagine the gin here is great and mutant giant berries with pits. Love that :) And love what you did with them!
I love the intense color it has. That deep reddish plum (ha) color is gorgeous! If that were a nailcolor swatch, I’d totally wear it. Sorry, definitely not comparing your gorgeous jam to nailcolor! Lol…they really do look like mutant blueberries! I can just see myself at the market being like, “woah, look at these blueberries on steroids!” hehe :)
I love Damson Jam! My British family made it all the time- rarely see it here in the states. What a treat to see it here with the fun boozy addition. Will have to put this on my to-do list!
I love the photography, as per usual – amazing work. This jam sounds fantastic!
You know.. just last month I made a batch of plum jam.. and one of my readers wrote in and told me how she adds alcohol to her jams and its fantastic.. she adds rum to her plum jam and whiskey to her marmalade.. and now I see your version.. am sold.. I really have to try this soooon!!
That jam looks so good. The first picture is absolutely stunning! I have no problem if you want to continue boozing it up in your recipes and how did I not know you don’t like grapes?!
This brought back memories of the first jam I made with my mother–plum. I’m not sure she would have thought of adding Gin, but I think it sounds wonderful and a must try. On to the Farmer’s Market this Saturday! XOXO
You haven’t lived until you’ve made damson & sour cream ice cream.
Damsons are a terrific fruit, a damson tree has been at the top of my list for planting every time I’ve moved house.
Damsons & custard (and counting the stones with the old fashioned rhyme to find out who you’ll marry)
Damson & sour cream ice cream
… nothing goes to waste.
Nom nom nom. The British love damsons, they can be found growing wild in hedgerows here.
This looks lovely, though I suspect these fruits are native to New England? Good think you explained what they were though, because I was trying to figure out why you were talking about plums but showing pictures of gigantic blueberries. =) Or grapes. Actually, they do look very much like the wild grapes we have all over Rhode Island. =)
I’m not sure where they come from originally but they do grow here in Tennessee. The season is very short, they’ll be at the market one weekend and gone the next. If you see them (and confirm they are NOT grapes) definitely snatch them up!
Thank you so much. We are blessed with having one tree on our Farm in Camiling, Philippines. In May/June this single tree produces more fruit than we can eat or sell. So, thanks to your post, we make jam. Gin is about 1$US a bottle here, we replaced the Lemon Juice with Calamansie (a native fruit similar to Lime), the end product sts well on most breakfast items, hotcakes, toast and the like. Thank you again
Booze in jam? COUNT ME IN. The light on these photos is unbelievable!
I love the idea of putting gin in some jam!