What a year it was for Damson plums! My father is a fantastic gardener and he has been growing plums for the last ten years or so now, each year I get a share of the crop and this year was no exception.
Between friends and my fathers share we had 4kgs altogether and after I baked them into muffins, oven roasted them and made numerous upside plum and cinnamon cakes I was running out of ideas!
I took to the all knowing Twitter and sought the advice of a few good friends. They suggested all sorts of wonderful recipes but one caught my attention ….Plum Cheese.
Now Plum cheese is a very fine idea indeed and something a bit different is always welcome. It was while I was searching for a suitable plum cheese recipe that I came across recipes for Damson Plum butter.
Plum butter is a low sugar alternative to jam, but one that keeps for just as long. It has the most wonderful texture, it is smooth and silky. Just delicious on brown bread, scones and hot buttery toast.
I think that it is one that you will make again and again. I wonder if my father has any more of those damsons left….
Makes 4 x 454g Jars
2kg Damson plums, washed
Soft Brown sugar (10% of pulp weight)
Large saucepan or 6½ ltr slow cooker
Wash the plums in a colander under cold running water, remove the stalks and leaves. Remove any bruised or rotten fruit.
Stoning damson plums is a bit time consuming, they are small and the stones are a bit reluctant to be evicted! Half each plum, discarded the stone and place the fruit in the basin of a slow cooker or large saucepan.
I cooked mine on LOW in a slow cooker (lid on) with no additional water added for 12-16 hours over the course of a couple of days.
If cooking the plums on the hob, add a small amount of water -10% of total weight – this prevents it from catching before the fruit releases it juices.
Cook over a very low heat – you can do this over a couple of days, letting it work away while you busy yourself around the house – until the butter begins to thicken. It needs more attention towards the end and to be stirred regularly to prevent it from burning. If it scorches, quickly tip it into another clean saucepan which will stop it from taking on the burnt taste.
Add 160g of brown sugar (which was 10% of my total pulp weight when I removed it from the slow cooker) to the butter towards the end of the cooking time, this helps sweeten it and preserve it for longer.
How do I know when it is cooked? Well there are a number of methods: Some people use a cold or frozen plate, drop a spoonful onto the plate and if the butter does not separate into water and fruit after a minute or two then it’s done. I used a soup spoon, the butter should sit high and rounded in the spoon (pictured above). You can also check the saucepan itself, it’s done when a wooden spoon leaves a clear trail when scraped across the bottom.
Once it’s cooked, spoon it into warm sterilised jars, leaving a 1cm head space. If you plan to eat it straight away, allow it to cool and it will keep in the fridge like this for a couple of weeks.
To sterilise jars, either put them through a hot cycle in your dishwasher, boil them for 10 minutes in a pan of water or place spotlessly clean jars and lids in an oven preheated to 150C/ 300F/Gas 2 for 10 minutes.
As I wanted to keep the butter for longer I used this method, I filled a large saucepan with hot water and lined it with and old tea towel (stops the glass from cracking on the bottom of the saucepan). I carefully lower the filled jars into the water, up to their shoulders and boiled them for 10 minutes. I carefully remove the jars with a kitchen tongs and allow them to cool completely on a dry tea towel. If this is done probably the plum butter should keep for a year or more.