The Cottage Smallholder

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Damson Cheese Recipe: for savoury and sweet dishes. How to freeze damsons/plums.

a dish of ripe damsons

A dish of ripe damsons

I opened the fridge door this morning and a small cloud of fruit flies floated out. What was going on? We had just given the fridge its quarterly spring clean. I investigated further and found a large bag of tiny damsons from Kent, that I’d bought on Saturday and now it was Tuesday. I washed and picked over the fruit. Only a few were turning. It’s surprising how quickly autumn fruit can go off, even in the fridge.

At this time of year, we are given a lot of fruit for preserves. Quite often we pop them in the freezer (how to freeze damsons? See tricks and tips below) until we have time to turn it into something delicious. This morning we decided to make damson cheese.

Damson cheese is not cheese as we know it, Jim. It’s sweet, full of flavour and so dense with fruit that it is sliced, just like cheese. It’s tasty and just that bit more unusual than jelly. I do regret the occasion when my mum gave me a jar ten years ago; I didn’t even taste it before it died a furry death in my fridge. Now I know better.

Traditionally, damson cheese is sliced and served with lamb or game. We eat it with cheese and quite often have it as a pud with a dollop of cream. A slice on an individual plate of hors d’oeuvres looks classy.

Damson cheese is well worth adding to your repertoire.

If you are going to make damson cheese, make sure that you have some straight sided glass jars, or earthenware pots to pour it into so that you can easily slide it out for slicing. (Why not plastic? See tips and tricks below).

Recipe for our excellent damson cheese:


  • 2lbs/917gms of damsons
  • 1/4pt/150ml of water
  • White granulated sugar (1lb to each 1pint of damson puree)
  • A squeeze of lemon juice( approximately 1/2 tsp)


  1. Wash, pick over and discard bad fruit.
  2. Put damsons and water in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring gently to simmering point and simmer very gently until all fruit is soft and falling of the stones (this can take at least an hour or more). Keep an eye on it, stirring from time to time.
  3. When fruit is very soft, remove from the heat and cool before straining and pressing through a medium sieve. Discard the stones.
  4. Pour fruit into a measuring jug, note the quantity and return to the cleaned pan with the sugar and lemon juice.
  5. Stir over a gentle heat stir until sugar is dissolved.
  6. Bring to the boil and continue to boil briskly. Stir constantly, to stop the sugar burning on the base of the saucepan. Don’t skip this bit.
  7. The damson cheese it ready when the spoon makes a clear track mark on the bottom of the pan. Not a parting of the seas but but a glimpse of the bottom.
  8. Ladle into warmed, sterilised straight sided jars. (How do I sterilise jars and lids? See tricks and tips below).
  9. Allow to cool a little, whilst still warm, and cover with sterilised plastic lined screw topped lids or waxed disks and cellophane covers.
  10. Label when cold and store in a cool, dark, dry area. It should keep for a year.
  11. Once opened, keep in the fridge and eat within a month or so.

Tips and tricks:

How to freeze damsons (also how to freeze plums, blackberries, greengages, wild damsons and sloes):

  • Pick over fruit and discard any bad fruit
  • Wash fruit and dry in a large clean tea cloth
  • Put fruit into labelled bags and freeze

Why can’t I use plastic (i.e. ice cream cartons, to store damson cheese in my fridge?

  • A friend, who is a great chef, made a batch of damson cheese purely for personal consumption. The damson cheese was poured into a large clean, sterilised ice cream carton. Every now and then, a sizeable nugget of damson cheese was savoured. After a few months (once opened damson cheese keeps for ages in the fridge) the plastic tainted the damson cheese and the private cache had to be thrown out. Glass and earthenware are fine for damson cheese. After opening, store in the fridge.

How do I sterilise jars and lids?

  • Sterilising the jars and lids:
    We collect jars all year round for our jelly, chutney and jam making sessions. I try to soak off labels and store the clean jars and metal plastic coated screw-top lids in an accessible place. The sterilising method that we used is simple. Just before making the ‘cheese’, I quickly wash and rinse the jars and place them upside down in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 160c/140c for fan assisted. When the oven has reached the right temperature I turn off the heat. The jars will stay warm for quite a while. I only use plastic lined lids for preserves as the all-metal lids can go rusty. I boil these for five minutes in water to sterilise them. If I use Le Parfait jars, I do the same with the rubber rings.

  Leave a reply


  1. Hummm,,,,this isn’t working! Is it supposed to turn into a carmel, burnt smelling, glistening thing? Smells like burnt sugar. I have been stirring for hours. This isn’t a fun way to spend a day.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sandra,

    I think that you have been stirring for too long. It’s easily done. The first time I made this I created the largest single boiled sweet ever made. Glimpsing the bottom of the pan is fleeting and the key.

    It shouldn’t smell burnt.

  3. jane watson

    hey sounds like a great idea. i have an ancient plum tree that produces masses of fruit (quite early this year!] and i own a new very heavy pan, so i shall get stirring! thankyou.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jane,

    Damson cheese can be tricky. I do hope that yours is a success.

  5. wrinklyj

    just made 19lbs bramble jelly (south downs)
    10lbs green tomato chutney (given)
    10lbs damson jam (garden)
    Tomorrow will attempt your damson cheese with the 5lbs of damsons picked ready to use. The trees are still full of fruit have now run out of suitable jars…….has anyone tried to make jam or jelly with less sugar?

    • tamtambird

      yes! if you use jam sugar which has added pectin you can get away with using less, I have discovered that this will also mean less boiling so the taste is better. How much less depends what fruit you are using, I think you can usually get away with at least a couple of tablespoons less per pound, but you will need to maybe do smaller batches and test this to see how much you can reduce it by and still get it to set without boiling too much… adding some juice from apples instead of water will also help to raise the pectin content and so will allow you less sugar( boil fresh apples in more water than you would usually use and then strain off the water) Also with all plum type fruits if you open the stones ( hammer) and extract the nuts, remove skin and add them chopped to the mix before boiling with the sugar it will enrich the flavour wonderfully

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Wow wrinklyj, you must be exhausted. I’d love to hear how the damson cheese turns out for you.

    I haven’t tried making jam or jelly with less sugar.

  7. Mo Williams

    Have just made your damson cheese with a few lbs of damsons, from a friend. I have to get more damsons, it is the easiest recipe I have ever used. I couldn’t resist having a small taste of the scrapings from the pan…. delicious, just the right amount of tartness.

  8. Fiona Nevile

    That’s great Mo, that our recipe turned out so well for you. Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving a comment.

  9. I’ve just found lots of damson-like plums that have fallen off my tree. Unfortunately too high to pick from tree directly so I am grateful for your recipe which I shall try this evening. Wish me luck!!
    LizO (I only add the ‘O’ because there are too many Liz’es in this world!)

  10. I too have made two nice pots of damson cheese – this recipe must have been made for these pots i bought as i only got two and it was exactly the right amount to fill them both. Will be trying the cheese next weekend. Tried the remains in the pan and it tasted gorgeous

    again thanks for the recipe!

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