Wild damson vodka recipe. How to identify wild damsonsPosted by Fiona Nevile in Liqueurs | 36 comments
Wild damsons (the ones in the bowl) are the size of a small olive and have the same elongated shape. The dark bluish skins have the same greyish tinge of a sloe or dark plum. The flesh is a yellow orange and the stone small. If you want an instant tongue defuzz bite into one – it is very sharp but not quite as bitter as a sloe. The leaves of a tree are similar to a plum leaf but smaller.
The photo shows wild damsons, a bullace and a dark plum. A cherry plum is smaller than a bullace but larger than a wild damson. A sloe is similar in colour to a wild damson but it is round.
Wild damsons are so hard to find that if you do discover them on a foraging expedition, never share the whereabouts with anyone. I did this once and returned to find the tree bare. To add salt to the wound the fruit was still not ripe. You can leave unripe fruit on a windowsill to ripen but it will not swell or be at its best. Wild damson trees tend to be spindly. They are hedgerow plants. Deep in their ancestry they have sloe and cherry plum relations.
It’s OK leave a sealed envelope for your family to be opened after your death but never divulge your secret. It is the key fruit in one of the best homemade liqueurs know to man or beast – wild damson vodka. Clean tasting, heart hugging grog.
Even Gilbert doesn’t know where my secret tree is located.
There is one couple that does. They spotted it when they came to the Cottage Smallholder party last month.
“There’s a tree out there with small purple olive shaped berries…”
My heart sank.
“Are they wild damsons?”
I couldn’t lie – the couple were new friends after all. The fruit weren’t ripe but generally this doesn’t rein in the keenest foragers.
“You’ve found my secret tree. Let’s share.”
Better half a harvest than none at all.
Over the years I’ve grown with this tree. First just enough fruit for a tiny bottle, then a half bottle moving up through the sizes to a litre bottle of wild damson gin last year. Each one treasured and hidden away in the barn. The gin was very good but I think that the vodka version wins hands down. Sharper, cleaner and fruitier tasting.
I hadn’t had the heart to look at the ‘secret tree’ until a couple of days ago. I glanced up at the tree. It was heavy with fruit. I gathered all that I could reach and my pockets were bulging. Enough for two litres of wild damson vodka and more to make a fine jelly for lamb, turkey or game – if I climb up a wall and use my foraging walking stick to gently pull down the laden branches.
Thank you Chris (aka Paperman on our forum) and Anne. At Easter you’ll receive a slim bottle in the post and before that some interesting and intoxicating wild damson jelly to enhance your Christmas jollifications. And there will be regular bribes to guarantee that your lips are sealed.
|Wild damson vodka recipe||
- • 1lb/454gm of washed wild damsons
- • 6 ozs/168gm of white granulated sugar
- • 75cl bottle of medium quality vodka
- • Sterilised 1 litre (at least) Le Parfait jar or wide necked bottle with stopper/cork
- Wash the wild damsons well and discard any bad or bruised fruit. There is no need to prick the fruit with a fork (but you can if you want to be brutal) just place damsons in either a large Kilner/Le Parfait jar or a wide necked 1 litre bottle.
- Using a funnel, add the sugar and top up with vodka to the rim. If you leave a bigger gap the liqueur might spoil with the excess of air.
- Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved and then store in a cool, dark place until you can resist it no longer (leave for at least three months, we usually let it mature for a year). If you are planning to drink this after 3 months, have a nip after a month, and top up with sugar to taste.
- Some people strain the grog (through muslin/jelly bag) after 3 months and bottle it, leaving it mature for six months. We strain and bottle after a year. Don’t leave the straining process any longer than a year; leaving the fruit in too long can spoil the liqueur, as we found to our cost one year.
- Use the leftover fruit to make a great jelly for game or to accompany a dull roast. Or try adding sherry to the fruit. Leave for at least a couple of months. This is cheap jet fuel so beware.
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