I spied with my little eye a tastey blog post by Liz LeFroy on her blog “I buy a new washer”. Thankfully, she agreed that I could share it on this blog, so you get to taste its deliciousness also. (New Year dieters: words are calorie-free!)
Twenty-something years into being a regular damson jam maker, I can finally admit that it’s not my favourite flavour.
Don’t get me wrong. Damson jam is sharp, it’s dark purple, it sets easily. The problem of the stones can be overcome by sieving. The problem of a glut can be overcome by freezing, then making jam in batches month by month, as I am doing this year. And it provides a source of thoughtful presents for relatives. Okay, a source of presents.
I am not unappreciative of the damson as such. I am not really ungrateful.
But, forgive me, oh damson, you have limitations. Lacking the popularity of raspberry, the easy-going nature of strawberry, the usefulness of apricot (sticking marzipan to cakes), the yoghurt-friendly texture of blueberry, you are destined to be homemade. Mainly, it would seem, by me. You speak of low-maintenance back gardens or self-seeded trees at park-sides; you speak of damson gin, damson ketchup, damson chutney, damson cheese, damson fool, damson crumble, damson bloody anything when there’s no late frost in April and you and your mates turn into an avalanche.
Sorry. I got carried away. It’s just that there have been pounds and pounds and pounds of you and I’ve been denying myself alternatives.
I am not really ungrateful – but I do find myself addressing a fruit in public.
Why this confession? This confusion. I think I need to let it be known that I have switched to blackcurrant. It went like this …
I mentioned to my LSF (Longest Serving Friend) that I’d been out to buy her some jam. It was August. I was in London, presuming on her hospitality; presuming to the extent of finishing a pot of blackcurrant jam which had been nearly full on my arrival a few days before. (There was some unopened damson in the back of her cupboard).
Blackcurrant jam, I’d learnt by day 3 of my stay, is delicious, complex, dense, sophisticated: textured but without the annoying seeds of raspberry, the hairiness of rhubarb, the inevitability of strawberry, the lumps lurking in apricot which make an even spread almost impossible. I think I must have said something about this loudly to my LSF.
Last week, my LSF came to stay en route to Snowdonia. Her bag was unusually heavy, I noticed. I wondered for one horrified moment if she’d bought camping equipment. But she unloaded 11 heavy, hard, cylinders, individually wrapped – my birthday present. They sat on my table whilst we went off and had a lovely weekend tramping about.
After she’d left, and being well brought up, I only unwrapped 3 of the jars before my actual birthday. After 2, I detected a theme. Opening the third was just to make sure, because of my increasing excitement.
Suffice it to say, that in addition to the half jar I brought back from Wales, I now have 11.5 jars of dense, sophisticated, complex, textured, sophisticated, much-travelled, thoughtful, sophisticated blackcurrant flavour of the highest quality to accompany my toast and butter for the next year six months. Or thereabouts.
Thank you, Liz LeFroy! I love that line especially about “I find myself addressing a fruit in public.” Her blog fits really well alongside our modus operandi – as she blogs on what strikes her during the day – that mix of the conversation between life and arts. Liz’s way with words can also be found in her poetry pamphlets (and also in many good poetry magazines):