No, not that kind of cheese, think Membrillo or quince paste instead. I can’t remember when I first read about damson cheese, but never having stumbled upon damsons I hadn’t had the opportunity to make it. I have been very lucky in recent weeks to have received numerous gifts of garden bounty from various people. We’ve feasted on home-grown cabbage, lettuce, rhubarb and apples, and I’ve been roasting far too many potatoes for my waistband’s liking. But they’re just sooooo good. My latest garden gift arrived this week, dropped around to me by a very kind neighbour, and I made up my mind pretty much instantly on the fate of that beautiful bowl of damsons.
My favourite cheese is Gorgonzola. I love the sharp, salty almost pungent veining beautifully encased by the smooth and creamy cheese. Add a little sweet to the mix and you’re pretty much guaranteed a party in your mouth. I sometimes throw together a plate of Italian meats and cheese as a late snack or a light lunch for myself and Mr. LMUTB, and so I thought damson cheese would make the perfect accompaniment. As it is said to keep pretty much indefinitely in the fridge I am also hoping we might have some left to see us through Christmas entertaining too.
Before I set about making my damson cheese I did a little bit of investigating. Recipes varied quite a bit in both the list of ingredients and the ratios used. Following some tap tap tapping on my calculator, much scribbling on some paper and quite a lot of head scratching I decided that a ratio of 100g sugar to 150ml damson purée fell somewhere in the middle of the majority of recipes. I went with that and following much patient stirring, which I am terrible at because I think God left out patience when he made me, I was rewarded with a most glorious deep ruby jelly. I have eaten it both on its own and with some Stilton, the cheese counter was out of Gorgonzola, and it is deliciously sweet with just a hint of tart plum. If you are lucky enough to have a glut of damsons this is a super simple way to preserve their flavour to enjoy throughout the winter.
I am not going to give exact quantities for this recipe as it is likely that people will gather various quantities from their gardens or hedgerows, so instead I will give the ratios I used as a guideline.
This recipe is not difficult to make, if you can stir you’re already winning, but it does require some time and patience.
As you are working with hot sugar here be extremely careful, you don’t want to end up with a nasty burn. If you have small children in the house it might be an idea to keep them busy in a different room.
Wash the damsons, remove any stalks or leaves, and discard any which have burst their skins or have been attacked by greedy birds. Pop them into a large, heavy based saucepan. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, cover with a lid and set over a medium-low heat stirring every few minutes until they are tender and break down easily. This will take at least 30-40 minutes, be patient.
Reduce the heat to low, remove the pan from the heat and one ladle full at a time press the contents through a sieve into a large bowl pushing the flesh through, discarding the stones and skin as you go. Rinse out the saucepan and set it on a scales. Add the damson purée to the saucepan and for every 150ml of purée that you have add 100g of caster sugar and stir through.
Return the saucepan to the heat, this time uncovered and allow it to simmer gently, stirring every 5 minutes or so to ensure that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. This is where that patience comes in to play as you will need to allow it to simmer for at least 60 minutes, but more than likely 90 minutes. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up to speed things along as you risk burning it, and as a person who as many times burnt sugar onto the bottom of a pan you don’t want to have to clean up that mess.
As the liquid starts to thicken up keep a very close eye on it, you will notice the bubbles hold their shape a little longer before they pop on the surface. At this point drag a wooden spoon through it, when a clear path is visible for a couple of seconds it’s done. Grease and line a loaf tin or a brownie pan with parchment paper. I chose to use a loaf tin as I wanted slices of damson cheese, if you prefer squares go with the brownie pan. Very carefully pour the damson cheese into the line tin and set aside to cool and set. Once it has cooled pop it into the fridge overnight. Remove from the tin and cut into slices or squares, wrapping them individually in parchment or greaseproof paper. Store in the fridge until needed.