Last year I had an interesting job. I was working away long hours on an industrial estate in Kent. One of the few beautiful things about it was a hidden patch of waste ground near the Premier Inn and behind a weapons manufacturer. I discovered it by following an overgrown footpath sign, and there, sandwiched between an A-road, a railway line and an industrial estate, was the ancient, overgrown garden of a manor house.
By waste ground I mean, of course, the natural world.
The house was long gone, but the moat and a long fish pond still remained.
The 13th Century moated settlement had a grand house which had been purposely demolished to reuse the building materials in a grander house. All that was left was a moat and a fishpond and the outline of an ornate water garden. Deep within the overgrown ruins I found a large stand of Damson bushes. They were bursting with deep, luscious fruit.
I love the bloom on Damsons. They appear such a delicate shade of blue because of the waxy coating on them.
I picked several boxes full. In fact, I picked as much as time, the sunset and the size of my boot would allow.
Knowing it would be a while before I had enough time to do something properly with them, I cleaned them all and froze them.
One weekend, I had enough time and so it became a jam-making jamboree.
The frozen damsons had a frosted bloom to replace their waxy one.
I remember the day I first decided to make jam; I went shopping for my maslin pan. I was very pleased with myself that I remembered it was called a maslin pan. It’s important to know the right lingo, isn’t it? I was a deep shame that when I went into the shop I saw a large sign saying ‘jam bucket’ in the jam-making section.
For some reason my thermometer has distracting messages about hard crack and soft balls. There’s no mistaking the 105 degrees jam line, though.
I found that I like Damsons raw, especially warm straight from the tree. I don’t mind the sourness. However, when combined with sugar and heated, their taste has such a punch, it’s delicious.
It worked a treat. Now I just need to decide who gets a precious jar.
Who would have thought you could put so much love in a jar?