This is for Suzanne because I feel bad. A couple of weeks ago she asked what recipe I would recommend for damsons, without a moment's hesitation I went for pickled damsons. They need a lengthy maturation - at least 6 months - but the reward is a rich, velvety smooth, sweet and sour fruit that is just sublime with the (ubiquitous) cheese and cold meats. Though I love them with my favourite breakfast which I hesitate to post in case my followers lose faith in my palate.
After receiving a tip off from Rachel that the damsons in our usual stomping ground were ripe I bobbed off and picked a few kilos (not sure exactly how many due to the temperamental nature of my scales) and skipped eagerly back to the laptop to get my pickled damsons recipe.
Sorry Suzanne - I thought I'd recorded it for prosperity last year but I didn't. Fortunately I still have my scribbled notes in the margin of my Marguerite Patten recipe book so here it is.
2.5 pints white wine/cider vinegar
1 vanilla pod.
Heat the vinegar together with the spices and allow to cool. Fish the spices out and tip the damsons in, heat til they have softened then pack them into sterilised jars. Add the sugar to the vinegar and boil to a thickish, syrupy consistency. Pour the hot syrup over the damsons and seal with a vinegar proof lid. Makes about 11lbs. Mature for at least 6 months.
I always have a problem with excess syrup when making pickled fruit. It seems that a large quantity of vinegar is needed to cover the fruit at the cooking stage which then requires a large quantity of sugar to make a palatable syrup. The upshot is a surfeit of syrup. I'd love to hear from anyone else with experience of pickling fruit, do you have the same kind of problem? Or are your recipes very different to Marguerite's?