A house down the street from us has a bucket by the street with a sign that says "Free Damsons". These very generous neighbours of ours have several fruit trees, and they always give away the windfall for other people to enjoy. They even put out little plastic punnets so that you have something to take the fruit away in.
We decided to use our free fruit to make a favourite of my husband's: damson jam. If you haven't tried it, it's delicious. (If you don't know what a damson is, it's a small variety of plum.) A lot of people make jamming sound complicated, but it's actually pretty simple to do. Here's how we made damson jam.
1. We removed the stalks & leaves from the fruit, and then weighed it. We didn't wash it until after weighing it so that we were just measuring the fruit and not the extra water. Cut a slit around the fruit (this will make it easier for the stone to leave later). Then put the fruit in a large sauce pan.
2. Add just enough water to keep the fruit from catching on the bottom of the pan, and cook on a medium to high heat until the fruit is soft and mushy. Stir constantly. As you cook, use a slotted spoon to remove the stones. They will separate from the fruit as it cooks, and so you should be able to see them as you stir. It is a bit fiddly, but if you keep stirring through with a slotted spoon, you should find them all. If the fruit seems very thick, you can add a little more water. The fruit turns a fantastic colour as it cooks!3. Meanwhile, you need to have sterilized jars to store the jam in. You can buy new jars or use Kilner (or similar) preserving jars. Or you can save money and use old glass jars (store-bought jam or sauce jars, honey jars, etc.; any glass jar with a screw-on metal lid will work). Wash the jars well, then fill both the jars and lids with boiling water. It's easiest to do all of that either before you start making the jar, or to have one person sterilizing the jars while the other stirs the fruit. Then put the jars in the oven on a low heat until ready to use. (If you are using preserving jars with a seal, you will need to soften the seal as well.)
4. When the fruit is well cooked and all of the stones have been removed, add the sugar. You need a one to one (1:1) ratio of fruit and sugar. So if you have a pound of fruit, add a pound of sugar. Then boil vigorously and stir constantly for about ten minutes. Test for a set by putting a little of the jam on a cold plate (we stick ours in the freezer before we need it).
5. When it is set, pour into the sterilized jars and twist firmly shut. You can check that they have "taken" or sealed properly. If the metal pop-up section in the lid is down, then they are sealed. If it moves up and down, then it has not sealed and should go in the fridge. You don't check for the seal until the jam has completely cooled.
6. Enjoy! I particularly like damson jam on toast, but it's also good with plain yogurt, in cakes, in sandwiches, etc.
PS-We gave our neighbours a card and jar of jam to say thanks.