With fruit continuing to ripen earlier than the last few years, this week is becoming my ‘Processing Damsons’ week.
My other half loves Victoria plums and is very happy picking huge quantities of them but he prefers to eat them as they are. So, last Sunday, we went to our local pick your own fruit farm and picked a few pounds to keep him happy. Some were ripe, but most needed an extra week.
We also found a few Damson trees with lots of ripe fruit, so picked about 30 pounds!
This week, I am making loads of Damson chutney, Damson cheese and various other Damson recipes to use these small delicious plums. These should be available to buy in the run up to Christmas as well as at the Chiddingstone Castle Country Fair on Sunday 9 September, along with other preserves that I have been making.
I’d better get back to my preserving pan!
In an exciting new venture, I am now baking some cakes for a local business The Earl Grey Tearoom, in Southborough.
So far, I have made them a carrot cake with mascarpone icing (left) and two Victoria sponges with butter cream icing and jam. I have also supplied them with some spiced almond and pistachio biscotti – great for dunking in your coffee or tea!
I hope this venture will continue for a long time – it is great for Southborough to have an independent tearoom and I love the fact I can make a cake and deliver it on foot! I must also admit, I have missed not baking cakes regularly. There is something I find relaxing about mixing together ingredients to produce a (hopefully!) light sponge cake and then decorating it. The very hot weather has made the mixing quite problematic but hopefully by the end of the week, as temperatures return to near normal, cake mixes will go back to the right consistency. Since my youngest went off to University, I can’t justify baking anything for just me. My neighbours have become my testing ground so if you see me crossing Prospect Road with plates of cake or biscuit, you know I am experimenting again.
Finally, I have made three flavours of my savoury muffins – pancetta and olive, goats cheese and sundried tomato and onion and pepper. These freeze excellently and can be added to packed lunches. They also go well with soup in the winter.
These muffins have been made for selling at the Penshurst Farmers’ Market on 3 June. If you are in the area, come along and taste before you buy!
This evening, I have made savoury seeded biscuits and cheesy biscuits – all are made with buckwheat flour so are suitable for gluten free diets.
These are being packaged up ready for selling at Penshurst Farmers Market on Saturday 3 June.
Tomorrow will be my last day in the kitchen for this event – more biscuits and maybe something different!
Each Christmas, I make savoury biscuits for hampers sold by South Downs Cellars. Initially, I made oatcakes flavoured with fresh thyme or rosemary. Last year, I tried a different recipe for oat and walnut biscuits. These contain a small amount of sugar but are not sweet and go well with soft blue cheeses like Gorgonzola or Dolcelatte as well as other rinded soft cheeses like Brie or Taleggio.
As another experiment, I made a batch replacing the wheat flour with buckwheat flour. They are gluten free and taste delicious. The oats and chopped walnuts give them an interesting texture.
I will be adding these to my list of products available to buy – either with buckwheat or wheat flour, depending on your preference.
I have been making these cheesy biscuits for a few years – the dough can be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge until needed. Then I bake as many biscuits as are needed, topping them with different seeds or cayenne pepper. They are quite crumbly but have a strong cheese flavour and are great served with pre-meal drinks.
I decided to try making a batch with gluten free buckwheat flour to see if they were as good and yes, they are. The dough didn’t seem to stick together quite as well, but after 24 hours in the fridge I could cut the discs as usual and the flavour is certainly as good as the wheat version. The buckwheat version is on the left, the wheat version on the right.
The beginning of the new year has been a good time to do a thorough stock take and to start making more chutney.
Thank you to everyone who bought food from me in the run up to Christmas. I lost count of the number of Panforte and biscuits I made! Thank you also for the lovely comments – it is pleasing to hear that you enjoy eating the foods I have made as much as I have enjoyed making them.
I have made three chutneys so far this year
Apricot, apple and hazelnut which has cardamom seeds, ginger and mixed spice giving a crunchy texture and spicy fruit flavour
Plum, pear and apple with chilli and pepper giving a hot flavour
Pear and apple which is a classic chutney flavoured with cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
All three chutneys are maturing and will soon be ready to purchase. Those of you who are local to Southborough can buy a selection of my chutneys and jellies from Southborough Butchers on London Road. They all go well with cold meats and cheeses and can also be used to enrich casseroles and gravies.
According to Sara Paston-Williams, Damson Cheese is one of the oldest traditional country dishes, always found piled up on the shelves of a country store cupboard.
I have tried a couple of recipes but prefer one that uses slightly less sugar. It still produces a sugar crust and will keep almost indefinitely! We love to eat it with cheese such as a mature cheddar or crumbly Lancashire, but it is also good added to enrich a venison casserole or gravy to accompany beef or game.
The damsons are cooked until soft, then pressed through a sieve. After adding sugar, the pulp is cooked again until thick and then stored in a cool place to mature.
September has been a busy month in the kitchen which has meant not enough time to write about what I have been making! I went fruit picking at the end of August, not sure whether the damsons would be ripe yet. They were – and I ended up picking quite a few. I love the dark purple skin with the dusky bloom – quite unlike other plums. They are quite tart raw, but when cooked with the other chutney ingredients, they produce a deep, concentrated flavour.
Since then, I have made three batches of Spiced Damson Chutney which is a firm family favourite – made with allspice berries, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. The chutney goes well with cheese or cold meats and can also be used as a sauce for duck.