I’ve been reading some of those ‘150 ways to grow your blog without working hard or spending money’ articles. They all begin by advising me to have a catchy title of the ‘150 ways to…’ variety. What is the lure of a numbered list? I just don’t get it but I have tried it out. You will all recall Five Ways To Muck Up Crumble which, I will now reveal, did not cause an explosion in my stats (unless you count my waistline).
This morning I considered giving this post the title ‘Cheese-free Cheese’ or ‘2 Pink Things That Will Make You Smile’, but thought twice. Isn’t it better to know what you are getting in to ? Anyway, you are safe. I do what I say on the tin.
Sloes are the fruit of the Blackthorn bush and Damsons are the result of natural cross-pollination between sloes and cherry plums. For this reason, the best places to forage for damsons are usually in the vicinity of old country houses with orchards. You may need to bring a tree-climber-person ( Brave Husbands have been shown to work well for this, watch him swing here).
I’ve perused the web but I’m none the wiser about why it is called a cheese. Just like quince cheese (membrillo), it is a dense, sweet jelly which pairs magnificently with a slab of blue cheese. I adapted the instructions in this article from The Telegraph.
I weighed my haul of damsons . The amount of sugar required is 3/4 of that weight. You can make this even if you have only a soup bowl full of damsons.
I simmered the fruit for five minutes and then pushed the pulp through a sieve. It doesn’t need to be dripped slowly like crab apple jelly, you really just want to get all the stones out. A few, hardly noticeable, scraps of skin showed up in my cheese but I thought they added a certain authenticity.
I cut up the first batch into cubes and rolled them in sugar. Just one of these after dinner is a treat. The jelly is sweet but has a tang that makes the insides of your cheeks tingle. A little wiggle of pleasure.
At tea time yesterday I was overtaken by the spirit of Poldark and served this with a glass of port. Oh my word, Cheese, Cheese and Port. 3 Ways To Die Happy.
Sloe and Damson Gin.
This time I went back to Darina Allen’s invaluable Forgotten Skills Of Cooking. It really is a beauty of a book.
Darina’s recipe is for Sloe or Damson Gin but I was slightly short of sloes so I made Sloe And Damson Gin.
She gives quantities for 1.2 litres of gin but I had a 70cl (700ml) bottle so a bit of cross-multiplication was done to produce the following quantities:
400g sloes and/or damsons
700 mls gin.
I washed and dried the berries and pricked each one with the tip of a sharp knife, taken hot from the dishwasher. Darina recommends a sterilised darning needle. Whatever you choose, it’s a labour of love (of gin, tragic really) and took ages. So long that I had no time or patience left to take a photograph of the process.
Serve a small glass as an aperitif on Christmas Eve and wallow in the admiration. Well, that’s my plan anyway. Cheers.