This recipe was first published in Cumbria Magazine September 2019 as part of the regular 'Lakeland Cooking with Mrs Simkins' series
Tucked away at the bottom of the Lythe and Winster valleys, in what was once Westmorland, is the village of Witherslack where a particularly superior type of damson thrives. In the spring, the trees draw people from miles around when their frothy white blossom is a sight to behold, climaxing in Damson Day, a festival held in honour of the Witherslack damson, in mid-April.
By September, the trees, cultivated in small orchards around the village, are laden with ripening purpley-blue mini-plums and there are plenty on sale for making into puddings and preserves.
- 450g (1lb) Witherslack damsons (or use other damsons - or sloes - if you aren’t in the area)
- 225g (8oz) granulated sugar
- 1 litre bottle gin
You will need a large Kilner jar with a good rubber seal
Sterilise the jar by pouring boiling water into it, swilling it round and emptying it away.
Prick the fruit and put into the jar with the sugar. Pour in the gin.
Close the top securely and shake vigorously.
Store in a cool dark place and shake every day for the first week or two then shake weekly. It’s ready to strain into a clean bottle and drink after 2-3 months but will improve with longer keeping.
Don’t leave the fruit in the gin for more than six months: otherwise the flavour and colour can deteriorate.
Use vodka if you prefer.
You can make a gorgeous drink with damson gin and orange juice. The orange juice really intensifies the plum flavour of the damsons. Take a large glass and it fill almost to the brim with orange juice and plenty of ice. Pour a measure of damson gin carefully over the surface so it ‘bleeds’ slowly into the juice creating a two-tone effect.