Damsons are bursting with flavour - but their stones make them a difficult fruit to use and they are wellknown by dentists as causing chipped teeth. My solution for this is to use damsons as the base for fruit compote, stewing them gently without sugar till tender, then pressing them through a colander or coarse sieve. The resulting rich purple puree is then sweetened to taste, and combined with any fruit in season to make a delicious dessert. It can be served chilled or warm, with Greek yoghurt, creme fraiche or good old fashioned custard. If my damson tree has a specially fine year, then I freeze portions of the puree to be used as a sauce for icecream or sponge pudding.
2lb damsons, washed and stems removed - quarter pint water - 12 oz sugar or to taste
Pears or apples, sliced; rhubarb, cut into one-inch batons ; gooseberries, topped and tailed; redcurrants; blackcurrants; raspberries
Stew the damsons in a large pan until tender. Cool a little then press the fruit through a colander or coarse sieve, using a wooden spoon. This removes all stones and leaves a rich puree. Sweeten the puree to taste - depending on the type of fruit you plan to add. Rhubarb will require more than raspberries!
Now simply add the desired fruit and poach gently till tender but still holding its shape. I like pear and redcurrant, or apple and raspberry. If there has been a glut of one fruit (this year it was gooseberries) then I add them straight from the freezer and they hold their shape if cookd gently in the puree.
This compote can be sprinkled with crumble topping or used as a base for fruit cobbler.
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