Damson vodka makes an interesting change and gives a warm welcome
Early September is the perfect time to make damson vodka when these hedgerow fruits are ripe. Use our simple recipe below and you’ll be a convert to this delicious, rich and nectar-sweet drink. In fact, making damson vodka will almost certainly become an annual occurrence.
Make up your damson vodka now and it will be ready in time for Christmas – meaning that you’ll have bottles to hand as gifts as well as for bringing along to a cold day in the field.
Don’t worry about choosing premium vodka – it’s not necessary and won’t make any difference to the taste, which comes from the fruits. Just use a supermarket own brand which will be perfectly adequate.
Where to find your damsons
Keep a sharp eye out on local hedgerows at this time of year. Damsons are basically wild plums, the descendants of domestic garden plums and a popular base for jams and jellies as well as damson vodka. So get out early. As well as competing with other damson pickers you’ll be in competition with wasps and wild birds who are also keen on these tasty wild fruits.
Take a basket or container (not a bag, as you’ll squash them) when you’re out walking and a stick too, so you can grab any opportunity that arises (the stick will help you to pull branches within reach and bash down any brambles in your way).
How to make damson vodka
You don’t need a long list of ingredients to make damson vodka. Just damsons, sugar and the vodka.
You will also need a sterilised Kilner or other preserving jar; maybe a glass bottle with a wide mouth big enough for each fruit or other glass container with a lid (the dishwasher on a hot setting makes a good steriliser by the way). A good tight lid is particularly important.
Obviously if you have room in your larder or cupboards you can make the damson vodka in bulk (if you’re fortunate to have a glut of the fruits).
Damson vodka recipe (makes 1.5 litres)
You will need:
- 1kg washed damsons
- 500g sugar
- 1 litre vodka
- Clean muslin square
- A sterilised Kilner jar, preserving jar or a glass container with a tight-fitting lid
- Clean glass bottles with lids for the finished product
- A large pouring bowl (like a batter jug)
- Plastic funnel
Sit down comfortably at the kitchen table and prick each damson a few times with a needle (as you do if you’ve ever made sloe gin). It’s a good job to carry out while listening to the radio or when a friend is round for coffee because they can muck in and help.
Put each fruit into the sterilised glass container as you do this. When the whole lot is inside, add the sugar, pour in the vodka and put the lid on the container tightly.
Then tuck the container away in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight – like the back of a cupboard or the larder. Make a note to turn the jar upside down every week or so (this is why the lid needs to be on firmly) so that the fruit gets moved evenly about in the vodka solution and absorbs it thoroughly. Wait four months.
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Four months later
(Although six months or longer is better if you can resist) you can bottle the damson vodka mixture up.
Take the clean muslin and large bowl and place the muslin over it. A batter jug bowl would be particularly handy here. Pour the liquid into the muslin, gathering up the sides of the fabric as you do so, to strain it.
Then pour the strained liquid into your bottles (this is where the plastic funnel will come into its own so none of the lovely damson vodka gets wasted).
Put the lid on the bottles and label. Store in a cool, dry place.