The stones inside damsons are generally ‘clingstone’, where the flesh adheres to the stone, so there are often complaints about the efforts needed to separate the stone and damson when cooking, preserving and eating them. This is especially true when making damson jam at home – trying to avoid broken teeth or blocked windpipes in the future can add stress and bother to an already hot and steamy jamming session.
Personally, if the odd ‘rogue’ stone slips through into the finished product, I’m not too bothered. I always point out this possibility on the damson jam jar label, when giving a jar away, and when serving up a generous portion of damson crumble.
Some think that keeping the stones in all the way to the cooking finale adds a subtle almond flavour, and I’m tempted to agree.
My de-stoning damson jam method involves a big slotted spoon and long tongs – when the jam’s boiled up to setting point and has rested, ready for pouring into jars, I scoop out the stones with the spoon, tap them aside, and pluck any lingerers out with the tongs. It’s a slight inconvenience when only making a dozen jars, and part of the craft of preserving. And I ALWAYS keep the stones!
But if you’d rather take them out before or keep them out or get then out more easily during cooking, what can you do?
- Get a sharp knife, cut open the flesh and prise out the stones
- Use a cherry/olive stoner device or similar, to punch out the stone – such as the Leifheit
- Freeze the damsons and defrost them – the stones may come away more readily from the squidgier fruit?
- Use a wire spaghetti basket inside the jam pan – it holds the fruit when cooking and only the stones stay in the basket. A tip from Beeinspired Creams.
I dunk cooked and removed stones into a bowl of water, and rub them against each other with one hand to scrape off the flesh, then spread them out on tray to air-dry for a few days. If you do anything with them, you don’t want damp ones going green and mouldy!
Damson stones contain the cyagenic glycoside amygdaline, a toxin that can lead to cyanide poisoning if taken in quantity (how much?) – don’t eat lots of damson stones, and don’t get any Walter White ‘crystal damson’ lab ideas!
- Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief – play the counting game with the stones you left in the damson crumble!
- Nearly fill a wooden or plastic vessel with stones to make a passable, shakeable maraca
- Fill a tall, cylindrical or rectangular glass ‘vase’ with stones as an alternative to pebbles etc. as a mantelpiece/bookcase adornment
- Fill a cushion cover with stones for a beanbaggy firmer head/back support!
- You can try to grow a new damson tree from a stone, but it may be difficult to germinate – Monty Don has written “They will come true from a stone…and will yield fruit within 15 years” [The Complete Gardener, Dorling Kindersley 2009, p392]
- Glue to artist-quality paper in any way or pattern you like, and frame up for a sweet present
- At worst you could save them to toss one by one into an open coal fire as you sip your damson gin round the Winter hearth!
If you know of any other uses for damson stones, or have any thoughts on the matter, send them to @damsonplums