a ‘receipt’ for damson wine

Two years ago, shortly after I moved back to Kent, we were enjoying a late summer and early autumn rich with hedgerow fruit. I picked so much, it was hard to imagine that I would ever witness a more abundant season. And yet this year has surpassed even 2011. And I know it’s not just Kent – from reading Twitter and other blogs, it seems that the strange mixture of weather that we had earlier in the year has resulted in superb harvests almost countrywide.

As many fat, luscious blackberries as we’ve had this time around, it’s the plump and regal-purple damsons that I’ve particularly treasured. For me, they make arguably the best jam and ‘cheese’, as well as darn fine gin.

What I haven’t made before, though, is damson wine. For one thing, I don’t have the kit. For another, I’m not sure I have the patience to wait for it to be ready to drink! But I was lucky enough a few days ago to lay my hands on a batch of about seventy or so recipes, all dating from the 1830s to about 1900. Amongst them is a receipt (olden speak for ‘recipe’) for damson wine.

And now, of course, I’ve got the itch to try it for myself. In the meantime, I’m posting a more legible version here, in case anyone else would like to have a go. If you do, please let me know how you get on.

“To make Damson Wine

Weigh your damsons and bruise them. To every eight pounds of fruit put a gallon of water. Boil it and pour it boiling on the fruit, let it stand two days, then draw off the liquor and put two pounds and a half of sugar to every gallon of liquor. File up the vessel and let it stand until it has done working, then stop it up, let it stand twelve months then bottle it.”

Start now, and it’ll be ready in time for next Christmas…

If you’re a modern-day damson winemaker, perhaps you would care to share your recipe in the comments box below? I’m sure others would be interested. So many of us with damson gluts to make use of this year!

3 Responses to a ‘receipt’ for damson wine

  1. How lovely. Beautiful writing too.

  2. Plenty more of that writing – all sorts of beautiful scripts in amongst all those recipes! I may air some more over the next few months… as you might imagine, there are some real gems.

  3. Here’s a brilliant comment, update, and recipe sent to me in an email by @CarlLegge, whose cookery book will be published soon. Keep a lookout for it – it’s full of great stuff like this:

    ” That’s a lovely recipe using natural yeasts for fermentation. The quantity of sugar would produce a stronger wine than most ‘modern’ recipes, no doubt to suit a different palate.

    Here’s a modern version.
    For each 4.5 litre or gallon demijohn:
    2kg damsons
    250g raisins (these help improve the vinosity/body of the wine)

    Remove leaves & bugs etc. Wash the fruit and pop into a fermentation bucket. Squish the fruit (easier to do if you freeze the damsons once washed) and add 2.5 litres/4 pints of boiling water. Allow the water to come to room temperature.Add some pectolic enyme/pectolase according to packet instructions. This helps to break down the pectin in the fruit that can cause a hazy wine. It’s optional. Leave for a day.
    Then add your general purpose wine yeast & yeast nutrient and ferment in the normal way.
    There’s a step-by-step guide to making wine here on my blog which explains in more detail what to do.
    Once you’ve strained off the damsons & raisins, don’t compost them yet, you can make a lovely damson ‘port’ with only a little effort.
    To make about 1 litre you’ll also need:
    750ml (1 standard bottle) of red wine
    About 100g sugar
    200ml brandy

    Mix the damsons/raisins, sugar and wine in a container. Seal and shake daily for 6-8 weeks, keeping it in a cool, dark place. Taste and adjust sugar to your taste.

    After the 6-8 weeks, drain the fruit off the liquid through a double layer of scalded muslin and put the liquid into a clean litre sized bottle.

    Add the brandy and mix well. Enjoy at leisure.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this image in the input box so that we know you're a real person

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>