Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Stoned Out

Stoned Out
September 2017

The last time I used the expression stoned was in the pages of Waterways World and on that occasion it elicited letters of complaint about the endorsement of illicit drugs, especially whilst controlling a narrow boat.

The Damson barricade

I was actually referring to the experience of taking incoming fire from the bridges of Darlaston on the Walsall Canal, but on this occasion I am thinking about Damson stones and the removal thereof.

One of the snags of our nomadic existence in the summer months is the collection, processing and storage of fruit used in winter preserve making. Specifically I am thinking about Damsons which need to be picked in September.

Damsons in the natural

To overcome this issue we have made a few trips home in recent weeks and during these visits we have filled the freezers with the raw materials we will need for next year's products. Today it was the turn of the humble Damson, a vital ingredient in Damson Chutney, Damson Vinegar, Damson and Ginger Tea Jam and Damson and Bramble Jam. 

A growing haul

Our seasonal picking programme always includes a trip to a friend near Lichfield who has several Damson Trees in her garden, which even in the lean years provide a good crop. 2017 is, however, a year of bounty and an hour or so picking the low hanging fruit filled two big bags. When I got home they weight in  at a hefty 26 kilos which were duly weighed, washed and then stoned ready for the freezer. Now stoning these diminutive members of the plum family isn't to be underestimated. The fruit is small and the stones hang in for dear life.

Classic "plum stoners staining"

We have tried several methods of extracting the stones but in the end settled on a Lakeland Cherry Stoner which, with a bit of practice, will stone one kilo in less than 10 minutes. Of course, that still means a couple of hours with stoner in hand before the monster pile can be tucked away in the freezer.

All in all not a bad days work with the promise of many jars of tasty preserve in 2018.

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