There is no escaping the fact that autumn is well and truly upon us. Mornings are crisp and fresh, with your breath misting in the early air and the nights are drawing in earlier and earlier, creeping in some days soon after lunch, or so it seems. Now this is all well and good if you’re inside with a fire (or if you’re really lucky) an Aga roaring, dog curled up on your lap and nothing more taxing to do but think of reading a book or pottering around the house, or dare I say it, giving in to an afternoon snooze. It is a different matter entirely though if however you are out there battling against the elements, rain lashing down, facing the prospect of a long or arduous journey home.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have suffered the latter situation your first food desires will most likely be for that notion of comfort food, homely, warming, sometimes calorific fayre that brings back the feeling of what ‘mother used to make’. Even if you didn’t have the nicety of great home cooked food somehow well made comfort food dishes evoke that nostalgic feeling nonetheless. I maintain it is the smell that does it, the waft of comforting aromas as you open the front door. That and the feeling that you’ve made it home, things can only improve, you’ve reached your sanctuary, your castle and with that you’re going to have a good feed and warm the body and soul.
For me at least the smell of jams bubbling away is one of the most comforting of all; now here’s the mystery, I never smelt homemade jam as a child, my mother never made it and I have no recollection of being at my Grandmothers house while she made preserves, so why the sudden feeling of contentment when I get that aroma waft past my nose? Happen it’s because I’ve only recently become a ‘preserver’ and I seem to have really caught the ‘bug’ for it. I really don’t know.
Damson jam was my latest venture. Until Jo a lovely friend and work colleague of mine brought over 2 kilos of the purple beauties in for me I had never seen, let alone tasted, a damson. I had no idea what to expect from them at all. All I knew is that I didn’t want to eat a raw one!
Damsons like plums and greengages come from a Prunus tree which is a member of the rose family. The true damson, Prunus damascena is a blue black, oval shaped fruit. It makes beautifully rich preserves with a great depth of flavour.
The damson jam is fabulous spread on toast or scones, in fact used as you would any other conserve but there is another great way to promote its talents – as a background flavour in a lovely crumble.
For my mother, crumbles are the autumnal/winter pudding; she would rather a crumble than any other dessert going. My dad is not all the fond, although I’m trying hard to covert him, he’d rather a pie was served. Me? Well I’m torn, I love pies with sweet buttery pastry but I also enjoy a crisp, short, crumble providing it has texture; oh and they’re easier from the cooks view point (i.e. mine) too.
So I bit the bullet as the saying goes and created a mixed fruit crumble that incorporated some of the freshly made jam and the tantalizing delights sitting in my fruit bowl; all delivered by the excellent organic suppliers Riverford. I ended up with a selection of sliced apples, nectarines and plums.
To give further texture I added spelt flakes to the crumble topping, they give crunch and chewiness with a hit of nuttiness. I buy mine from a local organic health shop but if you can’t get hold of them rolled oats would be a good substitution. I also used spelt flour as I’d a small quantity that needed using up, but regular white flour would work just as well.
Clotted cream (also from Riverford) was the order of the day for accompaniments, simple pouring cream, custard or ice cream would also be good. Personally I’d go for a cold accompaniment though as I prefer the hit of hot pudding against cold sauce but it’s up to you.
I had the notion to use my Le Creuset bean pots as individual serving dishes but they were far too big for one, as a cosy pudding for two to share, one pot & two spoons style they’d work well though