While there’s plenty about British food that’s less palatable to those on the other side of the Atlantic—Marmite, mushy peas, and “white pudding” for breakfast come to mind—there’s always something to be learned from our friends across the pond. This week, the BBC highlights what’s fresh in September
, hitting a number of fall favorites that, while a bit lesser-known, are just as seasonal over here in the States.
Take the damson plum, for example. Smaller and with more of a blue tinge than its better-known cousins, the damson has a long tradition in the British diet. While it hails originally from the Middle East, brought to England from Damascus by the Romans, it thrived in Northern European soil and grew equally well when transplanted to the American colonies.
The damson can be eaten out of hand, but its large stones and thick, acidic skin render it a better choice for peeling and cooking. Thoroughly heating the plum tames its tartness and brings out the underlying piquant flavor—perfect for jams and jellies, pies and crumbles, or other British puddings.
The spicy tones of the fruit emerge particularly well in a hot fruit sauce or chutney, paired with strong meats like seasonal autumn lamb or a duck confit. And the most traditional preparation results in a “damson cheese”: not a dairy at all, but a thick, pectin-heavy spread, thicker than jelly and, not unlike a quince paste, cut with a knife.
While the BBC offers recipes
for many of the above, the damson’s most prized use may be in the bottle. Fermenting the damson results in a fruity, deep red wine, while infusing gin with the plum (ŕ la
sloe gin) yields a sweet, pungent liqueur.
Damsons are just now cropping up in stores, available throughout the country—though, as always, the freshest are found at the farmer’s market, like New York’s Union Square Greenmarket, pictured above. Their season is short, so the time is ripe for finding, fermenting, and preserving, stretching the damson long past its time in the sun.