It’s a misty Sunday morning and I’m listening to my sausage dog doing her utmost to try and get a sleepy Olive to play with her. She does this thing where she bites at Olive’s legs, then runs around in mad speedy circles until she starts chasing her, it’s been entertaining me for over three years.
Sometimes I wonder if a lot of what they do is for my personal entertainment, they love seeing humans laugh just as much as we do I think. It must look quite funny from two feet off the ground, a row of top teeth, several chins, a nose and a weird cackling sound, I’d probably be a bit of a joker too if I was a dog.
No matter what I’m up to; mucking the horses out, pulling up ragwort, pruning hedges, writing blogs or drinking wine my two little companions are here beside me, even when I’ve asked them to stay in their bed. You can never be lonely with dogs around, and as you can see from the photo below, they also helped me find and then pick my damsons!
Damson Gin has to be one of my absolute favourites when it comes to hip flask tipples. I think I first tried it because some people who used to keep a horse on the yard gave us some for Christmas many moons ago. Making your own gin can be a fantastic gift, it’s relatively cheap depending on what gin you choose and it’s really easy to make it look presentable. I’ve even been to weddings where the favours were mini bottles of their homemade damson gin, such a nice touch.
I have included a photo of what damsons look like on the hedge because I think they’re a bit rarer than sloes in this area and that often makes them tricky to spot. You need to get onto your damson picking as soon as possible ideally because farmers are currently busy cutting hedges. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite saying that because I usually tell people to wait until after the first frost but they’ll be long gone by then.
Aim to go on a walk where there are plenty of hedgerows, there are rules and etiquette when it comes to foraging but I’d opt for the ‘If no one is around, no one will know’ approach – just don’t make any damage. While walking along hedges, look for a spiky tree within the gaps, damsons are more of a tree fruit than a hedge fruit but they’re most commonly found in hedgerows…confusing.
The name damson comes from the Latin (prunum) Damascenum which means plum of Damascus, the capital of modern-day Syria, where it’s thought that the Romans harvested the fruit before bringing it over to England.
How I make Damson Gin:
You say naturist, I say naturalist, go for a walk and find yourself some juicy damsons.
Once you have a good punnet load, return home, wash and clean your fruit then put it into a bag and straight into the freezer, leave for a few days.
Go gin shopping, I used a litre of Waitrose own brand London Gin, £17.50. You will also need a nice glass bottle that fits damsons through the top…I often use an Old Rosie cider cask for this as they are the perfect size and the lid’s nice and secure for when you’re shaking the contents.
Retrieve your lovely sloes from the freezer, allow to defrost before putting them in your container of choice. Cover in a generous amount of granulated sugar, I think the actual amount should be somewhere close to 400g to a litre of gin but I think as long as it’s almost covering the fruit then it’s plenty.
Give the dry contents a good shake then cover in your gin of choice, put the lid on and give everything a vigorous shaking.
You need to keep the bottle somewhere dark and cool but also in a place that will remind you to shake it daily. After around a week, your gin will start to go lovely and pink and by Christmas you can distil it into lovely labelled bottles for gifts or personal drinking.
To distil, simple pour the contents through a muslin into a jug, it’s all really very easy, the hardest part is finding the damsons.