How to make: Wild Damson and Pear Crumble

 

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longdamson

Wild damsons have a mind of their own. According to those who know, the last good season for them in Ireland was the fall of 2014, that is until now. I was on my bike, heading over to Marl Bog lake to pick blackberries, when I came upon the wild trees on the side of the country road. Deep plum coloured fruits, the size of engorged grapes were hanging heavy on the branches. Instinctively I knew there were damsons, even though I hadn’t seen them in the wild before now. I plucked two with a few leaves & headed onwards to pick the first of the blackberries.

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On returning home, I checked with my wild fruit taster, my father, who confirmed they were indeed the rare wild damson. The taste was akin to a greengage plum but deeper & with a pleasant sourness. Back on my bike the next evening, I headed off to collect a bounty of them, with damson jam & crumble being the plan.

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Autumn crumble is really one of the finest puddings there are. It is simple, warming & delicious. I chose pear to accompany the damsons, their soft sweetness is a good countermeasure & once poached they hold their shape & add a little bite to the ripe softness of the damson fruit. Cooked first in a pan with a little butter & sugar, the damson juices flow and burst & a wild aroma fills your kitchen. The de-stoning is little finicky, but your fingertips will be a gorgeous colour which your childhood self would appreciate.

The deep warm purple stickiness, warming spices & buttery sugary crumble laden in a bowl filled with cream or custard is truly one of my favourite autumnal recipes. Serve with a big pot of tea, curled up somewhere comfy with good company or book & hopefully you will feel the same.

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For the pears:

  • 3 just ripe pears
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 5/6 cloves

For the damsons:

  • 450g wild damson fruit
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of water

For the crumble topping:

  • 175g plain flour
  • 25g almond flour
  • 25g porridge oats
  • 110 butter (chilled from the fridge) & cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • A grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
  • 50g soft brown caster sugar
  • 60g demerara sugar

Preheat your oven to 180℃ & lightly butter your crumble dish. I used a shallow rectangular ceramic dish measuring about 26cm x17 cm.  First poach your pears.

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  1. Wash, peel, & quarter your pears, removing the pips & any hard bits. Bring a 1L pot of water to the boil.  Take off & stir in your sugar until dissolved. Pop in your cloves.  Turn the heat down to a medium & add in your pears quarters.
  2. Cut out a circle of parchment paper & place on top of the pan, covering the pears. Poke a little hole in the center. This will prevent the fruit from browning.
  3. Leave to simmer for between 9-13 minutes depending on the ripeness. (A paring knife will go through a pear/apple piece with ease when done).

Take off the heat & keep covered with the parchment paper until ready to use.  Next prepare your damsons.

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  1. Place your damsons in a large shallow pan. Add in the sugar, butter & water & cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, giving a quick stir. You just want the juice to start to release into the pan, the skin will just be about to burst & a lovely smell will fill the air.

Take off the heat & leave to cool a little while you prepare the crumble topping.

crumbletopping

  1. Add your flour, almond flour, porridge oats & spices (cinnamon, nutmeg & mixed spice) into a large bowl & give a quick stir with your hands.
  2. Rub the cubed butter into the flour with your fingertips until you have texture of coarse breadcrumbs with some little larger lumps of butter.
  3. Add in your caster & demerara sugar to the bowl & stir together with your hands.

Now go back to your damsons, they should be cool enough by now.

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Using your fingers (or a small paring knife), carefully remove the stones, trying to waste as little as the flesh as you can.

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Drain off your poached pears & place the pear quarters into the bottom of your crumble dish. Spoon the damsons on top, including the stick juice from the pan.

Add the crumble mixture on top & bake in the oven for about 35 minutes. The crumble will be a golden brown & some juices should be bursting through.

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Serve warm with lashings of something creamy & enjoy. Best to eat most that night & if some is left over, tuck into it for breakfast.

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