Every year, damson season feels too short. Thank goodness for preserves! Here is my basic recipe for damson jelly. Damson jelly is often likened to a good wine, in that it’s complex flavour profile just keeps going. Jars should last a year, from one season to the next, although they never last that long in our house!

an open jar of damson jelly with a spoon in it beside some toast with butter and damson jelly

What are damsons?

Damsons are a small blue/black subtype of plum, with much more intense flavour. The skins are tart, but once cooked and sugar is added, the deep fruit flavour is incredible. They can spotted growing wild in British hedgerows but it is Cumbria that is famous for its damson orchards, some thought to have been established in the 18th century.

Telling the difference between plums and damsons can be tricky, but typically damsons are smaller, have less of a distinctive longitudinal groove, and the skin tastes much more astringent.

Damsons growing with cut tree branch and leaves


Jelly is jam that has all the fruit pulp stained. Damsons lend perfectly to jelly since it is best to cook them with their stones, for two reasons. Firstly, the stones are a great source of pectin. Secondly, they deliver a more complex flavour to the final jelly. The stones and the rest of the fruit pulp gets strained out, leaving a dark juice that turns into clear gleaming jewel like jelly. It just takes sugar and boiling.

Damsons cut in half with stone intact placed in a big stainless steel saucepan

Eating damson jelly

My favourite is on warm toast with lashings of butter, but equally great topped on cakes and pastries. If you are into cocktails, here is a link to a damson sour cocktail recipe. I’m a recent convert to jam cocktails – try it and you’ll see why!

Damson jelly preserve

Damson preserve
Prep Time1 hour
Active Time2 hours
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: British
Keyword: Jam, Jelly, preserves
Yield: 10 200 ml jars
Cost: £1.20 (for sugar)


  • jam themometer
  • big saucepan
  • jelly strainer


  • 2 kg damsons
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • variable amount granulated sugar 1:1 ratio of sugar to juice (500 g of sugar for 500 m lof juice)


  • Wash and cut the damsons in half, leaving the stones intact, and place them with 350 ml of water in a stewing pot with the lemon juice.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 40 – 50 minutes until soft.
  • Place the fruit and liquid into jelly strainer and leave to strain for a few hours until the fruit looks reasonably dry.
  • Measure the liquid and return to the pan and bring to the boil. For every 500 ml of juice, add 500 g of granulated sugar, and stir it until dissolved.
  • Here is a good time to sterilise your jars and lids. Wash in warm soapy water and rinse well, then place in the oven and bring the temperature to 150 degrees celcius for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, the liquid should be continuously boiling. Skim any surface skum with a spoon.
  • Let the liquid and sugar reach a approximate temperature of 105 degrees Celcius. Test the jelly is ready to set by doing the wrinkle test. This is putting a teaspoon of jelly on a cold plate and leaving it to cool for a few minutes. If you run your finger through it and it wrinkles like it has formed a skin like in the video below. Once you replicate this wrinke test the jelly will set and you can pour it into sterilised jars.