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This Chinese Damson Sauce is a natural substitute for your regular Hoisin sauce. Except this version is more fruity, layered with spices and completely gluten-free.
If you are looking for me lately then it’s more than likely you will find me stuck up a damson tree, waist deep in blackberry bushes or halfway down the ravine on Parkland Walk checking on the inconveniently placed crab apple tree. At the moment I’m sitting patiently waiting for the rosehips to come into their own as my empty jam jars are crying out for a bit of rosehip jelly. I might have mentioned once or twice that I’m really getting into this foraging business and it has been so surprising to me how much wonderful fruit is available to us on our urban doorstep in North London.
When a friend told me about the local damson tree a few roads down, I was there in a flash. By the time I arrived I was already a bit too late for some of the fruit which had fallen heedlessly from the branches to be squashed underfoot by busy pedestrians. Gah, that was at least two gallons of jam right there on the pavement.
Whilst we were shimmying up the tree trunk we were informed by a passer-by that everyday there is usually someone picking the damsons, so we are certainly not the only ones benefiting from the tree’s generosity. We’ve visited it a few times now and it could probably provide fruit for the whole of North London, there are just so many damsons.
What are damsons?
Damsons are small purple stone fruits, very similar to plums. Their season is short and you can usually find them appearing in the late summer. They are rarely sold in supermarkets so your best bet is farmers' markets or foraging for them yourself. Once you start noticing them you'll soon find damson trees can grow pretty much anywhere in the UK.
How do you pick damsons?
Picking damsons from tree branches is no easy task. If you don't fancy shimmying up the branches then lay a big groundsheet underneath the tree and give the branches a good shake. You can then collect the ripe fruit straight from the sheet. Your stash will build up very quickly.
The best way to look for damson recipes is to search under plums. Anything you can do with a plum you can do with a damson, although it would be wise to add a touch more sugar as damsons are rather tart; they are not the sort of fruit you would eat plucked straight from the tree.
The other issue with damsons is their stones. They are practically impossible, as far as I can tell, to de-stone before cooking and the best way is to cook down the damsons, sieve the juice out of the way, then sift through the pulp by hand to remove each stone. It’s a bit of a labour but worthwhile if you like your damsons.
Want another damson recipe? What about this Damson Orange Cinnamon Jam?
How to make Chinese Damson Sauce
- Cook the damsons in a splash of water until they have broken down. Remove from the heat, sift through and remove the stones.
- Add the damsons, along with the rest of the ingredients, into a large preserving pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 30 minutes.
- Pour everything into a blender and whizz up until very smooth.
- Pour back into the preserving pan, bring back to a boil then remove from heat.
- Decant into sterilised jars.
How to use Chinese Damson Sauce
This Chinese Damson Sauce is an absolute winner and is of course a natural fit for serving with your crispy duck and pancakes, but it’s more versatile than that:
Swap your regular supermarket Hoisin sauce, Oyster sauce or Black Bean sauce for this Chinese Damson Sauce.
Serve with these Crispy Duck Summer Rolls
Use as a dipping sauce for wantons, sesame toasts or grilled chicken.
Tip on Sweetness
I was quite reserved on the sugar in this recipe, adding only as much as I needed to remove the upfront damson tang. For someone who practically lives on cakes I don’t like anything to be overly sweet, but if you like your condiments a little sweeter then taste after blending and add more sugar before the final boil if needed. Make sure the sugar has dissolved before decanting.
If you like this Chinese Damson Sauce then try this equally amazing Blackberry Hoisin Sauce.
If you make this Chinese Damson Sauce then please leave a comment below and/or give the recipe a rating. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own baking creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.
Chinese Damson Sauce
- 1 kg damsons
- 150 g pitted prunes
- 1 onion - chopped
- 2 cloves garlic - chopped
- 1 inch fresh ginger - peeled and diced
- 225 g soft light brown sugar
- 120 ml rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 star anise
- ¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
- ¼ teaspoon schezuan pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Place the damsons in a large preserving pan and cook them for about 10 minutes with 100ml water, until they are soft and the stones popping out.
- The easiest way to remove the stones is to strain the damsons, spread the pulp out on a large plate then pick through all the pulp carefully with food grade gloves to remove each stone. Place the de-stoned pulp and the damson juice back into the preserving pan.
- Add all the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Pour everything into a blender and blitz until smooth.
- Pour the sauce back into the preserving pan, taste for seasoning and bring back to a gentle boil.
- Remove from the heat and decant into sterilised jars.