Large plums are difficult to use for infusions because they tend to rot before they are permeated with sufficient sugar and alcohol to preserve them, and cutting plums in half will just make the drink cloudy. But small plums, particularly damsons, work extremely well in an infusion, like their sloe relatives.
Damsons are naturally palatable and damson gin or vodka is likewise palatable and much more quickly so than the sloe equivalent, as the fruit lacks the tannin that gives the latter its astringency. Wild damsons are found in late summer/early autumn but since the fruit is only locally abundant most people will rely on home-grown or the shop for their supply.
If you are a keen forager you should consider the cherry plum. These, as their name suggests, are plums that look like cherries (not the other way round). They are increasingly common these days, as beneficent highway authorities have taken to planting them along roadsides. They are highly conspicuous because of the enormous number of colourful fruit they produce for several weeks during high summer.
Both red and yellow varieties are found, with orange fruit seen on rare occasions. Nevertheless people often pass them by as unknowns, to fall on the pavement in a squashy mess. Like all plums, the quality of the fruit varies from tree to tree and year to year with no clue as to what one will taste like from appearance alone. Sometimes they are quite bland so make sure you select those which are fruity or even a little under-ripe.
- Yield: 600 ml
- 280 g damsons or cherry plums
- 140 g sugar
- 600 ml vodka
- Put the damsons or cherry plums and sugar in a 1-litre Kilner jar, top up with vodka nearly to the brim, close the lid and shake. Store in a dark cupboard, shaking once every day until the sugar has all dissolved.
- Decant the liqueur from the plums after 3 months and bottle. Allow to mature for a year or so before drinking. Eat the plums with ice cream.