Damson Plum Sorbet

November 2, 2020 | © 2020 Biterkin

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Damson plums are the fruit I become super-obsessed with, when they appear at the farmers’ market in October. And although I prefer making sorbets out of uncooked fruit to preserve their natural taste, Damson plums are an exception, as their flavour deepens and becomes more aromatic when they are cooked, making for an incredibly tasty sorbet.

In this recipe we briefly cook the plums with the sugar on the stovetop until they are softened and their flavour deepens. We only use two ingredients: plums and sugar, but the results are incredible thanks to some tricks I have developed over the years. The resulting Damson sorbet is one that smells and tastes divine when you pull it out of the freezer; it has a lovely, smooth body and a velvety consistency which keeps well for weeks .

The only challenge I had to overcome when creating this recipe, was to make the plum skins as fine as possible, whether you own a powerful blender or not (I don’t). But after some trials, I have come as close as possible to a very smooth finish, without adding fuss in the process, like straining and reblending. You can read more about it below.

The Biterkin details for a perfect Plum Sorbet:

The flavour of the Damson plums is largely in their skin; so for this sorbet we leave them with the skin on. The problem you may encounter with the skins is that even after blending, they mostly remain intact – unless you have a powerful blender which you trust to puree everything (I don’t).

For this reason I have added one extra step to the process, which is to chop them into particularly fine pieces before cooking (see step 1 of recipe). This still leaves some tiny pieces of skin, but trust me that no one will mind, as they are tiny and the resulting sorbet is incredibly tasty. Of course, you can skip the chopping if you do not mind some larger pieces of skin in your final sorbet.

Note: do not be tempted to strain and discard the plum skins, as this will disturb the balance of this ice cream and will affect proper churning.

Most recipes add water to the plums and sugar during cooking. My guess is that they do so to help the sugar dissolve. But it is unnecessary, as during cooking the heat applied makes the plums release their juices, which provides the perfect liquid environment for the sugar to dissolve. One more reason to avoid adding water is that it dilutes the plums’ flavours. And we want to keep them as loud as possible.

But beware, do not go to the other extreme and cook the plums longer (or uncovered) in order to cook out their natural water and concentrate the plum flavours, as the escaping water will result in more sugars in the final sorbet mixture, which will get in the way of churning and will result in a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy sorbet. 

During cooking the plums with the sugar, a syrup forms into the saucepan. This syrup should be scraped and chilled with the plums, as it is the secret for a fluffy plum sorbet: before blending the plums, we reserve 1/3 cup of this syrup and keep it cold. The rest of the syrup will be blended with the plums. The 1/3 cup will be added during the last stages of churning. 

Why we do this: this syrup is mostly sugars. Too much sugar in the sorbet mixture prevents it from fluffing up during churning. Less sugar will make the ice cream icy. To achieve the right amount of sugar, without getting in the way of the fluffiness during churning, we keep 1/3 cup of the syrup aside and add it in the sorbet at the last stages of churning, after it has fluffed up and we have achieved the desired consistency.

If we add the syrup from the beginning, these extra sugars will get in the way of churning and will result to a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy sorbet. If on the other hand, we do not add it at all, the plum sorbet will not have enough sugars and it will get an icy mouthfeel.

One more reason to do this, is that plums, as a product of nature they are, may have a slightly different sugar content, depending their origin, ripeness etc. The syrup reserving method ensures that the plum sorbet will fluff up, no matter the fruits’ slight variations on sugar content.

Ok, this might be a no-brainer, but how many times  have you been asked in a recipe to blend the whole thing (solid and liquid ingredients), only to be left with chunks of the solids intact?

Blending has its tricks too, and for a smoother sorbet, blend methodically: strain the plums to separate the solids (plum chunks) from the liquid (syrup). Proceed with the recipe as described and when ready to blend, start with the solid (plum chunks); with the blender on, add just as much syrup as needed to get it going. Leave to blend for one full minute and then gradually add the rest of the syrup, stopping the blender and scraping it with a rubber spatula, if needed.

TIP: If you are after an extra smooth sorbet, you can strain the mixture after blending and reblend the solids which are left on the strainer. Add them to the strained pulp and mix well. (I rarely do so).

The ingredients:

You will only need two ingredients:

to show ingredients damson plum sorbet

• Plums:

I used Damson plums, which take on a rich, aromatic flavour when cooked. For the smoothest sorbet possible, it is best to cut the plums in tiny pieces. Cutting is easier when they are soft but still firm, so avoid very soft plums, as they are harder to handle.

• Sugar:

  regular sugar (granulated) is the best option for this recipe. DO NOT use sugar substitutes, such as table sweeteners or stevia. Also, DO NOT use confectioner’s sugar, it is not suitable for this recipe.

The recipe at a glance:
show steps 1_2 damson plum sorbet recipe
show steps 3_4 damson plum sorbet recipe
show step 5 damson plum sorbet recipe
Damson Plum Sorbet recipe
Ingredients:

You will need a scale to accurately measure the ingredients.

For this recipe. I cannot provide you with a trustworthy measurement in cups, as plums are impossible to measure in volume. The weight given (1000 gr/35.3 oz) is for stoned plums, with skin on; and it is important that it is accurate, in order to achieve the right amount of sugars in the final sorbet. This will result in a perfect plum sorbet.

I used Damson plums, which take on a rich, aromatic flavour when cooked. You could possibly  use any other plum variety you like, but I cannot tell how aromatic the final sorbet will be.

The amount of fruit asked for in the ingredients is for stoned plums, with their skin on. Do not remove the skin, as it carries much of the plum’s flavour. 

For the smoothest sorbet possible, prefer to further cut the plum halves into tiny pieces, as described on step 1. Cutting is easier when they are soft but still firm. If possible, avoid very ripe and soft plums, as they are harder to handle.

Regular white sugar is just perfect for this recipe, but if you are using Damson plums, you can also use a raw cane sugar (like Demerara or Turbinado), as their flavours match beautifully.

DO NOT use sugar substitutes, such as table sweeteners or stevia. Also, do not use confectioner’s sugar, it is not suitable for this recipe. 

I love how some lemon peel enhances the flavours of the cooked Damson plums. But if you use lemon peel, it will be difficult to fish out after cooking, as it becomes purple. For this reason I add half a lemon, which works just fine, too.

For warmer aromatic notes, you can replace the lemon with a cinnamon stick. Or use both, if you like, just don’t forget to remove them before blending.

It is important to use the right amount of sugar in this recipe, in order to achieve the perfect texture. For this reason, be extra attentive in each and every step, so that you have the least loss of sugar and fruit possible throughout the process.

This means that you should be extra attentive when you transfer the ingredients from one utensil to the other: take care that no trace of sugar/syrup/mixture is left behind. Using a flexible silicone spatula to scrape the residues is always effective.

Instructions

Before starting, make sure that your ice cream maker is ready for churning when needed. This means that if it has a removable freezer bowl, it should be put in the freezer for the whole time indicated by the manufacturer, usually 24 hours.

Step 1: Cut the plums

Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut each plum half into tiny pieces. To do so, turn the plum half, cut side facing downwards. First cut in thin strips lengthwise and then cross-sectional to create tiny pieces. Note that it is the skin that you aim to cut as fine as possible, not the flesh.

Note: You can omit this step and cut each half into 8 pieces, if you do not mind larger pieces of plum skin in the final sorbet; or if you have an extra-powerful blender which you can trust to create a very smooth plum puree.

Step 2: Cook the plums

In a large saucepan, put the plums and the sugar, along with the lemon half, if using. Cook over medium heat, stirring often. When all the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to medium-high. When it comes to a boil, cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes. 

Remove from the heat and let cool down, covered for one hour. Then uncover and let come to room temperature before chilling.

Step 3: Chill the plums

Before blending and churning, you have to thoroughly chill the plum mixture first, using one of the two methods below (click to read more): 

Cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours, until thoroughly cold.

Put the plum pieces and the juices in a sealable bag.

Seal the bag and cover with lots of ice in a large container. Leave for 3-4 hours to thoroughly chill.

Before blending and churning, check if it is cold enough:

• an instant-read thermometer in the syrup should read 4ºC – 8ºC (39ºF-46ºF).

• if no thermometer is available, check with your index finger; the syrup should feel fridge-cold to the touch. 

If needed, add more ice and leave until thoroughly chilled.

Cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours, until thoroughly cold.

Put the plum pieces and the juices in a sealable bag.

Seal the bag and cover with lots of ice in a large container. Leave for 3-4 hours to thoroughly chill.

Before blending and churning, check if it is cold enough:

• an instant-read thermometer in the syrup should read 4ºC – 8ºC (39ºF-46ºF).

• if no thermometer is available, check with your index finger; the syrup should feel fridge-cold to the touch. 

If needed, add more ice and leave until thoroughly chilled.

Step 4: Blend the chilled plums

Strain the plum pieces and put them in the blender.

From the syrup that is left after straining, measure out 75 gr/ml (2.6 oz. ; 1/3 cup) and put in a jug; place it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. This will be added later, in step 4, during the last minutes of churning.

Keep the rest of the syrup that has been left in the bowl close to the blender. Blend the plums till pureed at high speed for one minute. Stop and scrap with a rubber spatula, if needed. When the mixture is nice and smooth, gradually pour the syrup (that has been left in the bowl), scraping the residues with a rubber spatula.

Increase the speed to high and blend for two minutes.

Prepare the ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not leave the blended plums at room temperature for too long, as they will get warmer. If needed, put them back in the refrigerator until ready to churn.

Step 5: Churn the Damson plum sorbet

With the machine running, pour all of the blended Damson plum mixture into the ice cream maker. Scrape the bottom of the blender to remove as much as you can.

Churn until the plum sorbet is fluffed up. Depending on your ice cream maker, this may take anywhere from 40-60 minutes. 

When the plum sorbet seems to have reached its final texture (doesn’t appear to change any more in texture), remove the jug with the reserved syrup from the refrigerator and, with the machine on, start pouring it in the plum sorbet, a little at a time.

Leave it for a full 10 minutes more to churn and until the syrup is fully incorporated in the plum sorbet. If needed, when you stop the machine, you can mix with a rubber spatula to fully incorporate it. 

Switch off the ice cream maker and remove its bowl keeping the Damson plum sorbet inside; put it in the freezer, as per instructions in step 5.

Step 5: Put in the freezer to set

Cover the ice cream maker’s bowl (with the sorbet in it) with a lid and place it in the freezer.

Leave for 5-6 hours; or until the Damson plum sorbet sets.

After that, you can serve it; or transfer to a sealable container for long term storing.

Storage

This Damson plum sorbet, like all artisanal sorbets, freezes hard in the long term.

To soften it to a scoopable consistency, put it in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. 

Discard after one month of keeping in the freezer.

Questions and answers:

When churning with a domestic ice cream maker, your sorbet mixture should always be thoroughly chilled. Otherwise, your ice cream maker may not be able to churn the sorbet to its fullest potential, resulting in a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy sorbet.

  • Why should I put the ice cream in the freezer right after churning?

Straight after churning, the sorbet has a soft-serve consistency and melts immediately upon contact with anything. This makes it impossible to serve or transfer to another container.

Putting it directly in the freezer for 5-6 hours after churning, will help it set and reach the right consistency.

Then you can serve it or transfer to a sealable container for longer storing.

It is important to use the right amount of sugar in this recipe, in order to achieve the perfect texture. For this reason, be extra attentive in each and every step, so that you have the least loss of sugar and fruit possible throughout the process.

This means that you should be extra attentive when you transfer the ingredients from one utensil to the other: take care that no trace of sugar/syrup/mixture is left behind. Using a flexible silicone spatula to scrape the residues is always effective.

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