While recently searching for ways to use up the sack of damsons I was given by a friend, and tired of making chutney and jam, I re-discovered this amazingly easy-to-make but seriously tasty spread. I find Nutella much too rich and I've grown an aversion to vegetable oil in various products. This is less greasy (the only fat comes from the cocoa), and considerably less sweet. The damsons replace the greasiness of the nuts and oil with a more grown-up after-taste of fruity tartness, and the genuine taste of chocolate dominates and means that delicious as this is, you're not going to eat huge quantities of it before feeling sated.
There's a bit of political history attached to this recipe.
Back in the 1970s when Nutella hazelnut and chocolate spread was conquering the world and kids' palates, one part of the world it didn't reach was Eastern Europe.
While some rough chocolate did get through to that market, there were chronic shortages of almost all of the other ingredients, and of course of the branded product itself. However, those inventive and improvising Poles came up with a replacement for the hard-to-find nuts and sugar, and developed an alternative. it was never sold in shops and doesn't have a brand name, but most Polish families with children in 70s were aware of this.
I made this last week and as usual with my experiments took photos of the process but something went wrong and I've lost all the pics. I've managed to find some some replacements online which will have to do...
2.5kg damsons, bullaces or plums, or combination thereof
200g quality cocoa powder (or 300g high cocoa-solid [70%+] chocolate)
Handful of nuts of your choice
1 stick cinnamon or one teaspoon ground cinnamon
First pit your damsons. this is going to take a long time, as the stones are proportionately quite large, and the flesh is usually fairly tightly stuck to them.
Put the damson flesh through a mincer, grinder or blender until finely puréed, together with chopped nuts (if used).
Empty the purée into a thick-bottomed 5-litre stainless steel saucepan.
Stir in 1kg sugar, mix well.
Add cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon, if using.
Put on low simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Surprising as it may seem, this will not stick to the pan and can be left for extended periods without stirring. The stirring is just to keep the liqiuid and solids well mixed.
After 90 minutes, take out a spoonful of the mixture, allow to cool and taste for sweetness, tartness and texture. (Beware, the liquid out of the pot will be around boiling temperature!) Depending on the ripeness of your fruit and your own taste preference, stir in up to 500g more sugar.
Continue simmering for another 30 minutes if you did not add sugar, or 60 minutes if you did.
Add cocoa powder or chocolate broken into pieces, and stir well with a whisk until completel dissolved.
Stir in vanilla extract.
Continue simmering for another 10 minutes until the cocoa has cooked through and lost its raw bitterness.
In the meantime, wash, sterilise and dry six 500ml jars (see instructions provided in eafrlier blogs, or look them up online)
If desired, put mixture through blender/liquidiser again to make it super-smooth, return to pan and simmer for five minutes.
Pour into the sterilised jars, cover with cellophane circles and tighten covers.
Ready to eat immediately, warm or cold, as a spread on bread or cakes, as a filling for doughnuts or spooned on pancakes!
This spread does not want pasteurising/proofing (boiling would ruin the chocolate), and will keep for up to three months in a cool dark larder or cupboard. Once opened, store in fridge (unlike Nutella, which should never be refrigerated!) and use within two weeks.
Enjoy! I certainly do!