Saturday, 12 September 2009

Planning ahead

When fruit and vegetables are cropping abundantly, as they do at this time of the year, it is easy to find yourself living in the here and now, dealing with the gluts as quickly as possible to process it before harvesting yet more. Planning ahead under these circumstances can mean simply deciding which order to make the preserves in in order to use the fruit and vegetables before they go over.

This week I had both apples and plums vying for my immediate attention as the fruit ripened to the point of falling off the trees. Any picked fruit rapidly went mouldy in the late summer warmth. So on Tuesday I made hot and spicy plum chutney, on Wednesday apple and ginger jam, Thursday confetti relish and Friday brown sauce.

With so much time spent in the kitchen it is hard to find time for the garden but time must be found or the last of the growing season will be wasted. It amazes me every year how quickly the weather changes. Very quickly, with the shortening of the day length, the temperatures drop sharply at night and gradually fail to warm much during the day. Still, the soil is warm and anything sown will germinate quickly so there is the chance of a few weeks of growth before the frosts.

So today I took a break from the kitchen and sowed some quick growing peas and beans in small troughs and put them on my conservatory windowsill. I also sowed a tray of salad leaves for the windowsill too. The conservatory is north facing so doesn't get a lot of light but hopefully they will grow just a bit beyond the frosts when the other beans and peas have succumbed. I've not tried it before so we'll just have to wait and see but my conservatory tomatoes did extremely well in the spring so I'm hopeful.

Tomorrow will be time to get in some autumn onion sets and a few winter leaves such as corn salad, spinach, hardy lettuce, land cress and leaf beet. And hopefully when the current glut is bottled, frozen and eaten I will be grateful for my forward planning and will be able to continue to harvest fresh vegetables.

Hot and Spicy Plum Chutney

2 lb (900g) plums
1½ pints (1 litre) white wine vinegar
1½ lb (675g) granulated sugar
1 dessert spoon of Lazy Chilli (prepared chilli in a jar)
2 oz (55g) garlic (crushed)
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 oz (25g) salt

De-stone and chop the plums. Cook the plums in vinegar until soft. Add all the other ingredients and cook for about one and a half hours until thick. Ladle into warmed jars and seal immediately.

Apple and Ginger Jam

3 lb (1400 g) apples
16½ fl oz (450 ml) water
3 lb 6 oz (1570 g) sugar
6 oz (170 g) stem ginger
3 tbsp stem ginger syrup
NB: Every pound of apples requires 1 lb 2 oz sugar, 5½ fl oz water, 2 oz stem ginger and 1 tbsp ginger syrup.

Peel, cut the apples into quarters and core. Place in a preserving pan with the water and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer the apples for about 10 minutes until they are soft and pulpy. In the meantime warm the sugar and cut the stem ginger into small pieces. Once the fruit is cooked add the sugar, ginger and the syrup to the fruit and stir over a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Boil rapidly for 5 to 8 minutes until the setting point in reached. Ladle into warmed jars and seal immediately.

Confetti Relish

2 lb (900g) courgette
1 large onion
2 oz (55g) red cabbage
1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 handful of loose sweetcorn
2 teaspoons of celery seeds
2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
2 teaspoons of mustard powder
1 lb (450g) light brown sugar
15 fl oz (425ml) white wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons cornflour
Ground black pepper

Use a food processor to finely chop the courgettes, onion and red cabbage. Place the chopped vegetables in a bowl, layered with salt and stand over night. Drain the water and rinse the vegetables. Pat dry with kitchen paper then place in a preserving pan. Chop the peppers and add these and all of the other ingredients to the preserving pan. Place jars in a cool oven. Heat the mixture and stir constantly until thick then transfer into warmed jars and seal immediately.

Brown Sauce

4 lb ( 1815g) apples
1 lb (454g) plums
2 large onions
2 pints (1300ml) water
3 pints (2000 ml) malt vinegar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 oz (55g) salt
2 lb (900g) light brown sugar

Peel and core the apples and cut into pieces. Halve and remove the stones from the plums and cut into pieces. Peel the onion and finely chop. Put the fruit and vegetables into a preserving pan and pour in the water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10-20 minutes until the fruit is soft and pulpy. Blend in batches until smooth in a blender then return the puree to the preserving pan. Add all the other ingredients and bring back to the boil then simmer until thick. Remove from the heat and transfer into warmed bottles and seal immediately.

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