For gardeners who grow vegetables and fruit, this is the time of abundance, a period of joy and frustration in equal measure. At last the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of all that digging and hoeing but often there are simply not enough meal times to use up every last scrap.
I feel horribly guilty if any gets wasted, although inevitably despite my best efforts some of the produce goes over the top. It cheers me up to know that at least it ends up on the compost heap and eventually goes back on to the earth to make the soil even more fertile for next year’s crops.
I keep adding to my store of preserving recipes, jams, pickles, chutneys, jellies, cordials, alcohols, flavoured vinegars, fruit cheeses…..
So many exciting options, our repertoire of basic recipes are fine but the fun begins when one starts to experiment by adding spices, fresh herbs and chillies and playing around with flavour combinations.
I recently across came across Diana Henry’s book Salt, Sugar, Smoke – it’s really good, fab photos and lots of irresistible recipes using salt, sugar and smoke. So as the title promises there are lots of salted cured and potted dishes, jellies and jams of course but there are also cordials, fruit and chilli alcohols, lemonades and sherbets as well as chutneys, relishes and pickles and simple smoked foods.
Diana has a growing fan base from her earlier books, Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons, Cook Simple and Food From Plenty. She was named cookery writer of the year by the UK Guild of Food Writers on two occasions for her column in the Sunday Telegraph Stella Magazine.
Try the Moroccan spiced chutney or the Apple and Lavender Jelly with the first of the windfall apples. Anyone who grows gorgeous white peaches in a green house or tunnel knows how difficult it is to pick them without bruising. It’s usually a feast or a famine but if you have a surplus you can discard the bruised bits and try the white peach and raspberry jam recipe. I loved it and added some fresh mint but it’s delicious on its own.
White peach and raspberry jam
Lovely to look at as it’s being made and, of course, fragrant as the scent of raspberries and white peaches blend. You can make it with yellow peaches, but it’s not as good. This jam has less sugar than is traditional, so is fresh, fruity and tart. You can add a sprig of lavender or lemon thyme.
Fills 9 x 225g (8oz) jars
900g (2lb) white peaches
600g (1lb 5oz) raspberries]
1kg (2lb 4oz) granulated sugar with pectin
juice of 2 lemons
Plunge the peaches, in batches, into a pan of boiling water for one minute. Quickly remove them, run cold water over and peel off the skins. Halve, stone and cut each half into slices.
Put the peaches into a preserving pan with the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice. Gently heat, stirring to help the sugar dissolve. Once it has dissolved, whack the heat up and bring to a boil. Boil steadily until the setting point is reached (check on a sugar thermometer and do the wrinkle test as
well, skimming off any scum that rises.
Leave to cool for about 10 minutes, so the seeds end up well distributed, then pot in warm, dry sterilized jars, cover with waxed paper discs and seal. This keeps for a year; refrigerate once opened.
Apple and lavender jelly
Apple acts as the basis for many flavoured jellies, both sweet and savoury. They are so high in pectin that they produce a jelly that is easy to set, and their flavour doesn’t dominate when you mix it with other things. You can make plain apple jelly, but herbs and spices mean you have a whole array of flavours to use with different meats: lavender and rosemary for lamb, sage for
pork, for example. I prefer savoury apple jellies made with cider vinegar (so they have a sweet acid tang) but some people prefer them sweet. Properly sweet ones to be served with muffins and scones (like the Fireside Apple Jelly below and the Rose Jelly, see page 54) are made with water (add enough just to cover the apples) rather than vinegar.
Fills 7 x 500g (1lb 2oz) jars
2.5kg (5lb 8oz) cooking apples
3 sprigs of fresh lavender, plus small sprigs
for each pot
1.3 litres (2¼ pints) cider vinegar
about 1.3kg (3lb) granulated sugar
1 Cut the apples into chunks – no need to peel or core them, though remove any bruised bits – and cover with 1.5 litres (2 pints 13fl oz) of water. Add the lavender. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the apples are completely soft (about 45 minutes).
2 Add the vinegar and cook for another five minutes. Pour the mixture into a jelly bag suspended over a large bowl, and leave overnight. Do not press the apples or you’ll get a cloudy jelly.
3 Measure the liquid. For every 600ml (1 pint), you will need 450g (1lb) of sugar. Put the liquid into a preserving pan with the sugar and heat gently, stirring to help the sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil and boil until the setting point is reached on a thermometer (and do the wrinkle test, see page 11).
Skim off any scum.
4 Ladle into warm, dry sterilized jars. Put a sprig of lavender in each. Cover with waxed paper discs and seal. While it is setting, shake it so the lavender doesn’t stay at the top. This keeps for a year; refrigerate once opened.
Moroccan-spiced apricot chutney
For years I’ve made a chicken dish with apricots, honey and orange flower water. This is that sauce as a chutney. You can omit the flower water, but it lends a touch of the voluptuous east…
Fills 2 x 500g (1lb 2oz) jars
500g (1lb 2oz) dried apricots, chopped
500g (1lb 2oz) cooking apples, peeled,
cored and finely chopped
250g (9oz) tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
300ml (½ pint) white wine vinegar
100g (3½oz) sultanas
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
3 tsp ground ginger
1 cinnamon stick, halved
3/4 tbsp cayenne pepper
250g (9oz) golden granulated sugar
7 tbsp runny honey (preferably orange blossom)
1 tsp orange flower water, or to taste
1 Put everything except the honey and flower water into a pan and bring to a boil, stirring to help the sugar dissolve. Reduce the heat and cook gently for one and a half hours, stirring so it does not catch.
2 Stir in the honey and cook gently for 15 minutes. Add the flower water, then taste. You might want more but don’t go mad, it should be just a fragrant whiff. Pot in warm, sterilized jars, cover with waxed paper discs and seal with vinegar-proof lids. This keeps for a year.
Loganberry or Raspberry Cordial
1½lb (700g) loganberries or raspberries
10oz (300g) castor sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
1¾ pints (1litre) water
Put the fruit, sugar and water into a stainless steel saucepan over a medium heat, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes or until the loganberries soften and disintegrate. Remove from the heat, cool.
Pour through a nylon sieve. Rub the pulp through and discard the pips. Pour into sterilized bottles. Seal and store in the fridge.
Revelation of the Week
Guess what I discovered this week – dahlias are edible.
At Glebe restaurant in Baltimore, my green salad was scattered with bright orange and wine coloured flower petals. The lovely waitress confided that they were dahlias and Jean Perry – gardener extraordinaire shared a further nugget of information – apparently the Mexicans grew them originally for their tubers – can’t wait to taste some when my dahlias stop flowering.
The Holistic Gardener:
This book is a little gem with tons of tips on how to stay safe and deal with accidents in the garden. It is published by Mercier Press and comes from the knowledgeable and witty co-presenter of Dermot’s Secret Garden on RTE 1, Fiann O’ Nuallain, Watch out for Fiann O Nuallain speaking at the Ballymaloe Garden Festival, August 30th – http://gardenfestival.ballymaloe.ie/