Living off the land

The season of fruitfulness continues – and we still haven’t got to the season of nutfulness yet! The blackberries have just about finished, the plums are almost past their best but the apples and pears are just coming into their own. Every day sees me chopping, peeling, stewing and jamming, chutneying or jellying.

I’ve become a jelly convert this year. It’s wonderful stuff, and surprisingly quick and straightforward. Just chop up your fruit – no need to peel, core or stone, cover it with water and simmer for up to an hour. The fruit needs to be good and mushy. Then strain it for half a day. I do mine over a bowl in the bath. Nothing very hi-tec! Then add between 250 g and 500 g of sugar per half litre of juice. I tend towards the lower end.

So far I’ve made crab apple jelly, blackberry and apple jelly, and, my favourite, plum and apple jelly. For the two-fruit jellies, I use roughly equal quantities of each. Mix and match as you like – my next will be blackberry and plum jelly, provided I can find enough blackberries.

We’ve harvested a few pumpkins. We had to, as the two youngest chickens had discovered them, and mined huge holes in four of them! Chris has made soup and I rustled up several batches of pumpkin puree. That again is so easy! Cut the pumpkin into slices, then remove skin and seeds, and chop flesh into 4 cm cubes, or thereabouts. Put them in a casserole dish with water to a depth of 2.5 cm, and bake in a moderate oven for half an hour. Then ;just simply mash with a fork. Ready to use. Caiti made a wonderful pumpkin pie with some of the puree – recipe to follow soon.

Now, do hang onto some of the seeds and stones you remove from the fruit – before cooking, of course. Save these and plant them in the spring. I wash mine (I run them under the tap in a sieve or colander), spread them on a plate to dry, then pop them into yogurt pots, labelled with as much accuracy as I can. I don’t know the varieties, unfortunately, so I’m calling them ‘yellow plums’,  ‘tasty Bordessoules apples’, ‘small red cherries’, ‘huge pink pears’ etc. I will do some research to try and pinpoint what they really are. Today I found out that what I thought were sloes, well, weren’t! Just as well I hadn’t started making jelly with them! Sloes are like very small, round purple plums, and are know as prunelles here. I had some earlier but used them up in clafoutis.

Happy fruit hunting and gathering!

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