There’s nothing better than eating a sun-ripened apple fresh from the tree or a fat juicy plum that still has its silvery bloom. But what to do when you have too much? In a good year, even after the neighbourhood kids have been scrumping and you’ve given fruit away to your friends and family, you might still have more than you can eat.
If you have the space, store some fruit for eating fresh in the winter – some late-ripening apples and pears will keep for months if stored correctly. Wrap each fruit in black and white newspaper and store in shallow cardboard boxes or on open-slatted shelves in a cool, dark place.
For the rest of the harvest, it’s time to start preserving! Here’s some ideas we’ve tried out over the last few years:
Apple chutney, pear and ginger marmalade, plum jam, medlar ‘cheese’, quince paste, apple jelly – most fruit can be preserved and will keep for at least 12 months in the right conditions.
Cider (like our own Local Fox), of course, is a great way to use all those windfall apples – the natural yeasts that grow on the fruit will help the fermentation process along…and if it doesn’t come out quite right, you can always make some apple cider vinegar.
If you’re feeling a cold coming on, some Rowanberry Winter Remedy might help. It’s an acquired taste but super high in vitamin C.
And for a more enticing liquid tonic, almost any fruit can be used to flavour to your evening tipple – Sloe Gin, Damson Vodka or almost anything else.
Here are a few ideas from the team (and friends of the project) to whet your appetite:
Amber’s orchard muffins
Turn on the oven to gas mark 5 or 375F
Prepare muffin tins and 12 large cases or 16 cupcake size ones
In a big bowl, sift through a sieve and mix one and a half cups of flour (any flour – wheat, buckwheat, rice…) with three quarters of a cup of sugar (brown or white) plus two heaped teaspoons of baking powder . Add half a teaspoon salt and any dry spices you want such as cinnamon or allspice .
In a largish jug mix:
- One egg
- One third of a cup of milk (any milk – cow’s, goat’s, soya, rice)
- One third of a cup of oil – for example sunflower, coconut oil or melted butter (add after the milk so you don’t cook the egg)
- Two tablespoons of vanilla extract
Pour the jug mix into the bowl mix. Mix a bit, but not much. Then mix in a cup of any orchard fruit or mix you like. (If it’s quite hard you may want to gently cook the fruit first or grate or cut small.)
- Apple (and cinnamon)
- Pear (and ginger and cinnamon)
- Damsons (and spices)
- Apricots / Peaches (pour on the cream later)
Spoon the mixture into the cases and cook for 20 minutes in the middle of the oven. Top out and cool.
Eat the muffins!
Kath’s rosehip syrup recipe
Rosehips are one of the richest plant sources of vitamin C, nearly twice the amount found in oranges. The government even encouraged people to forage for them in WW2 to supplement children’s vitamin intakes as there was a national citrus shortage.
Happily, they grow wild in many hedges and green spaces and are easy to indentify due to their distinctive red colour.
Dilute this syrup with hot water for a delicious cold fighting remedy during the winter months or add sparkling water and serve over ice for a refreshing summer drink
- 500g rosehips, washed and chopped
- 500g caster sugar
- Remove stems and leaves from rosehips
- Roughly chop your rosehips
- Put 1 litre of water in a large pan and bring to the boil. Throw in the rosehips, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Cover and leave to infuse for 30 minutes
- Strain the mixture through a colander balanced over a bowl lined with a clean tea towel (note – it will never be clean again, they stain!
- Set aside the strained juice and put the rosehip pulp back in the saucepan with 500ml more water. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and infuse for another 30 mins as before
- Combine the two sets of juice in a clean pan. Bring to the boil until the volume has decreased slightly
- Add the sugar, bring to the boil and boil hard for 5 minutes
- Pour into warmed, sterilised jars or bottles and seal
Merrin’s medlar cheese or jam
Medlars, Mespilus germanica, are one of our forgotten fruits. The trees originate from the western Mediterranean and were grown widely by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The fruits were again popular in the Victorian era when they would be served with cheese as a membrillo-style paste set in decorative moulds.
The fruit is hard and acidic if picked too early and must be bletted – a process of softening (or rotting) that will happen naturally on the tree after the first frosts or in fruit stored in a cool place after harvesting. Wait till the fruit has gone soft and mushy – you can then eat it straight away or use in baking and preserves.
We made medlar jam following this recipe and it was delicious!
- Medlars, ‘bletted’ (if you have some that haven’t yet bletted, they can be used in the mix as their extra pectin will help the jam set)
- 2 lemons and half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon for every kg of whole fruit
- Sugar: ¾ sugar to weight of pureed fruit
- Water to cover
- A little vanilla (or vanilla essence)
Wash your jars thoroughly and put them upside down in a cold oven. Heat to 160C
Wash the fruit – there’s no need to cut them up. Quarter the lemons and put the medlars, lemons, cinnamon and water into a pan. Bring to the boil.
Simmer gently until the fruit is soft. To help them along, you can use a potato masher to crush them up.
Rub the fruit through a sieve into a clean bowl – this will take some time and elbow grease!
Clean the jam pan, put the puree back in with the sugar and vanilla and slowly bring to the boil, then simmer gently until reduced by about half.
Transfer jam to sterilised jars, leaving a small space at the top. We made two batches with different consistencies – one was set firm as a perfect accompaniment on a cheese board and the other made a delicious breakfast preserve. The difference seemed to be in the boiling point, so do experiment.
Junko’s orchard fruit and polenta pudding
Ingredients: ½ cup polenta, 2 cups water, 3 tbsp raisins, rind of ½ lemon, 1 vanilla pod , pinch of salt, 2-3 tbsp natural syrup sweetener (rice syrup, agave syrup, malt syrup etc.), 2 apples, 2 pears, ¼ cup toasted walnuts, ½ tsp cinnamon
- Peel, core and chop the apples and pears. Place in a saucepan with a pinch of salt and just enough water to cover the base of the pan. Cook covered for 10 minutes or until soft. Let any excess liquid evaporate with the lid off. Mash with a fork and put aside.
- Boil the raisins with ½ cups of water, a pinch of salt and the vanilla pod cut in half and with a slit lengthwise for 10 minutes.
- Add some natural sweetener to taste, the vanilla scraped from the pod with a knife (discard the pod itself), lemon rind and another cup of cold water.
- Immediately sprinkle in the polenta, briskly stirring with a wooden spoon to avoid lumps. Cook while continuing to stir until thick and creamy.
- Transfer the polenta to single serving dishes of your choice, filling them halfway. Spoon the fruit onto the polenta base.
- Roughly chop the walnuts. Gently warm up 2 tbsp of syrup in a small saucepan. Let it bubble away until it is thick and gives off a caramel aroma. Add the walnuts and cinnamon and mix well. Spoon onto the fruit as the topping.
For more of Junko’s recipes, check out her website Eight Element Healing
Amy’s crumbly plum and hazelnut tart
100g Rye flour
75g Wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp Baking powder
2 tbsp Xylitol sugar
1/2 cup Coconut oil (solidified)
1-2 tbsp Non-dairy milk
For the filing:
300g Plums (stewed or cut into small chunks)
1 tbsp Cornflour
2 tbsp Rice syrup
- Begin by toasting the hazelnuts over a medium-high heat for around 10 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid burning and once the skins start to peel away, remove from the heat.
- Rub the hazlenuts between a folded, clean tea towel to remove most of the skins and finely chop or quickly blitz in a food processor.
- In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, baking powder and sugar.
- Add in the solidified coconut oil (chill in the fridge if required) and rub the oil into the flour using your fingertips to create fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the chopped hazelnuts then add in the milk a little at a time until the mixture starts to hold together.
- Press around half to two-thirds of the pastry mixture in the base of a greased 18cm springform tin or flan dish to form the base.
- Cover the remaining mixture and pop in the fridge briefly whilst you prepare the plums.
- Stir all the filing ingredients together and pour onto the pastry base.
- Remove the remaining pastry mixture from the fridge, break the mixture into crumbs using your fingertips and stir in the oats.
- Finally pour the crumbly topping over the plums and bake at 195C for 45-50 mins.
- Check at around 30 mins and if already nicely golden, cover with foil for the remaining time.
For more of Amy’s recipes, check out her blog Wrapped in Newspaper