What a time of year this is! The apples are ripening here in Rutland and there will soon be too many to deal with. This is the year I am really going to try though, I am going to be making simple apple sauce, chutney, fruit leather, dried apple slices - and then all the ones that are left I am going to try to prep and then freeze so that I will have my own stocks for later in the preserving year. I know that I won't manage them all but I could also make some simple country cider with all the remains. Cook the skins and cores to make your own pectin stock, either freeze in bags or bottle and waterbath. You can then add to hard-to-set jams so that you avoid the commercial one with other additives.
Well, that's going to keep me busy!
While I love cooked apple in any form I love pears more and they are really coming into their own round about now. I planted three pear trees in our garden last year and one of them has very gamely borne three pears this year - tiny, but perfect. They won't be enough to pickle however, so I shall be looking around for some more locally.
One of my favourite chutneys is Pear and Orange, beautiful soft flavours melding together in the perfect fruity side to cold meats but soft enough to spread well in cheese sandwiches. I would pack this chutney in small jars so that I could give it away without feeling the loss too much! The 190ml round food is ideal as it looks smart for this very special preserve.
If you want to make something sensational for Boxing Day Lunch then take a little time out ( not much ) to make some Pickled Pears.- you won't regret it. Well, you might - you will probably regret not making more! I have two versions for you both are tremendous.
The first uses red wine and red wine vinegar:-
1.5 kgs under ripe pears ( like the ones above )
750g white sugar
1.5 litres red wine vinegar
500ml red wine
You will need some spices tied up in muslin or in a spice bag:-
1 bay leaf
1 small cinnamon stick
2 heaped teaspoons allspice berries
2 level teaspoons cloves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
a few strips of peel - take them from the lemon before you cut it to squeeze the juice
Start by washing your jars - 2 x 750ml Le Parfait clip top jar is great for these - remove the rubber seal and put the jars in a warm oven to heat and dry.
Squeeze a lemon and put the juice into a large bowl of water.
Use the point of a knife - or a cannelle knife - to carve strips of peel away from the whole pears. Drop each one into the bowl of water - the lemon juice will stop the exposed flesh of the pears turning brown.
Put everything else into a large pan over a medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture up to the boil for a few minutes.
Reduce the heat and lift the pears out of the water and carefully into the pan - it is important not to bruise them or to spoil the stripey effect so use a slotted spoon if you have one.
Poach the pears very gently for around 30 mins. They are better kept firm than getting too soft. Lift out carefully and put into the jars, you may have to jiggle them around a bit to fit. At the same time, turn up the heat under the pan, take out the spice bag and let the mixture reduce a little. Pour over the pears making sure that they are all covered and the jar is full. Seal immediately.
When cold, put them away somewhere to mature for at least a month before eating.
These are very special as part of a cheeseboard for a dinner party - one per person - or enjoy as part of the lunch on Boxing Day with cold meats etc. Fragrant with the spices and the wine but with a vinegar overlay - and pretty - they are absolutely delicious.
The second recipe is equally stunning and a great favourite on the lunch table at my classes.
I use a smaller standard jar for this as the pears are quartered so fit easily into a straight-sided jar like one of the bontas or the 324ml Faceted jar. Get the jars washed and into a warm oven to dry before you start the recipe.
The recipe makes around 2.5kg of pickle.
2 kgs firm pears
750g demerara sugar
You will need 750ml of cider or white wine vinegar.
A cinnamon stick
Around 10 cloves
2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
First spice the vinegar - put into a pan with the spices and bring up the heat. As soon as it comes to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for around 5 mins. Turn off the heat and strain the vinegar into a heatproof jug.
Pour back into the pan and start to peel the fruit. Cut into quarters, take out the core and drop each piece into the vinegar. When all are in the pan turn on the heat and poach the pears for a few minutes only so that they are cooked but not breaking up.
Remove the jars from the oven and lift the pear pieces into the jars, packing as closely as possible - use a blunt dinner knife to ease them in.
Add the sugar to the vinegar and stir until dissolved and then boil until the syrup thickens slightly. Pour over the pears in the jars making sure there are no air bubbles left in the jars and that the pears are covered.
Seal immediately and store out of strong light and hidden away so they don't get eaten before Christmas! Just joking - you can eat them straightaway . . .
Finally - our lovely new Summer Frocks jar lids have arrived and they look amazing. They are on the website NOW and you can use the code SUMMERTEN to order some with a discount.