The Autumn is a wonderful season, each of the four seasons has it qualities, but being a foodie, for this reason Autumn for me, outshines the other three.
During this time of year, if we are lucky, we still have the warm sunny days with the bees working away collecting the last of the nectar from the flowers with their rich warm colours. If the weather has been kind during the Spring and Summer the Autumn brings with it an abundance of foods, both in the hedgerows as well as our gardens.
Apples, plums and pears have all done well this year, unfortunately earlier crops of peas etc did not do so well in the Summer’s scorching heat.
Walking in the country at the weekend I saw many hedgerow apple trees laden down with small apples which are not likely to be much good for eating but excellent for making jelly or juice. Like the apples and plums the blackberries are late and still plentiful. There is also a good crop of crab apples and it is so easy to make some really tasty crab apple jellies, my favourite being apple and mint which I love with roast chicken. This last couple of weeks I have been busy making jams (plum and damson), jellies (apple and bramble) and fruit pies and fruit cakes (plum, apple and blackberry and combinations of the three), with the cakes I have to be quick to get them into the freezer before they are devoured!
I love acquiring free ingredients to make the jams, cakes and pies. To buy apples, plums, rhubarb or blackberries from the supermarket or even the market takes away the romantism of the craft.
Guidelines for Making Jelly:-
Wash and pick through fruit discarding bruised and bad parts. Chop into small pieces put into a large saucepan cover with water and simmer until soft, approx. 30 minutes, give a little mash and put into a jelly bag (or muslin, or clean old pillow case) and hang overnight to allow the juice to drip into a bowl.
The next morning transfer the juice into a large saucepan or preserving pan if you are lucky enough to have one. If you want a clear jelly do not be tempted to squeeze out the pulp.
The next step is to add any extra flavours that you may want, for example: cider vinegar, mint or other herbs, and add the juice from half a lemon then measure how much liquid you have to calculate the amount of sugar required. It is easy to remember – for every pint of liquid you will need 1lb of sugar.
Put the liquid and sugar into a large saucepan or if you are lucky enough to have one a preserving pan and heat very slowly to allow the sugar to disolve. Once disolved turn the heat up and boil briskly for approx. 6 minutes or until setting point. There will be a certain amount of scum, this can either be scraped off or a knob of butter added which will reduce it.
Carefully spoon into your sterilized jars, seal them handling with care until they have cooled and can be labeled and put away. I am now waiting for a friend’s quince tree to ripen it’s fruit as I have been promised some so I can make quince jelly which is delicious with cheese.
Recently I have been looking out for recipes which include melted butter these tend to be all-in-one methods so that the mixture can be mixed with a wooden spoon (but these use more eggs) rather than using a hand whisk, mixer or food processor. The cake is heavier in consistency, much less time consuming (less washing up) and of course it’s the extra egg that gives it it’s lightness. But, while telling you this I am sitting eating a slice of plum cake that I made with just one egg (as that was all I had left) and was whisked together with an electric whisk and is so light, I didn’t quite melt the butter but warmed it through ’til it was oozing which made it very easy to whisk and mix into this light and fluffy mixture.
My family enjoy apple cake with just the fruit added to the mixture but also a windfall cake which includes spices and sultanas as well as the fruit. Here I have shared with you just two simple recipes which can be used for any fruit not just apple: Fruity Yoghurt Cake and Windfall Cake