Monday, 24 August 2009

The Gardener's Kitchen

My kitchen has become a resting place for a lot of local produce in the last couple of days. After the chap with the cabbage opened the floodgates, it has been a steady stream of produce coming our way, from the tomatoes from the family next door, to my uncle turning up out of the blue on Sunday evening laden down with hedgerow blackberries, Victoria plums, runner beans, cooking apples and tomatoes. Some of the apples were actually eating apples, so I didn't have to do anything to them immediately. A quick question, "What sort are they?" brought forth a very pleasing answer: "Ellison's Orange, Laxton Fortune and Worcesters - a bit of a mixture." I was so pleased to learn that Uncle J has some really old kinds of apple trees in the garden and not just the more standard types that we find everyday in the supermarket - I am always delighted to find the first Egremont Russets on sale, and eagerly look forward to those every year. Alas he doesn't grow them. My own apple trees are only in their first year here, and have barely settled in - there are Braeburn and Jonagold trees in the mini orchard which I bought, with pears, Victoria plums and a cherry tree as well. None of the others have got any fruit on now, although the pear trees had some tiny fruits which soon dropped off.

I set to last night and made all the tomatoes into pasta sauce, one lot with courgettes and some without. That was all blitzed, chilled, labelled and frozen. I also strung the beans, blanched and froze them last night. The blackberries are wonderful - Uncle J's house adjoins a field, so he had seen all these blackberries hanging there and no one interested in them, so he went through the hedge at the bottom of the garden and harvested them: "Well, it seemed a shame to let them go to waste," he said - absolutely. Well over 4lbs of them are now tucked away in the freezer.

That left the apples and the plums. The FH has peeled and cut the apples this evening and I have cooked them, so there will be about 4 bags of cooked apple to go in the freezer in the morning, when it has cooled down. The plums are the biggest challenge; I reckon there are about 15lbs of them. The FH stoned them for me, and I have had the job today of sourcing more jars to make more jam. I thought about it more this time, and didn't go to the hardware store for the jars, but to Sainsbury's, where I bought 6 jars of Basics Curry Sauce at 10p a jar and three jars of lemon curd at 30p a jar. 9 jars bought for £1.50 - and contents as well - bargain. The curry sauce wasn't as bad as I imagined it would be, so I made a chicken curry, with the addition of a courgette and an onion, in the Remoska. That didn't quite need all the sauce so I have to admit that the rest went down the drain.....sorry! And the lemon curd, well, I have used one and a half jars to make two lemon madeira cakes which have just come out of the oven and smell divine. The only remaining problem is that all that accounts for only just over half of the plums, so I reckon I am going to have to think about it all again tomorrow! A plum crumble could use some of them, but not 7lbs. There isn't room in the freezer for many, so I will be looking for other uses; there is a recipe in the River Cottage Preserves book for a chutney which uses plums, but that would still need JARS!!!!!!!!!! I am never going to throw (or allow the FH to throw) another jar away, ever.

Have to say that I have dealt with the plum jam, the madeira cakes, the apples and the curry since 9pm tonight, as it has been too hot today to be making all this heat in the kitchen during the day. Flip side of that is that I am still here, waiting for the curry to cool before I go to bed.

All this garden produce is a blessing but growing it is only half the art - the other is knowing how to preserve it all to make the best use of it throughout the year, and I feel like I am on a steep learning curve here.

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