This time of year is traditionally harvest time and a busy time for preserving food for the wintertime like making chutneys and jam’s. Once made they can rest and be served in perfect time for Christmas. The apple harvest was important for me for many years because I had five large mature apple trees which produced 100’s of kilos every year. I had one old pear tree but only bore fruit every few years. So my recipes would often revolve around apples. Trying to use them up went beyond giving away to neighbours, friends and family. I would make and sell 30-50 apple crumbles for my deli every week. I lost count of the chutneys and jams, they sold in similar amounts to the crumbles. This all amounted to very busy weekday evenings with a mixture of strong vinegar and sweet fruit smells. This was cottage industry and required a lot of peeling and hard work. In a smaller scale would probably be more enjoyable but I did enjoy the process. During these busy Autumn evenings perfecting recipes and becoming pretty confident in this new area of cooking for me. The varieties we had were Cockle Pippin, Golden Delicious and Cox’s. They have different textures and habits, so some would bruise easy and melt when cooking and others take longer to cook. All-in-all we were very lucky with our seasons with great harvests and it was only when I moved last year did black spot really start to affect the harvests.
So without further a due, here’s some of my crowd-pleasing recipes for winter/Christmas time.(apologies in advance for n
The first, staple and simple preserved apples for pies and crumbles-
Peel, core and chop lots of apples, I liked to mix up varieties to give different textures. Put in a big pan and heat with sugar and lemon juice, weights are not important here, keep tasting to check flavour balance and and only cook for 5-10 minutes. Then bag and freeze to suit portion sizes required.
I modestly called my top selling chutney the ‘PRADA OF CHUTNEYS” with a tagline:
‘A Christmas Day chutney for cheese, handmade slowly for busy people’
Sadly I never took pictures of my industry during these busy times, but the recipes have stood the test of time.
700g mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, apricots etc)
1.5kg of apples (yes lots, I used to double or triple batches!)
2 large Spanish onions
700g light muscovado sugar
1 litre of distilled malt vinegar
half a head of garlic
an index finger length of fresh ginger
2 dried chillies
1 tablespoon of salt
So peel, chop into even-size pieces and weight. Put in to large preserving pan or curry pot if you have. Then cook mixture and bring to the boil before turning down to simmer for about 40 minutes. While that’s happening organise your jars and sterilize them with boiling water. To test when its ready check the picture below, you want to draw your spoon through the mixture and it only very slowly seeps back. This way it sets in the jars, remember its only sugar and vinegar that’s preserving/holding it together. If its too runny, keep reducing down, it will be worth it. When happy, get your jars read, pour and seal with lids. I would leave them for a month before using but they have a year shelf life. That’s why we start making Christmas things in October!
This is a fantastic centre piece that will grace any Christmas day cheese board and you’ll probably have none left by the end of the day!
For my cottage industry effort I used proper preserving equipment like a large preserving pan, jam funnel etc, if you improvise just remember that core temperatures of chutneys/jams can be very hot, so please take care.
Next up is my “BOXING DAY CHUTNEY” with another tagline:
‘A chutney for Pork, handmade slowly for busy people’
This chutney is a great acompliment for Christmas Day leftovers or if you are cooking a ham joint for Boxing Day.
2 kg apples
half a head of garlic
index finger length of fresh ginger
1 fresh red chilli
1 litre distilled malt vinegar
600g light muscovado sugar
2 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon salt
Peel, core and chop everything. Put into a large pot, heat with the vinegar and sugar. Prepare jars while cooking. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour but stir regularly. Once reduced to thick consistency, pour carefully into your jars. Seal with lids and leave to cool and rest for 1 month before serving. This is again very easy but makes enough for all family gatherings and gifts for friends and neighbours.
Because of abundant harvests, I give away apples but also swap for rhubarb with friends. So here’s a couple of favourite jam recipes “RHUBARB, STRAWBERRY & VANILLA JAM” no fancy tagline for this.
1.25 kg rhubarb
1.8kg white sugar
2 lemons squeezed
250g liquid pectin(apple)
seeds of 1 vanilla pod
Cut the rhubarb and strawberries into 2cm cubes, put into a large bowl and pour over the sugar and lemon juice. Put in the fridge and leave overnight. This helps to soften the rhubarbs astringent acids. Cook everything bar the pectin and the vanilla seeds/essence, bringing to the boil. Let the mixture boil for 5 minutes and stir regularly. Remember to prepare the jars. Then take pot off the heat and rest while adding the pectin. Bring mixture back to the boil for a while and check with a wooden spoon if the jam slowly falls back into the mixture as a lump rather than a drip. If not convinced, try putting some on a plate and see if it sets if you put in the fridge/freezer. When your happy, skim any scum off the top and pour into jars and seal.
“RHUBARB, STRAWBERRY & GINGER JAM”
This is the same as above, only replace the vanilla with an index finger length of fresh ginger cut up.
Please do not ask me for apples, I no longer have a garden or the deli for that matter. But I am happy to advise. The more you make it, the easier it gets. This is simply getting a balance and doesn’t require the same accuracy as baking. So, go and enjoy it, get the family help muck in with the peeling etc. It will be worth it when the festive season comes round and you can show off your great produce. Making labels, covers and ribbons can be a great activity for the kids.
Good luck and as always feel free to comment. If you don’t like the smell of vinegar, open the back door/window, happy preserving!