Autumn goodness

Everyone looked at me like I was mad when I was asking for just a little rain when it was summer and 30 Celsius every day. Truth is, as much as summer is great with its soft fruit, flowers, sunshine and generally good growing conditions I have always preferred autumn – that moment when you wake up and have to move that bit quicker to the shower so you don’t get too cold. When you have to dig out that thick, woollen jumper in the evening because you don’t want to put the heating on just yet. When you go walking and think it’s a bit chilly so you put on layers but when you’re halfway you find that the golden sun is warming your back so much you can take the top layer off. And the food – game, sloes, damsons, mushrooms, apples, pears, nuts – all my favourites and all of these things I look forward to every year.

So on the first autumn forage of the year (when the mizzle stopped finally) we put on our waterproofs and went to the usual sloe spot…

Blackthorn in fruit

The bushes were full to bursting already! There hasn’t been a frost yet so I will be freezing them so the skins split and they soften enough to do something with – I haven’t quite decided what just yet so they can stay frozen until I do. I measured them and we have 1.4kg so enough to make a couple of things at least.

Young sloes

And a bit further along the path there was a road lined with Hazel. I can’t resist a green hazelnut so we started filling our pockets…and didn’t stop until they were full!

Fresh hazelnuts

I’m thinking a chocolate and hazelnut tart one night this week, and the rest…maybe a stuffing mix or another cake. Will follow up this one with another blog entry when I decide.

The other thing about autumn I like is preserving – jams, chutneys, jellies, pickling. Now my jam making is a bit hit or miss. I’m good with flavours but it’s the setting point that was always tricky for me. I had about two lots of elderberry from 2011 that ended up being thick elderberry syrup. One jar went into ice cream to make elderberry ripple which was lovely, but it was definitely no good as jam! Hence why the lovely, and ever-sensible, man brought me a jam thermometer last year. Much safer. But chutney is an easy one without a thermometer.

Chutney making

So I made some last night with the glut of cherry tomatoes from the terrace pots and some apples from my work boss’ orchard (his wife was kind enough to send me in a bag!) This was enough to make 5 jars…

Chutney in jars

It tasted quite sweet from the saucepan, but still with a kick of vinegar so I’m hoping when it mellows out it will keep the tang and not end up too syrupy. Will let you know the verdict when we open one in a month or so!

Mabel liked having lots of round, rolling fruit in the kitchen…

Mabel plays with an apple

So all in all, a productive autumn weekend – long may they continue. I still have another half crate of apples to use up so it’s either going to be more chutney, or if I can get my hands on the right yeasts then I might put an apple wine on the cards.

I forgot to take pictures of the raspberry tart from Thursday but I did get one of the brownies before they all got guzzled:

brownies

Dark chocolate (72% cocoa) and poached pear. They went down very well indeed. But I think it will be a while before I attempt that many bakes in one week again without taking more time off work! Exhausting (but tasty)!

My, oh my, cherry pie

This weekend we went on a family visit to Kent and whilst I was sat there on the sofa at someone’s house, I noticed a glut of berries on a tree at the end of the garden. Curious as ever, I went to go have a closer look and they turned out to be cherries – and on taste inspection, the gorgeous little tart ones that were perfectly ripe. I asked if they minded us taking a few, which they didn’t, so we brought a little pot back…

ImageI wanted to make a cordial, but didn’t really have enough so the obvious second choice was pie! I found a recipe online – mixing my sour cherries with regular store-bought cherries gave me enough fruit to get more than a smatter of filling. Adding a couple of table spoons of sugar and some cornflour made them reduce to a jammy sauce when they cooked down. Finally instead of doing a normal or lattice pie lid, the recipe suggested a crumble top with oats and almonds – I thought that sounded yum so thought I’d give it a try.

Result:

ImageNot bad for the first pie I’ve made in a while – the cherries were lovely, although I wish I’d had enough to do only sour cherries inside – I think the sweet ones detracted from the overall depth of flavour a bit. Also I blind baked the pie crust for a bit too long so by the time the whole pie came out at the end it was a little bit too brown – not burnt but definitely more brown than golden! Crumble was also a great choice for the topping – the sweetness wasn’t overpowering and the almonds were obviously a great match for the cherry filling – I think I actually prefer crumble top to a pastry one.  You can get pastry overkill! But due to limited amount of filling I think crumble to filling ratio wasn’t quite spot-on…all learnings for next time. 

And in future – I need to make more pies! I really enjoyed my slow afternoon baking with the radio on. Just got to find another free source of fruit…I remember finding Damsons and wild plums on a weekend out of the city the year before last so I think, come September, it might be time for another ramble/forage.