This weather here in the UK has not been too kind for picnicking, barbecuing or holidays at home, but for fruit trees and vegetable gardens it has been amazing and we are having a bumper crop. If like me you are fortunate enough to have the space to have grow your own you are probably overwhelmed by a glut of fruit and veg and wondering what to do with it all.
Preserving, pickling and storing your fruit and vegetables will not only ensure that you don’t waste any of your crop, but it will allow you to have the taste of summer in the depths of winter, and will save you money as well. Apart from saving on your own shopping bills, home made preserves make wonderful Christmas presents.
Jams, jellies, chutneys and pickles are a great way of using up excess fruit. I have to admit that I now have these coming out of my ears, but there are some other preserving tricks you could try.
Herb jellies – using something like a crabapple jelly as a base and then adding herbs like thyme and rosemary. Herb jellies are fantastic with meats and cheeses.
Flavoured vinegars – these are ridiculously easy to make, but look so impressive on the table. Simply empty a bottle of either white wine vinegar or cider vinegar into a bowl or jug and add some blackberries, or raspberries to them. Leave to stand for at least 5 days (stirring occasionally) and then strain the fruit and pour back into the bottles. You can even buy fancy bottles if you want to make extra special presents for people.
Pickling – again, this is really easy to do and this is a great way of getting a taste of summer in the depths of winter. You can pickle almost anything, including vegetables, fruits, eggs and even meats. Experiment with different combinations of vinegars and spices.
If you don’t want to preserve your fruits and prefer to eat them later, you can either freeze them or store them. Soft fruits such as peaches, apricots and berries are best frozen, but harder fruits like apples and pears can last for weeks if stored carefully.
Storing apples and pears used to be a common place task in the autumn, but one we seemed to have lost. These days we seem to prefer to just buy them from the supermarket, but the problem with this is that supermarket apples just don’t have the flavour of good old fashioned apples straight from the tree.
Storing apples is really quick and easy and means that you can have apples well into the winter months. You just need to have some trays to put them on and a cool dark space to store them eg a shed, garage or understairs cupboard (as long as it isn’t heated). Follow these basic tips:
- Only store blemish free fruit. Fruits that are blemished or bruised won’t store well and are likely to encourage other fruits to go off as well.
- To keep fruit at its best, it is a good idea to wrap each individual fruit in tissue paper or newspaper and place on a special rack or shallow crate that can be stacked without the fruit making contact with other fruit. The storage area should be well ventilated.
- Once you have stored your fruit, it is a good idea to keep a regular check on it, because once one apple goes bad, the rest are sure to follow. Removing the bad apple as quickly as possible increases your chances of prolonging the life of the rest of the crop.
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Finally there is another way of dealing with a glut of fruit. I am very lucky to live in an old walled garden that used to be an orchard and I have fruit coming out of my ears. I have made peach jam and chutney, plum chutney, mulberry and damson jellies and I am now sick of the sight and smell of sugar. So what I am going to do with all the apples and pears that are just about ripe?
I’m going to hold a ‘legal’ scrumping day. By this I mean I am going invite friends, family, neighbours and locals to come and help themselves to the apples in return for a donation to our local hospice. That way other people get to share in the fresh fruit, I don’t have to see it go to waste and my local hospice gets a donation as well!