In the blogs I read regularly, this this the current theme. It’s true that in the city as well as the country, autumn can’t help but be noticeable. Whereas summer can pass by largely unnoticed some years, and winter can just be a coolish, wet blur with Christmas in the middle, the colours of autumn and the presence of leaves underfoot is instantly recognisable. Piles of crunchy leaves in city parks and the country sights of combine harvesters and nature’s bounty make me feel all cosy and excited. I want to curl up in my mustard coloured tights, Brora cashmere cardigan in this season’s colour and sip tea from a hand thrown pottery mug whilst staring at the flames. (Ha. Ha. On many levels. Although I can manage the mug.)
I also feel Preserving Guilt. There are rosehips everywhere, elderberries bounce at me from their road-side branches, the brambles must be somewhere, and Oli even found blueberries with his school children recently. Pam ‘The Jam’ Corbin’s excellent book for River Cottage extols the joy of making every sort of jam, jelly, bottled fruit and berry liquor under the sun. Particularly tempting is Bachelor’s Jam, basically a big earthenware pot with a lid into which you pour copious quantities of rum, fruit and sugar, adding more fruit as time goes on. Then you guzzle it at Christmas time. I am very much on the lookout for my large earthenware pot with close fitting lid, although I’m not quite sure what I’m looking for. So Bachelor’s Jam for Christmas 2013, perhaps.
But my inner drive to preserve all this autumnal bounty for the stark, dark months ahead lead us to the Pitmedden Apple festival. 80% down on their harvest this year, due to late frost damaging blossom and wet weather preventing pollination by the bees, we were limited to buying three bags only. But alongside the contents of a wheelbarrow of apples (plus ramekin for donations) which I came across last weekend in my sister’s neck of the woods, I felt the drive to preserve increase. So it was that I began chopping at 8pm and fell into bed, quite high on the pungent fumes of vinegar, at midnight. Fool. But a fool with chutney. 17 jars of it. So now you all know what you’re getting for Christmas.
Here is the recipe, not Pam’s but from some kind hearted person from the mists of the internet:
Makes about 8 jars
1.8kg apples, peeled, cored and chopped
4 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lemon, juice only
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
900ml cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt
900g soft brown sugar
3 teaspoons chilli flakes (optional)
Bring apples, onions, garlic, lemon juice, mustard seeds and 590ml vinegar to the boil.
Simmer for 1 hour.
Add raisins, ginger, salt, sugar, chilli flakes, and rest of vinegar.
Simmer until thick (about 45 mins- 1 hour)
Pour into warm, sterilised jars and seal.
Devour with cheese, in sandwiches, stirred into soups, curries, on cheese on toast, with ham… endless.
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