It is October 2nd and a beautiful crisp morning Autumn as I write this. The garden is still flowering well with dahlias, asters, geraniums and the fields and hedges are still green and lush, but Autumn is well and truly upon us now with darker evenings and a drop in temperature. With the change of the season comes a change of produce and a desire to eat a bit differently. It’s also still a great time for foraging and the hedges seem particularly abundant this year.
There is an abundance of delicious local autumn produce. Bramley apples, of course, are prominent when you are from County Armagh, but pears too although you don’t see them growing here so often. Crab apples make a beautiful red or pink jelly that is great with cheese. Quince likewise if you can hold of them.
The damsons came and went (I made damson jam and a really great damson ice cream) but the hedges are still vibrant with the last of the blackberries, beautifully scented honeysuckle, jewel red rosehips which are very high in vitamin C ( higher than almost any other foodstuff ) and can be used to make your own cough syrup, these also make a beautiful jelly on their own or with the apples.
I used the Elderberries foraged from the hedges (high in antioxidants and antiviral) this year to make my own linctus to ward off colds and flu. They can also be used to make a syrup or jelly.
Walnuts, medlars and chestnuts are all in season now too.
Master the art of buttery shortcrust pastry and some wonderful classic autumnal recipes in this hands-on class.
- Apple Tart
- Cheese and Herb Scones
- Soda Bread
Thank you Mary Anne, after taking your cookery class last year I’ve caught the baking bug. I’ve also made your apple tart…buttermilk scones and just yesterday tried your rhubarb tart.Class Participant 1 July 2020
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On the vegetable front cauliflowers are great at this time of year, I often just roast them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkle of turmeric (another antioxidant) or use them in a vegetable curry.
Cavolo Nero should be appearing soon. This is a robust cabbage with long very dark green leaves and is wonderful in soups or simply boiled until tender, then squeeze out the water and serve with really good olive oil and salt and pepper.
With an Italian heritage cavolo nero has very distinctive long, dark green leaves.
- 1kg Cavolo Nero leaves
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- Pinch dried red chilli
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
- Strip the leaves of the cavolo off the stem and wash well and chop roughly.
- Cook in the boiling water until tender for about five – 10 minutes until tender and drain. Squeeze out the excess water.
- In a large based saucepan heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the chopped garlic and chilli and stir until the garlic starts to colour, then add the cavolo, toss well in the oil and garlic and season with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately.
NotesIf you don’t have any cavolo nero to hand, this recipe works just as well with savoy cabbage, chard or kale.
Pumpkins and Squashes
Pumpkins and squashes (high in magnesium and Vitamin A) will be arriving shortly. These are also great in a vegetable curry, soup or simply roasted, not to mention pumpkin pie which is perfect for a Halloween treat.
Lots of autumnal recipes spring to mind and I look forward to making apple tarts and crumble, stewed apples with custard, hearty stews and warming soups. Roast, stuffed pork fillet with apple sauce and a County Armagh classic, Potato Apple Bread.
Pear and almond tart, a wonderful recipe from the renowned River Café in London and a favourite when I worked there. That’s just to mention a few. Crab apple jelly is on the agenda today.
Delicious served with bread and cheese or lovely cooked ham, it's also a great addition to a gravy.
Crab apples are ready in September, I have two trees in my garden.One is a really small, deep red variety and the other a small greenish yellow variety. Both make wonderful jellies.
- 2.5kg / 5 ½ lbs crab apples
- Granulated sugar
- 1.7 litres / 3 pints water
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Knob of butter (optional)
- Wash the apples well, cut into quarters ( don’t peel or core ) and put into a preserving pan with the water. Do not use bruised apples.
- Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours until the fruit is really soft and pulpy.
- Stir from time to time to prevent sticking and add a little more water if necessary.
- Spoon the mixture into a jelly bag and leave to strain for a few hours or overnight until all of the liquid has strained through.
- Do not push the mixture through the jelly bag. The juice should run clear , any pulp will make your jelly cloudy. Discard the pulp.
- Butter the base of a clean preserving pan.
- Measure the liquid and add to the pan with 450g / 1 lb sugar for each 600ml / 1 pint of the juice.
- Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
- Then boil rapidly for 8 – 10 minutes or until setting point is reached.
- To test for setting point , remove the pan from the heat and put a spoonful of the hot jelly on a cold side plate and leave to set. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger it is set.
- If not set, boil gain for a minute or two and test again. And repeat until set.
- Pot up immediately and seal with a lid in warm sterilised jars.