I can't believe how much food we have already received from our garden in the short three months we have lived here. First there was the cherries and raspberries. And then of course the tomatoes, which still haven't quite finished, although these days we get one or two tomatoes a day compared to dozens and dozens at peak season. Then there were the gooseberries and of course all the herbs. And plums, some of them ripening so fast we missed out completely. There has been the odd fig and a few strawberries. And the wonder of growing our own cucumbers, that was such a thrill for me. We also managed to rescue a few courgettes from the greedy mouths of the slugs. And did I mention the grapes? The grapes are so good, really sweet and juicy. We need to read up on what to do with the vines though, as they didn't produce that many grapes, maybe we didn't take care of them correctly. And now we are moving towards the last of the garden produce for the season, the apples and pears. The pear tree is literally heavy with fruit, and what beautiful fruit! All perfectly formed pears, the kind you see in the store. Large, juicy and flawless. Unfortunately the apples aren't doing quite as well, they have clearly had some disease or parasite as almost every apple is full of dark spots and the insides of the apple have gone bad.
I have been agonising about how to store all our produce as we were completely out of freezer space. We ordered a new freezer over a month ago, but it was out of stock with the manufacturer, so we had to wait for quite a while. Luckily it arrived last weekend, right towards the end of the plum season, so we got a small bit of the plum crop stored in the freezer. This weekend, after some rather heavy wind, we had a lot of windfall, both from the apple and pear tree. The culinary consultant brought quite a pile of fruit into the kitchen. Although our apples don't look very good, we decided to rescue what we could from them and use all the good bits for some apple and pear butter. I decided I want to store my butter in the freezer, that way it will keep for quite a few months, and you don't have to worry about canning and sterilising jars and other fuss like that. It was actually much easier than I had expected, with minimal fuss apart from the time-consuming peeling and dicing the fruit.
Pear and apple butter:
1 kg fruit (I used about half pears, half apples)
1.5 cups water
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 cinnamon stick
(the second batch I made also had 2 star anises to mix it up a bit)
Peel, core and dice the fruit. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan, cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Cook for about 15 minutes until the fruit starts to soften, and then remove the lid. Let cook for 1-1/2 hours, using a potato masher to mash the fruit while it cooks. Cook until the butter has reached your desired consistency, taking care to stir more often towards the end of the cooking time as the butter starts to thicken. I also kept gradually turning the heat lower and lower as the sauce thickened. Let cool, and pick out the cloves and cinnamon stick. If you want a smooth butter, use a food processor. Dispense into containers. Freeze. In my hands, this recipe was enough to fill 4 small and 2 medium freezer jars with a cup or so left over to enjoy immediately.
Given that I had no real recipe and made everything up on the spot, the product turned out not only good but really delicious. I spooned quite a bit of the butter right into my mouth while cooking it. The amount of spice is just right, enough to give a bit of complexity to the flavours but not too much to overwhelm the apple and pear. And the scent was fantastic, all that apple and pear and spice. Although this will keep for a few months in the freezer, I don't think it will stay there for that long. I can imaging this would be perfect with oatmeal or yoghurt in the morning or with ice cream as pudding. This is a really efficient way to use up a large amount of fruit and still store it without taking too much space, while retaining and concentrating all those wonderful flavours of the sweet fruit.
Card of the day:
I made these cards a while ago, but they seem very autumn-y to me, so I thought they would be perfect for this post. I started by inking the background with Tim Holtz distress inks using ink blending foam. I used the Tim Holtz script stamp and stamped several times to fill the card using Walnut Stain Distress ink. I then stamped the Hobbycraft Tree or Thistle stamp in Black Soot in the middle of the card. I finished by spraying with Perfect Pear mist and matted onto random scrap pieces of paper or cardstock I had lying around and then attached to kraft cardstock. I really like the tri-coloured backgrounds, I think they turned out really nice.