A Bountiful Harvest
So you’ve caught the grow it yourself bug and have decided to plant some seeds. Typically you’re not all that sure about how many seeds to sow, plus the fact that you’ve never done this before means you’ll probably kill some of them off anyway, so you’ve planted loads. Now this happens to the best of us, as some of us remember what did well and what didn’t last year so we compensate in our seed sowing. And what does Mother Nature do, but send us some slightly different weather which means you don’t have quite enough of one plant, (always peas with me but that may be because my son is constantly outside eating them off the plant) whilst having a glut of something else.
Now what to do with the extras, you could pass them on to friends and neighbours who may be very grateful to receive the fruits (literally) of your labour. However, if they are in the midst of a grow your own phase they probably have too much of the same fruit or vegetable due to the same weather conditions that your garden experienced. You cannot bear to just throw away these hard grown prizes, so what do you do.
I am going to give you a few ideas on apples and courgettes to start with, these of course can also be done with shop bought ones, or those extras that may have been in your veg box scheme that you don’t know what to do with!
Most years I end up with a glut of apples as our garden has a number of different types of apple trees planted around. I have to confess I have no idea what variety they all are. They all appear to be eaters, however, I use eaters to cook with too but just watch cooking times as they break down very quickly – they still taste fab even so!
The story of apples for me has gone something like reasonable amount in 2007, glut in 2008, poor in 2009, glut in 2010, super glut in 2011, virtually nothing in 2012 due to the rather late and erratic frosts that managed to catch the early flowerers in flower and all the mids and lates in bud so that they scarred and scare all the pollinators away anyway. However 2013 was back to the normal glut situation.
First course of action is to eat as many fresh off the tree as they taste truly fabulous like that, nothing like shop bought ones that have been in hyper-freeze to make sure they have stock at all times. Secondly, bake cakes, apple bread or biscuits or anything else that takes your fancy. Frankly a lovely apple cake, with a pinch of cinnamon, maybe some raisins or sultanas and some brown sugar on top suits me down to the ground. These cakes freeze brilliantly as well, leave the topping off and just wrap them in greaseproof paper and put them in a freezer bag to enjoy later!
Even easier is to stew a large amount of apples on a low heat with a few drops of water and a teaspoon or two of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon (I’m sensing a theme here!). Then once they have cooled put the apple mixture into foil containers (Lakeland sell them pretty reasonably) and bag them up and freeze. This can then be used at a later date as apple pie filling, or if you even lazier like me, simply defrost put some crumble topping (butter, sugar and flour or oats if you’d prefer) and heat in the oven for instant home made crumble!
However, for a serious volume of apples I’m afraid its time to get chopping and/or squeezing. I love homemade juice and had a small electric juicer that I used to use. When faced with a large number of apples I upgraded to a sturdier electric juicer, but it still kept overheating struggling to process buckets of apples. So going back to the old school I bought an old fashioned apple press. Now you do need to roughly chop the apples up and discard the core to get the best results, which can be a bit time consuming. But once loaded up with apples in a large muslin sack, my husband and kids get down to the serious job of pressing. I have to be on hand, not only to admire their work but to stop them putting their heads under the spout and drinking it all up! We drink a lot of juice fresh like this but I also freeze a lot in 500ml – 1 litre bottles, just remember to leave expansion space at the top of the bottle. This allows my apple harvest to last an extra 6 months at least.
These are the go-to option for large quantities of anything be it apples, onions, courgettes, marrows, squashes, beetroot you name it – and so easy to make! I have a favourite basic chutney recipe below. This is the basis of the majority of chutneys I make as I find the onion and apple to be a great base for most other ingredients I want to add in.
1lb/450g – peeled & chopped white onions
1/2pint/300ml – white malt vinegar
2lb/900g – peeled & cored apples
1/2 tsp – ground cinnamon
1/2tsp – ground allspice
350g/12oz – soft brown sugar
100g/4oz – raisins or sultanas or apricots or dates as preferred (optional)
You can vary the spices you use if you prefer a slightly different taste. You can also add in up to 1lb of marrows or courgettes with only needing a little more vinegar and sugar.
You need to add the chopped onions and half the vinegar to a heavy bottomed pan and simmer for about 10 mins. Then add in the remaining vinegar and all the other ingredients and simmer for about 45 mins until it is the consistency of a thick jam.
I batch make the chutney and then store in sterilised jams. Due to the cooking method and use of vinegar this will be usable for many months, if not a year or so. It tastes fantastic with most cheeses and hams. It also makes fantastic gifts either at Christmas or just because!