Preserves and Puddings

October and November have been extra busy for me so unfortunately my blog was ignored. However, the preservation of our produce has continued apace and I will give you a taste of what we have done, figuratively speaking, without procrastination.

Growing tomatoes in Ireland without the protection of a greenhouse is always a bit of a gamble. Tomato seeds are one of the first things that can be planted in the Spring, and are very rewarding in the way they successfully germinate and then shoot up into plants full of promise way before many other crops can be even thought about. This year, I grew the ‘Moneymaker’ variety which promises a harvest even when grown outdoors. They were kept in the front garden, much to the delight of the children and their friends who followed their development with avid interest all summer. By the end of October it was clear that they were not going to go red before being destroyed by either wind or frost, or over-enthusiastic 5 year olds. The solution was clear – green tomato chutney.

Ingredients:

1kg green tomatoes

2 sliced onions

1 tsp salt

450 mls malt vinegar (or half malt half cider vinegar)

200g soft light brown sugar)

100g sultanas

1 tsp ground black pepper (and I added coriander seed and fresh chili)

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Chutney is very satisfying to make. To the tomatoes that I picked at various stages of ripeness I added two of our own onions, and a couple of chilis, chopped up but not too small:

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They are cooked in a mixture of vinegars, I used malt vinegar and cider vinegar, which I heated up first with the brown sugar, and then added the tomatoes and onions and sultanas.

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Basically everything is brought to the boil and then simmered until soft…about an hour though you need to check in case in catches on the bottom of the saucepan. The result looks like this:

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It can then be put into sterilised jam jars and it seals itself as it’s put in hot. If it’s possible, leave a couple of weeks before opening, though I have to say we’ve almost finished one 500g jar already!

The second glut that was going off was our apple glut. Unfortunately this year time ran out for us to make cider, and the mix of apples wasn’t quite right anyway as some of the trees produced this year and others didn’t, they’re only 4 years old. Having picked the apples in September, those we couldn’t manage to eat were declining in quality. I decided to see what I could do and found a recipe for mincemeat, the kind that you use to bake mince pies for Christmas. I never knew it was made half with apples! The recipe is from Delia Smith so I won’t post it here, but here’s the process:

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Cut the apples up like this and put into a large saucepan. Add the mix of sultanas, currants, raisins and almonds along with the sugar and suet and leave overnight to allow the flavours infuse. Vegetarians beware – due to our recent whole pig purchase (more to follow!) we had plenty of the traditional actual suet rather than the vegetarian version.

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The following day the mixture gets cooked, the brandy added at the end, and the whole lot gets put into sterilised jars which again seal themselves. Delia says she’s used some three year old pots but I’m not sure mine will last that long!

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As it’s still November I baulk at the notion of actually making mince pies, let alone eating them. My alternative was to make Swedish Cinnamon Buns which are quite Christmassy but not so traditional around here. They’re also surprisingly easy are really yummy.

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Here’s the recipe:

400mls milk

110g butter

2 tsp yeast

110 g caster sugar

750g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Filling:

110g butter

90g sugar

2tbsp cinnamon

Topping:

4tps demerara or pearl sugar

1 beaten egg

Heat the oven to 220C. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the milk. Transfer this to a large bowl, then mix in the yeast, sugar and salt. Add the flour and baking powder a cup at a time. It will resemble pancake batter at first and needs beating. Towards the end it resembles bread dough and the final mixing and kneading can be done on the counter top. Knead for about 3 minutes. Leave to rise about 45 minutes while you prepare the filling by melting the butter and adding the sugar and cinnamon. This needs to cool.

When the dough is doubled in size, turn it out onto the counter top and halve it. Roll into a rectangle about 1/2 cm thick. Spread with the filling evenly except for about 2 cm on the near edge. Roll the dough from the top towards you (the long side of the rectangle gets rolled) and then cut into about 15 pieces. These you place into bun cases swirly side up. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Coat with the beaten egg and sugar and cook 5 – 10 minutes only (watch them, they can burn!)

Try and resist until you’re not going to burn your mouth on hot sugar…

They freeze quite nicely and make lovely Christmas presents if you can spare any!

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