Fruit, fruit, glorious fruit. The old damson tree is laden with fruit this autumn. I eye them greedy on a daily basis waiting to pluck them at their peak of fruity loveliness. I dream of having oozy dark damson jam for breakfast again. After last seasons bumper crop of sloes there are none this year, but with plenty of damsons on offer we’ll be steeping a batch of damson gin for a Christmas snifter or two. The apples are also thriving after years of neglect, so the freezer will be packed with stewed apple for those emergency crumbles when Squaddie Dad comes to stay and, heaven forbid, I’ve forgotten about pudding.
We’re big fans of braised red cabbage, so this year I ditched some slug magnet savoys to make way for the red drumhead cabbage. I’ve been watching the dusty purple leaves curl in tightly as the heads swell. I’ve scattered eggshells and slug pellets galore to protect these braising beauties. Then lo and behold, I turn my back for a day and my prize drumhead cracks wide open, unable to hold herself in for a moment longer. Quick as a flash I whipped her out of the ground and into the kitchen before any sodding slug could squelch its way inside. Hmmm, yummy with a juicy pork chop.
This time last year I was searching for recipes to use up my sorry looking basketfuls of green tomatoes, but no such problems this year. The tomatoes went into ripening overdrive a couple of weeks ago and are still going strong – one batch of roasted tomato sauce is already in the freezer, and tomorrow it’s time for the passata. Cherry tomatoes have been a success story – we tried “Minibel” this year (not to be confused with Ba-ba-ba ba-babybel) – so I’m going to test my new found confidence in the kitchen and attempt to turn the trug load sitting on the kitchen counter into jars of slow roasted tomatoes in olive oil.
With the dip in temperature as the autumn weather approaches, the conveyor belt of courgettes and cucumbers is finally slowing down. None of the glut has gone to waste though, as the pigs scoff those that are too far gone and large enough to house a family of mice and their aunts, uncles and cousins, and the rest have magically (after much chopping and a fair few minutes of slaving over the vinegary fumes of a hot maslin pan) become jars of relish. Dave has already blown my cover and blurted out the secret plan to sell my wares to the unwary tourists of Covent Garden. My poor little jars looked a little lonely on the shelf, but as of today I have reinforcements ready to keep them company, and each jar has its own little mob cap. The shop launches this Saturday - get there early to avoid disappointment!