Cherry pie

A rainy day in summer means a day in the kitchen preserving fruit, and if you’re lucky enough to grow (or have access to) cherries, then cherry pie is a wonderful place to start.

But there’s plenty of other ways of preserving cherries as well. One of our regular customers Christine got us inspired with this photo of the fruits of her labour in the kitchen.

From left to right, – Rainier (white cherry) conserve, Lambert (dark cherry) conserve, Rainiers in cognac and Lambert in cognac

Aren’t they gorgeous?  It’s so satisfying to see home-grown produce prepared so beautifully—thanks for sharing Christine, they look amazing.

Feeling inspired at a time when we had a team of WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) staying with us one rainy summer, we got to work on the cherries that had been set aside for home use.  We started with modest ambitions of drying some cherries, and did two batches – one in the electric dehydrator and one in the oven.

Kirsten (aka Rosie the Riveter) about to put a batch of pitted cherries in the oven to dry
We had to use the oven on this occasion, as we couldn’t use our trusty home-made solar dehydrator in the rainy weather. (Click here for instructions on how to make your own solar dehydrator.)

Next was a batch of cherries stewed with star anise, cinnamon and cloves, which we bottled (though the Americans insisted on calling it ‘canning’).

Then the baking started. Oh, my goodness – dried cherry and oatmeal cookies (so named by our American guests), two types of muffin (cherry and chocolate, and cherry, peach & coconut) and cherry and peach scones. Hmmm, so that was morning tea taken care of.

Then thoughts turned to dessert. Chef Laura got excited about making a cherry tarte tatin, which started with sugar, dotted butter and some fantastic Sam cherries in a frying pan. They simmered away until the liquid reduced to a delicious syrupy consistency.

cherry_pie

The pie dough then goes on top of the cherries…

and into the oven, and once cooked, the tarte is upturned on a plate, and eaten with creme anglaise. Oh yeah…..

For most people, that would have been enough, but we still had to have (as promised at the beginning of this blog) cherry pie. Two cherry pies, in fact. Melissa braved the elements to pick some rhubarb to make a rhubarb and cherry sauce to serve with the pies, and Kirsten and Laura got creative with some divine lattice work – note the cherry on top of one pie, and the goat on top of the other, in honour of our friends at Holy Goat cheese.

January is diet month!

Find out more about how to save money with home grown and hand made with our Fabulous Fruit Preserving online short course.

Too many peaches…

Over Christmas (when everyone took a couple of days off and the picking got slightly behind) a few white peaches got overripe and sadly ended up on the ground. One of the basic principles of keeping your organic fruit trees healthy is picking up all of the fruit that falls on the ground, so they all had to come up!

On our farm we’ve always had a commitment to using every piece of fruit for its highest purpose, so any fruit picked up off the ground is used first for people food. If it’s not good enough for human consumption it goes to the pigs and ducks, or into the compost or worm farm.

Oops … some white peaches hit the deck!

So, having just had to deal with quite a glut of white peaches, this week we want to share with you one of our favourite peach chutney recipes, passed on to us by one of our lovely customers, via the Australian Women’s Weekly “The Book of Preserves” (thanks Robbie).

We modified the recipe slightly when we made it, so we bring you the Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens version here (based on what we had in the pantry and the fridge, which is how so many good recipes evolve!). It’s a terrific way of using white peaches, which are in abundance at this time of year.

Mt Alexander Peach and Lemon Chutney
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp chilli powder (or 4 small dried red chillies)
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 kg organic white peaches (you could use yellow peaches)
3 medium organic brown onions, chopped finely
2 cups organic brown sugar
2 cups organic apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sultanas or currants
1/4 cup dried peel
3 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/4 cup lemon juice

If using clingstone white peaches, first simmer the peaches in just enough water to prevent them sticking for 10-15 minutes or until the flesh will easily come off the stones. Cool, and remove flesh from stones by hand, discard peach stones. There’s no need to peel the peaches, just wash them and remove any bad bits before you boil them.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir over heat without boiling until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 1.5 hours or until the mixture is thick. Pour into hot sterilised jars, and seal immediately with sterilised lids.

Goes perfectly with leftover Christmas ham, or give away as a meaningful Christmas present next year.

The most delicious apricot jam

We get a lot of questions in apricot season about which apricots are best for jam. We grow about ten different varieties of apricot (at last count), so it’s a fair question!

Old Australian favourites include Trevatt and Moorpark apricots (see a Moorpark below), which both have fantastic flavour and consistency for jam, and make a beautiful bright coloured jam that’s not too dark.

These two also share the characteristic of ripening from the inside, which means that if include some fruit that still looks a little green on the outside it will probably already be sweet and soft enough on the inside to make good jam, but will also have a little bit more pectin in it than overripe fruit, which means the jam will set more easily.

It doesn’t really matter which variety of apricot you use for jam, but here a few tips to help you achieve success and good flavour every time. The basic jam recipe is equal quantities of fruit and sugar, and you should add as little water as possible – if you add water, you have to cook the jam for longer to get it to set, and you risk it developing a dark colour which can look quite unattractive.

Cook the fruit first to the consistency you want, then add the sugar. If you add the sugar at the beginning, the fruit tends to stay in whole pieces rather than break down (if you like chunkier jam, then use this method).

apricot jam, just coming to the boil

Stick to small batches, especially while you’re learning. 1 kg of fruit will make about 6-8 medium jars of jam, and is a great quantity to start with.  If the batch is bigger than 2kg, it can be hard to get the jam to set, and you may end up with a dark coloured jam from having to boil it for too long.

Danny making apricot jam

As long as you’ve properly sterilised your jars and lids before pouring in the jam, it should keep well in the pantry for a couple of years at least (except you’ll probably eat it waaaaay before then).

If you’re not familiar with making jam, don’t be daunted, just give it a try. As long as you manage not to burn it (pay attention, and stir often), nothing really bad can happen – the worst you’re risking is that you end up with rather runny fruit sauce (delicious on ice-cream) rather than jam.

There are lots of variations on this basic recipe of course, so feel free to improvise and experiment.  To save you on time and mistakes, we’ve included a few tried and true recipes (including a sugar-free one), in Fabulous Fruit Preserving.

Happy preserving!