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Plum Butter

3 Aug

This is a smooth buttery jam softer than a set cheese and without the addition of butter to make a curd. It takes a long time to cook but the result is worth it. I am not sure which variety of plum we have here, they are small, almost round, dark purple with deep red flesh they have a strong sharp taste with a hint of almonds.
Makes about 16 X 250g jars
*3.5kg Black plums
*650ml of water
The method of making a butter differs from making jam only in that the fruit is passed through and sieve before the sugar is added and then is cooked for quite a long time. Wash plums and put into a large preserving pan with the water. Bring to the boil and boil for 30minutes or until the fruit is very pulpy. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Sieve the pulp to remove the skins and stones. Weigh the pulp and return it to the rinsed pan with 500g – 750g of sugar to each litre of pulp or half its weight in sugar. Cook on a high heat stirring occasionally until setting point is reached, approximately 1 hour. Ladle into warm sterilized jars (at this point you can pour a small amount of brandy over just to cover the surface but it is not necessary) and seal.
Originally published on 3/8/2006


Plum & Amaretto Sorbet

26 Jul

July is our plum season and we have several varieties of plums to pick; mirabelles, wild plums and these dark, almost black, plums which are quite tart but have a deep, rich, almondy flavour. I’ve got an ice-cream maker not just because I am mad about ice-cream and can eat it rain or shine at any time of day but as a way of preserving our summer fruit. For these plums I did some experiments and came up with this sorbet using only the fruit, some sugar and the almond flavoured liqueur amaretto to punch up the natural almond flavour of the plums. The result is spectacular; rich, gorgeously indulgent, and light at the same time.

Makes 6-8 portions
*400ml stewed and sieved plums
*75ml Amaretto Liqueur (optional)
*150ml water
*6 tbsp caster sugar

Mix all the ingredients together making sure the sugar is dissolved. Set the ice-cream maker going and pour in the mixture. Churn for 30-40 minutes until the colour changes and the sorbet forms. Spoon into an air tight carton and place in the freezer -18c for an hour to ‘cure’ before serving.

Cook’s Tip To prepare the stewed plums wash and put the plums whole into a large pan. Cook covered until the plums are mushy. Cool and pass through a sieve to remove the skins and stones. I process the plums in large quantities and the resulting puree can then be used to make Plum Butter or this ice cream or I freeze it in small batches, until I am ready to do something else with it.

Originally posted onmas du diable 27/7/2008

Mirabelle Jam

25 Jul

An absolutely exquisite jam. Mirabelles are small, yellow, highly aromatic plums for which the south of France is gastronomically famous. True mirabelle jam is almost apricot in flavour but, to my taste, it is even better. Mirabelles tend to appear in the markets in August, but we are lucky to have several Mirabelle trees on our land and our seasonal harvest can be June, July or August, depending on which of our trees is fruiting.

Makes about 2.5Kg 10x 250g jars
*1.5Kg (2lb) Mirabelle Plums
*1Kg (2lb) sugar
*A little water

Wash, halve and stone the plums. Crack the kernels and add these to the fruit (optional). Pour in enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and simmer until the fruit has softened 30mins-1hr. Add the sugar and bring rapidly the boil, boil vigorously until setting point is reached. Carefully skim off any scum and pour into warm sterlised jars using a funnel. Seal immediately. See how to make jam for tips on testing for set.
Originally posted on mas du diable  25/7/2007

Apricot Liqueur

2 Jul

This terrific aromatic dessert liqueur is a real gem. It is so easy to make and quite stunning; rich, sweet and full of fruity, almondy flavours. My friend Maggie thinks it tastes like her favourite Baume de Venise, but packs a little more punch.

*½ kilo Fresh Apricots, halved stones reserved
*1 tsp Allspice*400-450g Sugar
*900ml Dry White wine
*475 ml Gin

Place apricots in a large preserving pan with allspice, sugar and wine. Bring to boil, stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the gin. Crack the apricot stones, skin the kernels and add those. Pour into a crock or large jar cover tightly and set aside for 5-6 days to infuse, giving it a shake every day. Strain the liqueur, I use a coffee filter paper, to get a clear liquid. Pour into sterilised bottles and seal. Allow at least 1 month for the liqueur to mature before serving. Best served chilled.

Cook’s Tip Keep the apricot pulp to use in boozy puddings or to make a fruit puree or ice cream. It can be frozen for later use and because of the alcohol content will keep well for months in the fridge.

 Recipe Source I came across it in an old preserving book and tried making it a few years ago with great success. This is the recipe unchanged from Home Preserving, 101 ways of preserving fruit, vegetables and herbs 1972.

Apricot Jam (Low Sugar)

1 Jul

I think apricots make the best low sugar jams. Most jam recipes call for an equal weight of fruit to sugar which I find far too sweet. I normally make jam at about 60% sugar but this recipe is for a jam that is about 30% and it is wonderful. It has a fast and furious cooking process and very little sugar and is ideal for making in small batches even one jar at a time when you have the fruit.

  • Apricots
  • Preserving sugar

Remove the stones, roughly chop the apricots and weigh before tipping into a roomy heavy bottomed pan set over a high heat. Weigh out the preserving sugar equal to 30% of the weight of the fruit, so 30g of sugar for every 100g of prepared fruit. Once the apricots start bubbling tip in sugar and cook quickly until the consistency thickens and setting point is reached. Pour into hot sterlised jars and seal. See how to make jam for tips on testing for set.

Red Currant Jelly

30 Jun

A real classic and deliciously tart jelly, wonderful on bread for breakfast or more traditionally as an accompaniment to roast lamb. I’ve waited years to harvest enough red currants to make red currant jelly, I love it, but it takes quite a lot of red currants to make a small amount. I started with cuttings from a red currant bush (Jonkheer van Tets) in 2006 and I’ve been waiting until the cuttings grew big enough to produce enough fruit. I now have 6 healthy bushes and they have all produced a decent harvest this year.

  • red currants
  • sugar
  • water

Wash the fruit and put it into a large pan with enough water to half cover the fruit and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, mashing every now and then for 30 minutes or until the fruit becomes pulp. Pour the pulp into a jelly bag and hang the bag over a bowl to catch the juice. Leave it hanging until the juice stops dripping, a minimum of 4 hours or overnight to extract all the juice. Don’t squeeze the bag or it can make the jelly cloudy. Measure the strained juice and return it to a clean jam pan with 200g of sugar for every 300ml of juice. Stir well to dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached. Skim off any scum that forms and let the jelly settle for a minute or two before pouring into warm sterilised jars, seal immediately and label.
Cook’s Tip
To save time and effort the fruit can be boiled with all the stalks attached before it is strained but I do think you get a better tasting jelly if the fruit is cleaned from the stalks first. Use the times of a fork to run through each bunch and the fruit will fall off the stalks into the pan.
Recipe Source Home Preserving, 101 ways of preserving fruit, vegetables & herbs 1972. Most recipes including this one suggest more sugar but I prefer a tarter jelly, particularly if it is to be served with savory dishes so I use a lower ratio of sugar.
See how to make jam for tips on testing for set and techniques.

Fruity Fairy Cakes

28 Jun

Sweet, light and fluffy sponge cake baked in little cases with fresh fruit. These yummy morsels make a delicious breakfast or tea-time snack.
  • fresh fruit
  • 100g butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour (or 100g plain flour and 1 tsp baking powder)
Heat the oven to 190c, 375F, Gas 5. Wash the fruit, stone and Cut into pieces, and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and gradually stir in the sieved flour, mix well.
Set out 18-30 paper cases on a large baking tray and put a few pieces of fruit in the bottom of each case. Carefully spoon a small amount of mixture into each case and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown at the edges and firm.
Use aromatic fruit that is not too watery such as: cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, black currants.
Recipe source
The original sponge mixture recipe came from a packet of self-raining flour many years ago and is a good basic cake mix to know.

Apricot Chutney (Sweet)

26 Jun

This is a lovely sweet, sour and spicy chutney to go with savory Indian dishes, barbecues or even with cheese. It is something like a sweet mango chutney, light, juicy and delicious.

Makes 1.25 litres Prep 15 minutes Cook 30-40 minutes
  • I kilo (2.2lb) apricots (stoned and chopped it is about 4 packed cups)
  • 600ml (3 scant cups) white vinegar
  • 800g (4 scant cups) sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5cm piece ginger grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 8 green cardamom pods
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp aniseed, ground
  • 1 tsp onion seed
  • 6-10 dried chillis or 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek (optional)
Stone and cut the apricots into pieces and put into a non-corrosive pan with the vinegar, sugar, salt. garlic, ginger. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook slowly for about 20 minutes add the remaining ingredients the aniseed, onion seed and chillis and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until the chutney starts to thicken slightly and and the colour starts to darken a little . Pour into warm sterilised jars and seal immediately. Best to leave this chutney for a least a week before eating to give the vinegar a chance to mellow.
Storage should store for 2 years of more in a cool dark place. Once opened keep in the fridge.
Note on Chilli Heat
The amount of chilli you use is really to suit you own taste,this is a predominantly sweet chutney so I have use only a little chilli heat but you could crank it up a lot. I used a dried red chilli called exploding ember which I grew last summer they are small not that hot.

Pavlova with Red Fruit

23 Jun

This is my mum’s recipe for her amazing Pavlova. It is the most delicious dessert, it just melts in the mouth and no matter how much you have stuffed yourself you can always find room for a little slice of this desert. She usually makes it topped with grapes marinated in sherry and sugar but as it is our season for red currants, cherries and strawberries I made a red fruit topping. I am sure my mum would want me to point out that my version is a poor relative of the real thing; hers has a thick meringue base, so thick there is a pillow of soft squishy meringue inside the crisp sweet shell, the cream is thick and light with a hint of sherry and the fruit is arranged perfectly in alternating black and green grape circles. I did try but I didn’t whip the cream enough, I used granulated sugar so I had to beat it into the egg whites oops, I was too heavy handed so no soft pillow of meringue and I am still having trouble getting to grips with my fan-assisted, uncontrollable monster of an oven so all in all a pretty rubbish attempt. The good thing to know dear reader is that this recipe is indestructible and despite making a hash of following my mum’s recipe myself it came out tasting delicious so you can’t really loose giving this recipe a try and I can only get better with my next try.

  • 3 egg whites (large)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 level tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp white vinegarTopping
  • 284ml whipping cream
  • grapes green and black
  • 1 tbsp sherry or port
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 150c. Prepare a baking sheet by rinsing in water and while still wet lay a sheet of grease proof paper (baking parchment) over it. Whisk the egg whites until a soft peak forms. Mix together the vinegar and cornflour and fold ‘gently’ into the egg whites along with the sugar. Use a spatula to scrape the mixture out onto the baking sheet and spread out to form a large circle. Put on a low shelf in the oven and reduce the temperature to 140c. Bake for 1 hour turn the oven off and leave to cool slowly in the oven. (NB in my oven, which is a law unto itself, it takes about 30mins before it starts to burn!!!!) but I’ve kept my mum’s instructions intact in this recipe and hope it works for other people.

Meanwhile cut the grapes in half and remove any pips. Put the grapes in a bowl and add the alcohol and sugar. Leave to marinade for a couple of hours.

When you are ready to decorate whip the cream until thick and spreadable. Drain the liquid from the grapes and stir into the cream. Remove the pavlova from the oven. Get a serving plate and gently place it over the pavlova then turn over so that the plat is resting right side on the counter and the pavlova is crust side down on the plate. Gentle peel off the parchment, spread the cream in a thick layer over the surface and decorate with the fruit. Chill until ready to serve.

Cherry Brandy

6 Jun

Cherries love the land here. There are wild cherry trees growing all over the mountain. We also have cultivated cherry trees that produce all the cherries we need for eating so to use the wild cherries, which are smaller and more acidic, we make cherry brandy. Of all the things in our pantry this is Rachel’s favourite. It is very easy to make and if its made when the cherries are ripe in June it will be ready for Christmas though we do usually start drinking it earlier because it is so yummy and we’ve usually run out of last years batch.

What you need
Jars with tight fitting lids (1.5L jars is what we used here)
*3-6 tablespoons of vanilla sugar per Jar (depending on the cherries are and how sweet you want the brandy)

How to make it

Prepare the cherries wash and drain the cherries and set aside to dry

Prepare the jars wash with hot soapy water, rinse and sterilise by putting them in an oven at 150c for 10minutes.

Fill the jars prick each cherry as you chuck it in the jar, so that the juices run out easily. When you get to a third full add 1/3 of the sugar, carry on adding cherries to 2 thirds and add another 1/3 of the sugar. When you get to the top leave a 2cm gap below the lid add the remaing sugar.

Add Brandy pour brandy over the cherries to fill the jar and seal. give everything good shake to make sure the sugra dissolves then leave it in a cool dark place to mature.

Wait, giving the jars a shake every now and then. It will be ready in 3-6 months depending on how patient you are.

Strain when its ready or when you can’t wait any longer, strain the brandy, the easiest way is with a coffee filter paper and holder over a funnel, into clean sterilised bottles, seal and label.

TIP Reserve the cherries for eating later, these really are delicious and can be used as fruit toppings and in puddings, but do go steady with them as they will have soaked up a lot of alcohol. Once drained they can be kept in the fridge for at least 2 years that i know of.

TIP use vanilla sugar for a better flavoured result. Vanilla sugar can be made by grinding a vanilla pod with 1kg of sugar, a more economical way, which is what i do, is to just put a bruised vanilla pod in the sugar jar it lasts and flavours the sugar and refills for ages.

Originally posted on  6/6/2006