Plums, pears, tomatoes, basil and crabapples

This week has been incredibly fruit-full, literally.  Despite the chill in the air that feels like autumn rather than summer, I’ve been able to access excellent tomatoes and basil.  I’ve made three types of chutney and have tomato segments processing to semi-dried in the oven and dehydrator.  They will later today be dipped in vinegar, then covered with olive oil – wonderful to have on hand for a whole range of dishes and breads. Iit’s essential to dip them in vinegar to increase the acid level to extend their shelf life)  I keep them in the fridge – if the oil solidifies a little, just remove the jar from the fridge an hour or so before they are needed- the oil will quickly liquify again.

A friend gave me a huge basketful of tiny little pears which I am absolutely delighted with.  For years I have been wanting to make Angela Hartnett’s Mustard Fruits which calls for just such small pears.  Also necessary is mustard essence which can only be purchased in Italy.  I tried making mustard fruit with mustard oil  but it just wasn’t quite right.  Son Alistair worked with Angela at the Connaught  in London and he told me that mustard fruits are beyond sensational.  So  now with all the required tools at hand I am able to make them properly at last.  Given the luxury of so many tiny pears, I think I’ll make a quadruple batch.

Plums are pouring through the door – blood plums, yellow plums of several varieties and tomorrow there will be more.  There are damsons to come as well.  There’s a busy time ahead and already the preserving bottles are full, all 300+ of them.  Never mind – there are always sauces, pickles, sauces and fruit pastes and cheeses, not to mention cordials to be made.  And then there’s worcestershire sauce of course.

Pesto has been made by the bucketful – so delicious that I can’t resist the temptation to make more, lots of it as it freezes really well for later use.  The recipe for that is to follow.

Fruit pastes are a really good way to use excess fruit – especially the much undervalued crabapple and excess plums.  You simply cook the fruit with just a little water until soft, then sieve it or pass it through a food mill.  For each cup of pulp you add one cup of sugar.   Bring it to the boil, stirring, then cook until it’s really thick, stirring often and almost constantly towards the end of cooking time – until a spoon scraped through the middle leaves a definite line.    You can either pour it into small jars, or if it’s really thick into a foil lined baking tray.  In the case of the latter, it can later be cut into squares, rolled in castor sugar, then stored in an airtight container between sheets of baking paper.  You can serve it with cheese, as a confectionery.  Often I skip the rolling in castor sugar and roll the squares in melted chocolate instead.  Very nice.

In the case of plum paste, try adding a  little port – about 2 tablespoons to 400g of paste, or more if you like it – delicious!  Incidentally, it is equally delicious in a paste made with figs.

So there is a bit to be going on with.  My favourite of the month is pesto and basil seems to be abundant almost everywhere, so here is the recipe.    Freeze it in small containers if you make a great deal, in which case it is not necessary to cover the surface of the finished product with oil.  This recipe is made in the food processor which is quick and easy, but you can make it in a mortar and pestle as many people prefer to do.  I use light olive oil so that the flavour does not overpower that of the basil and pine nuts.

2 cups fresh basil leaves

½ cup pine nuts

2 gloves garlic, peeled

½ cup light olive oil

1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice, optional

½ cup shaved or shredded parmesan

¼ to ½ teaspoon salt

Place the basil leaves, pine nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.  With the motor running, gradually add the oil, then the lemon juice (if using) and parmesan.  Add salt to taste.

Pour into a container and cover surface with a little olive oil.  Cover with a lid.   Refrigerate.

 

6 thoughts on “Plums, pears, tomatoes, basil and crabapples

  1. chrisd says:

    Hi Sally, I’ve been experimenting with my dehydrator to make sun dried tomatoes recently they seem to have worked out well and I have stored them in a jar covered in olive oil with some sliced garlic. To dip them in vinegar as you suggested does it need to be any particular kind of vinegar and is it just a matter of dipping in the vinegar and straight in the jar with the oil. I enjoy your blog, lots to learn and new things to try.

    Like

    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Chris – you can use any sort of vinegar. Yes, just dip them in and then straight into the jar and cover with the olive oil. Including garlic in the jar might lessen the shelf life a little – just keep an eye on that, it is notorious for it, though not everyone has it happen. If you have done tons and tons you can always freeze them – tomatoes, garlic and oil all together in smallish containers and take them out as you need them. It only takes a little while for them to thaw.

      Some people put basil in also but the leaves can tend to go slimy after about 2 weeks in the oil and really need to be pulled out a bit before that time (just the basil, not the tomatoes). I have put basil stalks in though, and that works well, effectively eliminating the issue of the slimy basil leaves. I then use the leaves to make pesto, to my mind one of the absolute best foods ever.

      I always make heaps of semi-dried tomatoes – they are so very useful, not to mention far, far tastier than the commercial variety.. Just this morning I made a huge batch of pesto and semi-dried tomato pull apart bread which I am selling on my roadside stall today.

      Regards
      Sally

      Like

  2. Sally Wise says:

    Hi Chris – you can use any sort of vinegar. Yes, just dip them in and then straight into the jar and cover with the olive oil. Including garlic in the jar might lessen the shelf life a little – just keep an eye on that, it is notorious for it, though not everyone has it happen. If you have done tons and tons you can always freeze them – tomatoes, garlic and oil all together in smallish containers and take them out as you need them. It only takes a little while for them to thaw.

    Some people put basil in also but the leaves can tend to go slimy after about 2 weeks in the oil and really need to be pulled out a bit before that time (just the basil, not the tomatoes). I have put basil stalks in though, and that works well, effectively eliminating the issue of the slimy basil leaves. I then use the leaves to make pesto, to my mind one of the absolute best foods ever.

    I always make heaps of semi-dried tomatoes – they are so very useful, not to mention far, far tastier than the commercial variety.. Just this morning I made a huge batch of pesto and semi-dried tomato pull apart bread which I am selling on my roadside stall today.

    Regards
    Sally

    Like

  3. Jill from Argentina says:

    Hi Sally,
    I am in the middle of a glut of apricots and blood plums / you have mentioned worcestershire sauce a couple of times, and I can’t find the recipe. Could you put it up please? Love all your suggestions but WOW! what a lot of work!!

    Like

    • Sally Wise says:

      Here you go – use either your blood plums or apricots,either way the sauce will be delicious.

      Worcestershire Sauce

      3kg plums or apricots
      12 cups brown malt vinegar
      60g garlic
      60g salt
      2 cups treacle
      500g brown sugar
      60g ginger root, bruised
      45g cloves
      15g whole allspice
      1 teaspoon cayenne

      Combine all ingredients in a large pot.

      Bring to the boil, stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours. Strain through kitchen sieve, then pour into warm sterilised bottles and seal immediately.

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      • jill says:

        thank you Sally – sounds as though you make rather a lot with all that so shall halve the recipe and let you know how I get on!!!!

        Like

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