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I looked at the (sadly ornamental) cherry tree in the front yard this week, and worried that its leaves were yellowing – some kind of deficiency, I thought. But it’s only a deficiency of summer, and all around me the leaves are starting to turn – the oaks, the Virginia Creepers, the plums and apricot. Summer is escaping, and as proof I’m typing in my trusty ugh boots.
Our tomatoes were disappointing this year, apart from the plague of volunteer yellow cherry tomatoes. They’re a bit of a disappointment in themselves, being 98% seed and 2% bitter skin. They’re OK dried slowly in the oven, or in a salad. Just OK. Barely OK. I had been hoping to preserve a tomato sauce in the Fowler’s Vacola I borrowed from Ampersand Duck’s Best Beloved, but I’ll need to go and buy a box of proper tasty tomatoes from the markets to do that. Fortunately the Autumn weather is more conducive to keeping a huge cauldron bubbling away than the 40 degree days of early February.
Googling around for Vacola wisdom, I found this from Mountaingirl’s Musings in October last year:
I think I have worked out why the tradition is dying – and it isn’t that the preserving is hard, or that tinned fruit is so plentiful, it is more a case of buying fruit negates the purpose of preserving it to a large extent. And with smaller land parcels, and busier lives, few of us have the orchard in the back yard so access to “free” fruit is virtually eliminated.
Canberra, or at least the inner north where I live, has abundant fruit trees. Our rented house has a plum, apricot, crab apple and pear (which bore a record
two four fruits this year). The best year we had for apricots was when we tied a kid’s swing on one of the branches. It seems that the stress on the tree helps it fruit heavily, but it’s an old tree and not yet recovered from the loss of all the dead wood we had to cut out last year.
Still, I have managed to put up a few things for winter. Chutney, sauce and pickled plums made from yellow-fleshed and blood plums for comparison purposes. A lone bottle of apricot sauce. Peaches, rhubarb and more plums in the freezer. Fortunately once people know you like preserving, they’re willing to share. It saves them another night of bottling until 1 am.
I think your chances of throwing together a good pantry dinner are greatly increased when there are a few jars of pickles and sauces tucked away. There are some things I always have – Fuchsia Dunlop’s sweet aromatic soy sauce and Just Hungry’s “Japanese flavour essence“. In the fridge at the moment are tiny pickled turnips, preserved with a few batons of beetroot to colour them intensely pink like the Turkish pickles I love. A big fat jar of preserved lemons,always. A jar of cumquats pickled to Stephanie Alexander’s recipe in the out of print “Feasts and Stories” that we ate last weekend with a Wessex Saddleback pork forequarter braised in milk. I lived in Brazil once, where I first ate quince paste with soft farm cheese, which they call “Romeo e Julieta”, and the huge pile of scrumped quinces is heading that way.
So instead of feeling glum about the tomatoes, I collected together some pictures of my store-cupboard treasures, from this summer and seasons past. Clicking on any of the thumbnails will enlarge the image.