Wendyl’s coun­try di­ary:

the fruits of sum­mer

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

One of the great­est plea­sures I’ve had up north dur­ing win­ter has been eat­ing the food our land pro­duced over the sum­mer. For the first time since we bought our place, the plum, ap­ple and peach trees pro­duced loads of fruit, which I pre­served in old Agee jars, know­ing that come win­ter I would re­ally en­joy mak­ing fruit crum­ble. Which is ex­actly what hap­pened. In fact, I should prob­a­bly stop mak­ing fruit crum­ble and get back to the days of not eat­ing dessert!

I also made fig chut­ney from the figs I man­aged to get be­fore the birds ate them all, and green tomato chut­ney from the last, un­ripened toma­toes.

Then I suc­cess­fully made – thanks to a recipe from Lynda Hal­li­nan – guava jelly from the cherry guavas that are al­ways plen­ti­ful in sum­mer. I’d never been able to make a jelly that set be­fore, so I’m deeply in­debted to Lynda.

The only food I didn’t man­age to pre­serve were the fei­joas, be­cause I was over­seas when they were ripe. My friends who har­vested them in­formed me I have a nasty case of guava moth, so I’ve just put a pheromone trap in the fei­joa trees in the hope of catch­ing the male moths be­fore they mate. I’ve also sprayed the trees with neem oil and raked away all the de­bris at the bot­tom of the trees where moth lar­vae live and sprin­kled neem tree gran­ules, so hope­fully the next har­vest will be clean.

At the mo­ment I am mak­ing mar­malade from the last of the grape­fruit and a few of the le­mons. It’s a very easy recipe (see right) be­cause you just chop them all up, seeds and all, soak overnight, then boil up with sugar the next day.

I’ve made enough to keep us go­ing for a year, which isn’t much as I’m the only per­son who eats mar­malade in my fam­ily, but I’ve also made dozens of small jars to give away. My mum and dad love it and the team at the magazine don’t mind when I hand over jars of preserves from up north.

I think giv­ing the gift of preserves is a re­ally lovely thing to do. I once gave the late great Paul Holmes a jar of my mar­malade and he loved the stuff so much he asked me for more.

My friend Michelle is a preser­va­tive, like me, and I’m al­ways de­lighted to see her be­cause she gives me a bot­tle of her amaz­ing spicy tomato sauce… and be­cause she’s great com­pany, ob­vi­ously!

Be­fore I had a small or­chard, I taught my­self how to pre­serve by buy­ing up pro­duce when it was in sea­son and cheap. A box of apri­cots came back with me from Hawke’s Bay des­tined for the Agee jars, and I once spent a day driv­ing around Auck­land in search of Dam­son plums to make Dam­son gin. I had been watch­ing a lot of Miss Marple episodes on TV and just had to find out what it tasted like. I still have a tiny bot­tle in my pantry, which I bring out on spe­cial oc­ca­sions.

The only prob­lem with be­ing a preser­va­tive is that you also be­come ad­dicted to col­lect­ing Agee jars. Ten years ago, you could get a big box full for just $5. Now they cost that much each. But I have all my friends and fam­ily on high alert when they go to op shops to keep an eye out for a bar­gain.

If you have a cou­ple of grape­fruit and a le­mon ly­ing around, have a go at this recipe and see if, like me, you get hooked on preserves. Finely chop grape­fruit and le­mon, skin and all (about 1cm pieces), col­lect­ing the juice as you go, and put in a bowl. Cover with the wa­ter. Leave overnight (it smells gor­geous). In the morn­ing, boil for 45 min­utes un­til it goes a bit pulpy and soft. Let cool a lit­tle and then pour back into the bowl. For each cup of pulp, add a cup of sugar and put back into the pot. Boil briskly un­til it reaches set­ting point. To tell this, take a spoon­ful out and put on a cold saucer. When you run your fin­ger through the pud­dle there should be a clear chan­nel left which doesn’t fill up. Pour into ster­ilised jars. (Wash jars well and put in a 110°C oven for 10 min­utes. Boil lids in a pot of boil­ing wa­ter for the same time.)

I think giv­ing the gift of preserves is a re­ally lovely thing to do.

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