PICK AND PRESERVE… AUTUMN FRUIT
APPLES, PEARS, FEIJOAS, CRABAPPLES AND QUINCES are the mainstays of the autumn preserver’s orchard. Bottle and stew fruit for winter, make jams and jellies, or try your hand at posh pastes and fruit cheeses for antipasto platters.
• The basic jelly making method is the same for all of these fruits. Roughly chop unpeeled fruit into a large pot and add just enough water to cover, then bring it to a gentle simmer (lid on, if possible) and cook until the fruit is tender. Then tip the pulp into a jelly bag, large sieve or colander lined with muslin, or a cheap cotton pillowcase and strain over a bowl. (Catch the drips, as it’s the liquid you want, not the pulp.) Then simply measure the amount of liquid you have, and match with an equal quantity of sugar (or jam-setting sugar if using a low-pectin fruit). Boil briskly until a little jelly dribbled onto a cold plate (from the fridge) gets a wrinkled skin.
• Feijoas are wonderful bottled, and it’s not difficult. Cut firm fruit in half and scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon. (Reserve the skins to make feijoa jelly). Place the scooped fruit into a large bowl of water with the juice of 1 lemon (this stops the fruit turning brown as you work). In a large pot, dissolve 1 cup sugar to 3 cups water. When simmering, gently lower the feijoas into the syrup and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Then, using a slotted spoon, pack the stewed feijoas into hot glass jars, top up with the stewing syrup, and screw on lids to seal. Turn the jars upside down (the extra heat improves the strength of the seal) until cool. Pears are also easy to preserve this way, as the fruit is firm and holds its shape.
• A tip for making quince paste. Instead of boiling chopped quinces, cook them whole in your slow cooker until their flesh is tender and rose-pink, then squish off the skins and slide out the cores. It’s the easiest way to get a smooth pulp. Combine this pulp with the same amount of sugar and cook slowly, stirring constantly, in a large heavy frying pan, for 30 minutes (or more), until thick and dark.