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Apples Galore in your Garden? Time to Make Chutney and Jam

Add Your Heading Text HereExperts offer advice on the best apples to grow for particular dishes, and how to preserve your bumper harvest. By Hannah Stephenson.

Fed up with the thought of endless crumbles and pies? So, what else can you do with your bumper crops of apples?

It’s easy to make chutneys and jams from huge gluts, say experts from Arundel Castle (arundelcastle.org) in west Sussex, which has this year had an amazing harvest.

Senior organic kitchen gardener Izzy McKinley and artisan jam and chutney maker Christine Hart, owner of Sussex Jams And Chutneys, are helping to make the most of the season’s best.

Why bother preserving apples at home?

For much of the year, the apples on supermarket shelves are months old, says McKinley. Often imported, they are stored in warehouses with modified atmospheres that prevent them from ripening.

Preserving them in chutneys and jams during autumn is a more traditional way of enjoying British apples throughout the year.

While Pink Lady and Jazz apples are imported, your own apples may be just as suitable. Varieties you might grow yourself, such as ‘Egremont Russet’ and ‘Bramley’, can be transformed into delicious dishes.

Choosing your apples

McKinley and Hart agree that the best all-rounder is the ‘Peasegood’s Nonsuch’, a large apple from Lincolnshire. It is a cooking apple but requires much less sugar than other cookers, says Hart.

She says: “Never be put off by cooking apples, they are excellent to work with. It’s quicker to peel and prepare a large apple, and these varieties have a wonderfully sharp flavour. You can add sugar as you like. Cooking apples still produce deliciously sweet jams.

“While chutneys and apple sauce are popular choices, I like to make apple jams and serve with scones, as an autumnal alternative to a classic cream tea.”

Other ways of preserving apples this autumn include…

Chutney

Making chutney is like making jam, except it will have a longer cooking time and include vinegar, less sugar and more savoury ingredients, such as onions. Unleash your creativity and experiment with adding spices, fruits or even seasonal vegetables, such as squash. Curry lovers can try making their own apple and mango chutney, the experts suggest.

No-cook relish

Make your own apple relish without having to cook. Combine apples, vinegar, sugar and seasoning, then store in the fridge for two to three days, shaking each day. It’ll keep for up to one week. As with all preserves, it’s vital to sterilise the jars properly first.

Drying

Thinly sliced apples should be dipped in an acidic solution (such as lemon juice and water) to prevent browning, then dried in an oven at a low temperature or in a food dehydrator. Both methods take up to 12 hours. The apples can be stored in a Ziplock bag and, if optimally dried and stored, will last up to six months. Eat them as a sweet snack or crumbled on granola.

Juicing

While freshly home-made apple juice will only keep for two to three days in the fridge, it will last for a few months stored in plastic bags in the freezer, so it’s worth making plenty of your own, says McKinley.

Frozen apple juice has a range of culinary uses – use it as cooking liquid for gammon or serve over the festive season in spiced cocktails and mocktails.

Her top pick for juicing is the lesser-known variety ‘Ingrid Marie’. “It has a lightly aromatic juice and is a cross between ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ and ‘Elstar’,” she says.

Apple juice aficionados should also keep a lookout for the ‘Jupiter’, another ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ cross, which bursts with sweet juice, she suggests.

“For the ultimate home-made apple juice, our head gardener’s secret is to add one or two pears. The sweetness and texture that a ripe pear brings to an apple juice is unparalleled,” she says.

Ray Mears Top Tips for Cooking Outdoors

The bushcraft expert shares his know-how for whipping up a more than decent campfire dinner.

If your outdoor cooking repertoire is limited to smores and sausages on sticks, it might be time to branch out a little.

“Food is important outdoors, and it doesn’t have to be just spaghetti bolognese out of a packet,” says survivalist expert Ray Mears, who has now written his first cookbook, Wilderness Chef: The Ultimate Guide To Cooking Outdoors.

Whether you’re going on a hike or trek, or just camping at the end of the garden, “you just need a handful of recipes and tricks that you can remember and carry with you”, he says.

“That can transform your experience of travelling, and it’s also bringing variety to the outdoor diet,” Mears adds.

Here are a few more bites of outdoors culinary wisdom from the bushcraft pro…

Don’t fret about burning things – just get stuck in

“If it goes wrong, it goes wrong, so what? You learn. I can imagine an artist or writer being afraid of a blank piece of paper, but until you actually push some words around on the page, you don’t get anywhere. It’s really important to just launch in and have a go. Even if things don’t turn out quite as you anticipated, they usually still taste good.”

Keep your fire small

“When you’re cooking over an open fire, it needs only be small. You don’t use too much heat. You only need a small fire. That’s very important.”

Have a few knife skills up your sleeve

“It’s important to develop some knife skills because there’s a lot of chopping up. If you can make what the French call a mirepoix [the basis of many a soup or stew] – carrots, onions and celery diced up and softened in butter – the moment you do that, you’re off and running; you can’t really go far wrong.”

Soups are ideal on a camping trip

“Soups are very important outdoors. They are very easy to make. They’re very hydrating, and we use a lot of liquid when we’re outdoors. They’re very satisfying and easy and quick to do. We underestimate how valuable soups are. Very often, you can make the soup from the trimmings of other meals. So, then you don’t waste anything as well, which is great.”

Consider your packaging

“I don’t like aluminium foil, it’ll last in the environment forever. It’s just not necessary, and many foods come already packaged to cook, like eggs.”

Don’t worry about making a pudding

“When you’re outdoors, it’s enough to have a good main.”

Ground oven cooking can be great fun

“Using a ground oven is a very special way of cooking where you dig a hole, light a fire and add your ingredients before covering it all back up with earth. The food comes out tasting lovely if it’s done right but there is a skill to it, there’s a real art to doing it well.

“When there’s a group of you, the effort is nothing because you share the labour. And so for an hour or two of preparation, you can then go away for many hours, do something else, and come back and have a fantastic meal waiting for you.”

Wilderness Chef: The Ultimate Guide To Cooking Outdoors by Ray Mears, photography by Ray Mears, is published by Bloomsbury, priced £20. Available now.

Banana, Tahini and White Chocolate Muffin Recipe

banan muffin recipe

Muffins are great to whip up at the weekend - so you can make your way through them in the week.

banan muffin recipe

Elly McCausland says her recipe using banana, tahini, cardamom and white chocolate, results in a “highly addictive sweet-savoury combination” and is also an “excellent way to use up overripe bananas – the blacker the better”.

Banana, tahini and white chocolate muffin recipe

Ingredients

(Makes 12)

For the muffins:

200g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Seeds from 8 cardamom pods, finely ground

1/4tsp sea salt flakes

100g white chocolate chips (or 1cm pieces of white chocolate)

3 large bananas, mashed

70g light brown soft sugar

1 egg

50g butter, melted and cooled

1tsp vanilla extract

60g tahini

For the tahini glaze:

2tbsp tahini

100g icing sugar

1tsp lemon juice

1tbsp sesame seeds (a mixture of black and white looks nice)

banan muffin recipe

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases (or grease thoroughly with some extra butter if you don’t have paper cases).

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, then stir in the cardamom and salt. Stir in the white chocolate.

3. In a separate bowl, mash together the bananas, sugar, egg, melted butter, vanilla and tahini.

4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to over-mix – this is the key to a light muffin. Divide between the 12 cases and bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes, until they spring back when pressed lightly with a finger.

5. Transfer the muffins in their cases to a wire rack to cool.

6. Make the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, icing sugar, lemon juice and two tablespoons of water. When the muffins are cool, spoon the glaze over the top. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and leave for an hour or so for the glaze to set before eating (if you can wait!).

The Botanical Kitchen by Elly McCausland, photography by Polly Webster, is published by Bloomsbury Absolute, priced £26. Available now.

banan muffin recipe
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