Price Points: Plum trees

Plum trees | H is for Home

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a bunch of saplings for sale outside the entrance to our local supermarket they were all priced up at £5.00 – bargain! I had a look at all the labels and amongst the apple, pear and cherry trees I spotted a single Victoria plum tree. I thought to myself that I’d return a bit later on in the day to buy it.

Needless to say, I popped back mere hours later and it was gone – I lost my chance! Anyway, a couple of days ago, I was back at the supermarket to pick up a couple of things and there were a couple of plum trees back in stock. I picked one out on my way in – I walked all around the shop with it – I wasn’t going to miss out again.

It said on the label that it’s self-pollinating (self-fertile), however, I did a bit of research online and apparently having other compatible plum trees nearby helps improve fruiting. ‘Compatible’ simply means another variety that flowers at the same time.

I’m torn between ‘Black Amber’ and the dual ‘Bleue de Belgique’/’Reine Claude d’Oullins’. The former only gets to 1 metre tall – perfect for a small garden like ours. However, the latter gives you two completely different varieties on a single tree; again, a good option for our limited space.

  1. Plum ‘Black Amber’ (mini fruit tree): £12.99, Van Meuwen
  2. Dual plum ‘Bleue de Belgique’ + ‘Reine Claude d’Oullins’: £17.50, Bakker
  3. Plum ‘Opal’: £24.99, Thompson Morgan

Redcurrant jelly

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Jars of home-made redcurrant jelly | H is for Home

July sees the start of our food harvesting and preserving season. Last week we made a delicious elderflower ice cream with our home-made elderflower cordial.

colander full of redcurrants picked on our allotment

This week, we’ve made some redcurrant jelly using a recipe from Cordon Bleu Preserving.

Washed redcurrants put into glass jars

We inherited half a dozen or so redcurrant bushes when we took on our allotment last year. On our last trip down there this week, the bushes were heaving with little red jewels.

Redcurrants cooked in lidded jars in the oven

It took the pair of us about two hours to pick about half of them. When we got home, we gave them a rinse – they barely filled our small colander!

Weighing sugar to make redcurrant jelly

Despite this, we kept back a couple of cupfuls (to go into a pie) before making rest into jelly… it actually made 8 jars.

Straining cooked redcurrants through a jelly bag

We know that redcurrant jelly is usually matched with lamb or game and a dollop or two can go into a gravy for extra flavour. We’ll have to look for some other good flavour matches…any ideas?

Marzipan chocolate brownies
Serves 8
For the brownie layer
  1. 175g/6oz butter
  2. 175g/6oz caster sugar
  3. 75g/2½oz dark chocolate
  4. 3 eggs
  5. 85g/3oz plain flour, sieved
  6. 40g/1½oz cocoa powder
For the ganache
  1. 75g/2½oz dark chocolate
  2. 75g/2½oz double cream
For the marzipan
  1. 150g/5oz ground almonds
  2. 200g/7oz icing sugar
  3. 2tsp almond extract
  4. 1 egg white
For the chocolate topping
  1. 100g/32½oz dark chocolate
  2. Home-made marzipan chocolate brownies ingredients
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For the brownie layer
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350ºF/Gas mark 4
  2. Grease & line a 20cm/8-inch square cake tin with parchment paper
  3. Melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of just simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't come into contact with the water)
  4. Stir to incorporate
  5. Whisk the eggs and sugar together well
  6. Mix in the chocolate mixture
  7. Fold in the flour and cocoa powder
  8. Pour the batter into the baking tin
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until just baked
For the ganache layer
  1. Melt the dark chocolate and double cream together in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of just simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't come into contact with the water)
  2. Stir to incorporate
  3. Once the brownie layer has cooled, pour the ganache over and spread evenly. Allow to firm up before embarking on the next layer
For the marzipan layer
  1. Put the ground almonds, icing sugar, almond extract and egg white into a food processor and combine until a thick ball of dough is formed
  2. Turn the paste out onto a work surface and knead it a few times. Roll it into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate whilst waiting for the ganache layer has firmed up
  3. Liberally sprinkle some icing sugar on a work surface and roll out half of the marzipan to about ½cm thickness
  4. Cut to size to cover the 20cm/8-inch square brownie layer
  5. Any unused marzipan will keep - covered in cling film - for a month in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer
For the chocolate layer
  1. Melt the dark chocolate and pour evenly over the marzipan. Allow to set completely before 'cutting off the crusts' and slicing into portions
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Etsy List: Top Banana!

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'Top Banana' Etsy List curated by H is for Home

Without fail, Justin & I start each day with a mug of coffee and a banana each. We both always have to save the final bite for Fudge. He sits there staring and salivating until it’s offered to him.

Bananas are his favourite food… after pork pie… and sausage… and chicken… OK, bananas are his favourite fruit!

They’re probably our favourite fruit too – I love them sliced with peanut butter in a sandwich. We’ve shared quite a few banana-based recipes on here as well. We’re officially bananas for bananas!

Top Banana!
Curated by H is for Home

Preserved plums

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washed plums in an aluminium colander

Justin’s parents’ neighbours have a few different fruit trees in their garden. In the past couple of years, we’ve had some of the harvest. Last year we made spiced apple chutney, the year before apple cheese. This year, we picked almost 5 kilos of plums – the sweetest, ripest plums we’d ever tasted!

spiced plum chutney ingredients

We both ate half a dozen each in a couple of days but we would never be able to work our way through many before before they began to get over-ripe. I’d already made jars upon jars of fruit jam & jelly this year, so I turned half into spiced plum chutney and half into plum jam.

bottled spiced plum chutney

I used recipes from the good old Cordon Bleu Preserving recipe book for both.

stoning plums

The job of stoning was a monotonous, boring job but the resulting preserves were well worth the toil!

plums with spice mixture

When the chutney was cooking the house was filled with the most delicious smell – I wish I could bottle that alone!

Here’s the spiced plum chutney recipe:

1⅓kg/3lb plums
1tbs ground ginger
1tbs ground allspice
2tbs ground mustard seeds
2tbs dried chilli flakes
10 cloves
30g/1oz salt
425ml/¾pt white malt or white wine vinegar
450g/1lb soft brown sugar

  1. Wash & stone the plums and put them in a pan with the ginger, allspice, mustard seeds and chilli flakes
  2. Tie the cloves in a muslin bag and add to the pan
  3. Add the salt and 300ml/½pt of the vinegar
  4. Simmer gently until the plums are soft (about 3 hours)
  5. Put the sugar into a large measuring jug/basin with the remaining vinegar and leave to dissolve. Add to the plums when cooked
  6. Bring to the boil and allow to boil gently until thick (about another 2 hours)
  7. Pour into warm, sterilised jars and screw down immediately
  8. Leave for 4-5 weeks before using

softened plums in a saucepan

And here’s the jam recipe

2.75kg/6lb plums
300ml/½pt water
3kg/6½lb granulated or preserving sugar

  1. Wash the plums, cut them in half and remove the stones
  2. Tie half the stones in muslin
  3. Place the fruit in a preserving pan with the water and cook gently until tender
  4. Add the sugar and heat gently until dissolved
  5. Add the bag of stones
  6. Boil rapidly for about 25 minutes or until the jam sets when tested
  7. Remove the bag of stones and pour the jam into warm, dry sterilised jars. Cover and tie down

plum jam boiling in a saucepan

It’s a deliciously sweet accompaniment to morning croissants.

croissant with plum jam

Spiced apple chutney

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home-made spiced apple chutney | H is for Home

There were still LOADS of apples left over after making an apple & blackberry pie a few weeks ago. I hate wasting food so had to do something with them. “I’ll make apple chutney!”, I thought.

vintage red wire bucket of apples

My Cordon Bleu Preserving book contains recipes for 4 different versions of apple chutney however it was the spiced one that took my fancy (for this read, “It was the one where I already had all the ingredients in the house.”) This recipe makes a humongous amount of chutney, but it’s easily adapted if you don’t have that much fruit to preserve. It’s a steeper, the flavours mellow if the chutney is left a week or so before consuming. So far, we’ve discovered that it makes a delicious accompaniment to a cheeseboard. It really suits a creamy brie and sharp cheddar – not so much blue cheese. I’m vegetarian, but I’ve had it on good advice that it’s also very good with pork pie (Justin) and sausage rolls (Duncan). What do you recommend?

vintage plate with a slice of pork pie, pea shoots and dollop of home made spiced apple chutney

Spiced apple chutney

Spiced apple chutney

Ingredients

  • 36 large apples - peeled, cored & sliced
  • 1½lbs/680g sultanas
  • 3lbs/1.4kg demerara sugar
  • 4oz/115g mustard seeds
  • 2 fresh chillies, sliced into rings
  • 2 rounded tsps ground turmeric
  • 2oz/60g ground ginger
  • 1½lbs/680g onions, halved & thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed with salt
  • 2pts/1L vinegar (I used distilled white vinegar, but you can used ordinary malt vinegar)

Instructions

  1. Put all the ingredients into a large pan (a jam pan is ideal) and simmer for 1½-2 hours until very soft and pulpy
  2. Turn into sterilised jars and cover

Notes

A few tips for making successful chutneys, relishes & ketchups:

-1- Once opened a jar must be refrigerated and consumed within a week.

-2- Don't allow the vinegar to come into contact with with metal whilst in store.

-3- When preserving with vinegar, don't use copper or brass preserving pans. Use aluminium or stainless steel and only use enamelled iron pans if there are no chips to the enamel.

-4- It's important to cook chutneys and sauces thoroughly otherwise they will not keep.

http://hisforhomeblog.com/food/spiced-apple-chutney/

Cakes & Bakes: Apple & blackberry pie

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apple & blackberry pie with a slice removed

Every year around this time we are given a bucketful of homegrown apples from the neighbour of Justin’s parents. Because they’re generally tiny and malformed I’ve usually turned them into apple cheese (no peeling, no coring).

red, vintage wire bucket filled with small, misshapen apples

There were about half a dozen biggish ones this year, so I combined them with some of the remaining bramble offerings that I had stored in the freezer and made an apple & blackberry pie. I may have confessed in some previous post that I’m not the greatest pastry maker – but I was going to give it another go!

Cakes & Bakes: Apple & blackberry pie

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: serves 6-8

Cakes & Bakes: Apple & blackberry pie

Ingredients

  • For the pastry
  • 350g/12oz plain flour
  • 80g/3oz butter or margarine, cubed
  • pinch of salt
  • 4-5tbs cold water
  • For the filling
  • 450g/1lb apples (about 4 medium-sized apples)
  • 225g/½lb blackberries
  • 100g/3½oz granulated sugar
  • For the glaze
  • 3tbs milk
  • 25g/1oz caster sugar

Instructions

  1. Start by making the pastry. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, holding the sieve up as high as possible to give the flour an airing
  2. Add the cubed butter/margarine to the flour
  3. Using your fingertips, lightly & gently rub the pieces of fat into the flour, lifting your hands up high as you do this (again, to incorporate as much air as you can) and being as quick as possible
  4. When the mixture looks uniformly crumbly, start to sprinkle roughly 4 tablespoons of cold water all over
  5. Use a pastry blender or round-bladed knife to start the mixing
  6. Carefully add more water as needed, a little at a time, then finally bring the mixture together with your hands to form a smooth ball of dough that will leave the bowl clean (if there are any bits won't adhere to it, you need a spot more water)
  7. Divide the ball of dough in half and make 2 smaller balls
  8. Put the balls into a zip-lock bag or wrap in cling film or foil and put them in the fridge for half an hour while you prepare the filling
  9. At this point, preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas mark 6
  10. Wash & drain the blackberries and peel & slice the apples into 1cm chunks. Mix them together and set aside until the pastry is ready to come out of the fridge
  11. Lightly grease a pie/flan dish (I save my butter wrappers for just this job!)
  12. Take one of the balls of pastry from the fridge and roll it out so that it's about 4cm/2 inches wider than the pie dish
  13. Carefully lift the rolled out pastry onto the pie dish using your rolling pin. Press the pastry down gently into the pie and up the sides
  14. Spoon the apples & blackberries onto the pastry and sprinkle the granulated sugar on top
  15. Take out the other ball of pastry from the fridge and roll it out so that it is large enough to form a lid on the pie
  16. Using a pastry brush, dampen the edge of the bottom pastry case with water
  17. Fix the pastry lid into position pressing it very firmly all round
  18. Trim the edges with a knife
  19. You can use these trimmings to make shapes to decorate the top of the pie - just affix them with a little brushing of water
  20. Brush the top of the pie with a little milk then sprinkle on a dusting of caster sugar which will give a crisp surface when the pie is baked
  21. Make a small hole in the centre of the pie for steam to escape
  22. Put the pie on to a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes
  23. Allow to cool a little on a wire rack, slice and serve
  24. Serve with a little cream, vanilla ice cream or just on its own - although I think it's gorgeous with a dollop of clotted cream!

Notes

http://hisforhomeblog.com/cakes-bakes/cakes-bakes-apple-blackberry-pie/

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