First Preserves

2kg went into the apricot chutney, 4kg went into the plum chutney, and around 4kg of apricots were stewed.

There’s nothing quite like cooking up a storm on days of 35° Celsius!

We don’t have a deep freezer within which I can store my bulk produce in stasis until such time as a cold winter’s day would benefit from an extra 10° in the kitchen to complement our heater’s noble work … as my Mary Blackie cookbook advises. (It stands to reason that we also don’t have a cellar for natural cold storage because our house, like most Australian houses, is not built with such “innovations” – a ridiculous concept by any European baseline. I mean, it’s not as if we don’t have the room!) So I find myself cooking up my stone fruit when I receive it: in midsummer heat, in my dress that I reserve for the hottest of hot days and in which I still sweat from the extra – unneeded – 10° of calefaction. With the house shut up against the sweltering temperatures our kitchen ended up even hotter than outside … *sigh*

My good friend mentioned that she would “drop some excess fruit over” for me. What turned up on my doorstep were two enormous boxes laden with fruit the colour and taste of summer – so voluminous that I wondered whether she had, indeed, kept any for herself (she assured me she did, with more to come still on the trees).

Cue a glorious day of cooking: cutting up and weighing the fruit, adding the rest of the ingredients depending on how many times I’m multiplying the recipe, simmering it on the two most suited hotplates of my stove (back right and front left), sterilising the jars in a huge pot of boiling water, then pouring the flavoursome goodness into the hot jars and sealing them … all while singing along to the perfect music for the occasion. Taking a rest after being on my feet for a couple of hours, I find the *pop* of the jar-lids sucking into a vacuum as the jars and their contents cool down a VERY satisfying sound: the audible indicator of purposeful work, well-done.

With this batch of fruit I made chutney, because I depleted my home-made chutney store two years ago (especially since I discovered how it transforms an ordinary porridge into a whizz-bang burst of flavour – nothing less than alchemy in that!). Last year was a lean year for bulk fruit: not only was there little on the trees (probably due to lack of rain), I missed some of my “usual hauls” because I didn’t track the seasons accurately: working from home, along with the cancellation of all social events which customarily punctuate my calendar and delineate what time of year of it is, reduced my ability to “track my year” as 2020 seemed to flow into one long day rather than a series of days …

I am optimistic that this will be a great year for preserves, with this first batch already manifested in January! As my first-ever cookbook was titled, a taste of things to come …

Logans*

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Our loganberries fruit in summer. Fresh from the vine they are delicious snacks, full of fruity wholesomeness. Every year some of the berries inevitably get fried in the intense heat – maybe a metal fence was not the best place for their trellis after all, although the vine does expand every year. New growth appears and the expanse of the vine increases, despite the old-season’s leaves shrivelling from sunburn.

The berries which have been ‘sun dried by nature’ (admittedly not within a regulated process) transform into hard lozenges akin to boiled lollies. No longer fresh-berry-soft they are nevertheless an interesting eating experience. They burst with flavour so intense it’s like a rush of blood to the head. One crunchy bite and I can positively feel my bloodstream coursing truckloads of Vitamin C all around my body, carrying renewed vigour and health to all my internal organs. It’s that powerful a sensation! Almost addictive after a handful in one grazing sesh**.

I pick these hardened berries and ‘reconstitute’ them by soaking them in water. Guess what! The resulting juice (with the remaining stalks and leaves strained off) makes the most delicious and refreshing drink! Just perfect for a hot summer evening, unadulterated or effervescent with added fizzy water (soda, tonic or mineral).

Then I add the now-soft-again berries to morning muesli. Delicious! And my evening fruit salad. Double delicious!

I don’t like to waste the produce our garden produces, so I’m pleased to have stumbled on this method of ‘rehabilitation’ of what looks like something too-far-gone to be useful… it was a moment of mad genius, a stray ‘what if’ thought that worked! (Just be careful of the prickles if you’re trying this at home … but then, if you’re trying this at home, you’ll already know that …)

 

*There is no apostrophe missing in this title. It’s simply the abbreviation of the full word loganberries, such abbreviations being a key feature of Australian English.

**Australian vernacular for session.