in my kitchen – September 2015

September already! The month that seems ingrained with memories of stiff shiny shoes and freshly sharpened pencils ready for the new school year or of listening to the radio announcing the first day of spring as we cruised down the Hawkesbury River in Australia on honeymoon. When I say we, I don’t mean with my husband as he was at home in the middle of harvest. This wasn’t our honeymoon but my sister’s. The bride with her new husband on a small boat together with his mother-in-law, two sisters-in-law and four small children. We fished, we sang and danced to songs from the Jungle Book, played French skipping and at night the honeymoon couple slept on the kitchen table. Happy days.

runner beans

 

Nowadays September means picking and dealing with fruit and vegetables from the garden that are slowly heading towards glut proportions. I can just about keep up with the runner beans if I cook half and freeze half each time I pick them. Too many courgettes have already grown enormous and I swear another tomato ripens every time I walk by.

 

jam jar labels

 

The pantry shelves are slowly filling with jams, chutneys, fruit vinegars and pickles. This year I’ve decided to use big clear labels so that I can see the oldest jars without having to climb on a chair to peer at tiny labels. Despite my best efforts to store everything in a logical order, there’s always the odd jar that slips to the back for a year or two three four five.

 

spiced crab apple recipe

 

Spiced crab apples are a favourite in my kitchen, mainly because they’re so easy and they make a wonderful accompaniment to a slice or two of cold ham. Also it seems such a waste that the tree is loaded with fruit each year and we end up throwing most of the crab apples onto the compost heap.

 

discovery apple

 

The Discovery apples are ripening fast. They aren’t my favourite variety but it will be a while until the Sunset and Cox are ready so they fill the gap. This week we’ve been eating them with dark treacle cake, which makes a sort of toffee apple combination and grating them into a rather boring dusty muesli (that I won’t make the mistake of buying again).

Once again, I’m joining in with Celia’s In My Kitchen series at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial as we tour the world to see what everyone has in their kitchen this month. If you have the time, check out some of the different blogs that are listed on Celia’s page.

a plum deal

still life plums and roses

As we slip into late summer, the light in the evenings fades a little earlier each day and hot sunny days alternate with grey rainy days. On the farm, harvest has finished and the oilseed rape for next year’s harvest has been sown, while in the garden the plums are ripening fast.

Plums seem to straddle summer and early autumn as each variety ripens in succession. In our garden, the deep purple Czar plums are coming to the end as the greengages reach their peak. Anyone walking past the greengage tree seems unable to resist reaching out to pick one of the gloriously honeyed globes although this year we pick with care as we have wasps. Last year we had so many greengages that I made jam but this year the trees have been less fruitful and the wasps have eaten as many as we have. Luckily my mother’s tree was laden with fruit that we’ve been able to share; fresh greengages eaten by the handful on a warm summer’s day are one of life’s delights.

plums

But now, as the weather becomes more changeable and a warm pudding is sometimes more welcome, the earliest damsons are starting to ripen. Although the damsons on our Merryweather tree are sweet and juicy, I prefer to eat them cooked, though that may be because they don’t compare with the greengages. On cooler days, I shake the branches, catching the falling damsons that I know will be ripe and cook them in a crumble where the deep purple syrupy juice bubbles up through the crust. Plum Flapjacks make a treat to hide in the cake tin and jars of Spiced Damsons are lined up on the pantry shelf ready to add to eat with cold meat in a few months’ time.

At the far end of the garden, the fruit on the gnarled old damson tree will be the last to ripen. These damsons are too sour to eat but they make a very good jam and a particularly fine damson gin. Perfect for the cooler autumn days that lie ahead.

blackberry tart

simple pleasures for August

abandoned secateurs

Clearing the decks.

The flower garden has peaked and is now filled with blooms in varying stages of decay. There are plants to cut back and seed heads to gather or shake around the flower beds.

artichoke

Enjoying the transition to late summer.

The artichokes are turning from regal purple to autumnal brown

rhubarb

and the rhubarb is slowly wilting as its leaves are coloured with bright reds and yellows.

blackberry and lemon posset

Picking blackberries.

The first blackberries of the year have been picked from the short stretch in Great Forest field, where they ripen a week or so before the rest, to eat by the handful or use in new recipes.

iced plum gin

 

Drinking Iced Plum Gin.

We picked the first plums of the year, though not from our garden where the plums are still hard as rocks. Most of them are destined to make Slamseys Plum Gin but I managed to divert some to the kitchen for compotes and a rather tasty granita. For some reason, I’d never made granita before, which is rather foolish as it’s simple to make and tastes great, especially in a shot glass with Plum Gin poured over to make a sort of adult slushy drink.

What are your simple pleasures for August?

Are you looking forward to spring or making the most of summer days?