As I sit down to write this, the leaves are falling from the trees and making a beautiful carpet of red, yellow and orange on the ground. I love this time of year, especially living in rural Rutland where the colours of Autumn are just stunning. Our apple tree is still hanging on to its leaves (and some of its fruit) but we're already getting a daily workout clearing windfalls, desperately trying either to use the fruit up or share it with our neighbours. (a flawed plan, as everyone in our village is trying to do the same).
It's around October that the first thoughts of Christmas tiptoe (unbidden) into my mind. Now, obviously there's still a while to go, but there's something about the change in the season that makes me want to rush into the kitchen and start preparing for the feast to come, and with all the amazing fruit we have courtesy of Mother Nature, I have the perfect excuse.
So, I'd like to share with you some of my favourite things to make with all this wonderful produce we have to hand right now. And, if it helps you with ideas for gifts at Christmas then all the better. Happy preserving!
An absolute must-have during the festive period, and indeed at any time of year in my book, is chutney. A glorious, glistening gammon ham, a platter of ripe cheese, a hand-raised pie...all are stand-outs individually, but I can't countenance them without a good dollop of chutney. I have two recipes which I return to year after year: the first, a trusty old friend in the form of Delia Smith's Christmas Chutney named after its distinctly festive dried fruit content . I've adapted the recipe to include apples from my garden and it works particularly well. The second is by our dear friend, Mary Cadogan. Her Christmas Chutney is now an essential accompaniment to the festive ham and I urge you to have a go at making it. Not only does it use apples (perfect for all those windfalls) but it's particularly good way to use Clementines. Their delicious citrusy flavour is the perfect foil for all kinds of meats and cheeses.