Ironic that successful crops bring such mixed emotions. Through summer and autumn I rejoice and enjoy raspberries, salads, courgettes and beans, and more beans, and more beans (how many recipes do you know for beans?). And apples, so many apples this year. But if I have too much of a particular crop to eat this week, so do most people who have gardens. And if I lean over the gate to offer red apples to passing children I may be misunderstood.
My mother says, “Freeze, jam, store.” And for years I did what I learned we should when I was a child; I made jams, jellies and chutneys, bottled and froze fruit and vegetables, found space to lay out apples and pears. BUT.
But we are past the age of jam sandwiches, rarely eat jam-filled Victoria sponge or jam tarts. We are so worried about teeth, waistlines, health we try hard to pretend we don’t enjoy sugar, and keep the ration we allow ourselves for richer treats. Preserving with sugar (or, as we did when I was young, salting shredded runner beans) doesn’t match the way we try to eat today.
And although frozen raspberries keep their flavour, I’d rather eat raspberries fresh from the garden every day, more than once a day, for a few weeks and enjoy the texture of the fresh fruit, which is lost in the freezer. Only the youngest beans freeze well, but a mixture of sizes tastes great cooked fresh from the garden. So I freeze complete cooked dishes, but not garden crops.
I come from a farming family. There was always room to store produce. But storing apples takes a lot of space. And time, both to wrap and lay them out carefully, and weekly, to inspect and discard any that are spoiling. I have no apple loft, and other ways to spend my time.
I know, I’m lucky. I live in a time and place where I can go and buy fresh both in- and out-of-season produce all year round. Or choose from a huge selection of frozen vegetables. And I do save some apples and pears. But I’m still wracked with guilt, can’t bear to waste such glorious food. Which is why I’ve been searching for grape recipes. Wonderful grapes this year, a bit slow to ripen, a little tart – but beautiful.
Grapes added to salads, grapes in a sauce over fish or chicken, and these savoury grape, rosemary and blue cheese shortbread biscuits. I adapted a recipe I found at ‘cooking with Caitlin’ 😦http://www.cookingwithcaitlin.com/recipes/rosemary-shortbread-appetizer).
Around 50 loose grapes, washed.
8 oz flour
3 oz blue cheese (I used stilton, if I’d used a sharper one, like Danish blue, I might reduce the amount of cheese and up the amount of butter).
5 oz butter
4 large sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped from stems
1 level tablespoon of sugar
Salt and pepper
Put everything except the grapes into a food processor and pulse at high speed until the mixture is a smooth, soft dough. (You could rub in the mix by hand, in which case you’d need to fine chop the rosemary). Add more pepper to taste.
Switch on oven to 180oC. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick paper (I use the heavy duty re-usable sheets, and wash them in the dishwasher).
Make walnut size balls of dough by rolling it between the palms of your hands, space out on baking sheets (between 20 and 24).
Press down on each ball with a fork, then press in 2 or 3 grapes. Add a sprinkle of salt.
Bake for 30 minutes (in my fan oven I reduced the temperature to 160oC), until biscuits are lightly coloured and grapes have just begun to burst. Cool on rack.
They smell and taste brilliant, but I’d probably enjoy them just as much without the grapes. (And in case you’re wondering, other people make much nicer wine than I can. I have tried).