Meditation at the moment consists of imaging a gentle stroll through russet, red and gold leaf-carpeted woods; whilst in the real world away from Autumnal reverie, there is a lot of hard work to do to deal with an exuberant embarrassment of London pommes.
The Gift Economy is in full swing, with currency of jam jars, apple bags, crumble and chutney changing hands at speed in the valued transactions of the local non-moneyed market.
I’ve definitely improved my apple harvesting technique, using an almost robotic claw on a long pole.
Last year, there was barely a handful of fruit. This year has been exceptional for apples.
Some people simply don’t have the time to pick, preserve and store, so they leave this glorious fermenting bounty to feed the mycellium, the ants, the fox, the pigeons, and the magpies. Others beaver away, diverting apples temporarily from the carbon cycle for the purpose of human nourishment.
There’s juicing, pressing, coring, chopping, slicing, baking, cider racking, stewing, freezing and making a vast range of condiments. Today, I have eaten apples in four different formats. Apples are clearly going to feature a lot in my diet for the next few months, but I don’t think I can ever tire of eating apples, so that’s just peachy.
I made a batch of a super-spicy new recipe for making chutney in a hurry, and it’s very heart-warming – or heartburn-ing if you’re not used to Eastern seasoning. This year, for the first time, I’ve tried storing whole apples for winter, and making dried apple rings.
And because there is a river of produce, now we’re into the cooking apple phase, with huge green knobbly, waxy monsters, some weighing half a kilogramme raining down on our Newtonian heads, I have been able to re-invest in neighbourliness, offering apples to nine households directly around me, and leaving the more damaged fruit on the pavement in bags with a sign saying “FREE ! Fallers. Help Yourself.”
And still, we do not have enough time to take and use all the produce, and time has become critical if there’s going to be a wind storm in the next few days. Food security in a re-localised cultivation community relies so much on the weather conditions. We may lose the rest of the fruit, but we hope we’ve picked enough to save the garden orchard trees from being blown over.
We have tried to use as much as we can, but even if we cannot make optimal use of this year’s apple crop, we have already put enough away to meet all our dietary fruit needs until at least Christmas, if not beyond. And enough cidre de cru to warm the cockles of next year’s hearts.
Next job : the marrows.
Apple and Ginger Chutney
All measures approximate – adjust to meet the goal of a product with the consistency of chunky dip, fairly dry.
2 kilogrammes of green cooking apples, quartered, cored and tidied and chopped into matchsticks
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of sunflower oil
2 large red onions, peeled and chopped into matchsticks
2 fingers of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped into matchsticks
cup (16 tablesppons) of sugar
4 pinches (1 teaspoon) of dried cayenne or chili pepper
8 pinches (2 teaspoons) of garam masala Indian spice mix
8 pinches (2 teaspoons) of cumin seed (jeera)
8 pinches (2 teaspoons) of cinnamon powder
4 pinches (1 teaspoon) of ground black pepper
8 pinches (2 teaspoons) of salt
1. In the bottom of a large saucepan, fry the onion and cumin seed in the sunflower oil to sweat the onions until they are translucent. This should take around 7 to 12 minutes.
2. Add the garam masala, cayenne (or chili pepper) and cinnamon to the pan and stir for 1 minute.
3. Add the apples, ginger, sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt and black pepper. Stir it so that the sugar dissolves into the apple cider vinegar.
4. Keep the heat on, and keep stirring the mixture in the saucepan until the apples brown off and the sugar caramelises. This should take around 15 to 25 minutes.
5. Put the chutney in jars with metal lids for storage.
Spice Aware : to avoid heartburn, always eat this chutney in combination with other foods. Suggestions include : peanut butter and chutney on toast; chick pea houmouss and chutney on toast; chutney served as a relish alongside vork (vegan) sausages with apple-and-potato mash.