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Courtyard

Bellebouche Délices d’Automne

This year has been one of the better ones for our old, gnarly quince tree.  We often ignore this tree and then are surprised with the wonderful delights it offers up to us.  In spring the beautiful pale pink flowers bear a strong perfume which wafts around the courtyard and catches you unawares.

Then in late autumn, the last harvest to be made, is a bountiful supply of golden yellow fruits.  This year resulted in 28 kgs, not the best but still a good amount.

Golden fruits

So the question is – What to do with all these fruits?

This year I have already made a bazzilion jars of various jams and we are still eating chutneys from 2006/7.   One of our successes over the years at Bellebouche has been the quince paste – a misnomer as it is closer in consistency to turkish delight.

These little fruity gems are perfect for xmas gifts and if the surly security guards at the airport don’t confiscate them, then they will be handed out tout suite.

They take a while to make but fill the house with a wonderful fruity, floral aroma.  Basically, they are peeled, cored and chopped into cubes.  Put in a pan with a little water and cooked until soft.  Mashed and whizzed into a compote consistency.  Sugar is added and then they are cooked, slowly, for a long time – a very long time – until the mixture turns from an apple colour to an autumnal leaf colour.

The difference in colour as the paste is cooked

You can see in the photo the pan on the right is much lighter as the mixture spits and spatters like molten lava until it thickens.  You can speed up the process of the cooking by turning up the heat, but it then needs constant stirring so as not to burn on the bottom of the pan.

Once the mixture is so thick that you can make a ball in the bottom of the pan with it, spread it out evenly onto a tray, coated with parchment paper.  Leave to dry further – again if you want to speed up the process – put the tray into an airing cupboard or hot oven which has just been switched off after use.

When the mixture is ready for cutting it should be firm and easily chopped into cubes.  You can then either coat in icing sugar or leave as is.

Ready for cutting into cubes and coating with icing sugar

28 kgs will make an awful lot of quince bon bons so I have made a few variations on the above.  Apple and quince, blackcurrant and quince (which produced an amazing coloured sweet) and one with a secret ingredient which you will have to guess by tasting!

quice jellies 2010

Piggy Hilton Mark II

Well, the pigs have completely rotavated the courtyard and were now starting to be a little destructive – the cherry tree roots seemed to be a tantalising snack. So there was nothing for it but to move them to a place that needed rotavating.

(more…)

Coing! Coing!

Our ancient Quince has had three significant ‘renovation’ standard prunings to date and this years harvest has proved to be.. much improved!

The tree form
Ready to pick

I’ve only got about half of them off so far.. but they’re the best half.

up inside the crown

Contrast this with last years single 10litre bucket full… and it just shows what a bit of TLC can do to even an old past-its-best tree… so far 35Kg to process!

35Kg.. and counting

So, friends and family… plenty of Quince jellies in everyones Christmas basket this year!

Recipe to follow

Beaucoup de cerises

Finally, the 2006 cherry harvest and three-day processing marathon is complete!

5Kg down, 25Kg to go.

It’s very English to talk about the weather but I was up at 6am this morning to make jam because standing over a boiling hot vat of steamy/scalding fruit is no fun at midday when it’s 30+ degrees. We’re forecast for 35-39 degrees for the next 5 days and it did make me think how strange then that just a few short weeks ago the very tree that yielded up a monster 15kg harvest looked like this. Climate change a go-go.

So, back to the fruit. We yielded a touch over 30Kg this year, a significant improvement over last year and it’s clear that the results of our tree management and pruning is paying off. I’m guessing that all of the wood ash from our wood burning stove that was applied to the tree roots as a fertilizer during the winter has helped improve the vigour and crop this year. All the other fruit trees look to be bearing similarly improved crops.

We’ve notched up so far :-

  • 1 Litre Sour cherry gin
  • 1 Litre Sweet cherry gin
  • A dozen jars of black-cherry jam. Tasted and approved on a buttery slab of sourdough pain-aux-noix for elevenses!
  • 17 Jars of ‘Cerises en Aigre-Douce‘ (recipe below)
  • A dozen jars of pickled sour cherries
  • About 20 litres of stoned sweet cherries in a light syrup. For excellent twin-peaks double-r diner damn fine cherry pie.
  • a few litres of homemade yoghurt with cherries.. simple and amazing.

..plus assorted trays full of stoned and cooked cherries for the freezer – can be blizted down for coulis, used in ice-cream or some tantalising autumnal dish involving magret de canard and thyme with lashings of dauphinoise spuds – yum!

So, recipe time. We’ve made so many of these as they are simply the very best added value use you can put cherries to. A hat tip for the recipe to Floyd on France, infact if it wasnt for Floyd on France there most likely wouldn’t be a Fod in France.

Cerises en Aigre Douce:-

Wash and pick over a couple Kg of cherries, they must be perfect.

Add some cloves, bayleaves, black peppercorns, whole allspice and a small piece of cinnamon to one litre of red wine vinegar. Boil for five mins (leaving a window open!) and then let it cool completely.

While the vinegar cools, pick over the cherries, any blemished/imperfect ones will go into your jam pile. This bit is fiddly… trim each stalk to 6mm. If you’re doing 12Kg of cherries you should probably open a bottle of Corbierres at this point. Not for the cherries you understand, but for the soul.

Fill all the jars you can muster with the washed, trimmed fruit and then lightly sprinkle a tablespoon or so of sugar into each jar. Top up with the cool spiced vinegar.

Leave for two days and then empty out all the vinegar into a big stock pot, reboil and cool, refill the jars. Top up each jar if necessary with a splash of ‘fresh’ unspiced vinegar ensuring that the fruit is well packed and submerged.

Now, all you have to do is wait. Really, wait a long time. Probably best to wait until the Autumn, you certainly don’t want to eat them inside of six weeks. They’re worth the wait and are the most perfect little nibble for an aperitif and they’re great to cook with. Sweet, slightly spicy, slightly tart they’re awesome with any cold meats and the double bonus is that the strong cherry flavoured red wine vinegar makes an excellent dressing with walnut oil for a salad of Chevre-chaud with rocket, but that’s a recipe for another day.

Now, I know that it seems like a long time to hang around so here’s some I prepared in 2005.

Just six left from 2005!

– Adrian

Ice storm

icicles

It was a little over a year ago when we sat out, in early March, enjoying our first outdoors evening meal… fast forward twelve months and we can enjoy something of a contrast.

After what seems like a fairly drawn out winter we enjoyed some spectacular weather in the last 24 hours that can only really be described as a mini Ice storm. It started Friday with rain, lots and lots of rain.. so much so that surface water was just standing on the surrounding fields. Our house is somewhat elevated over everything nearby so from the rear terrace we have great views over the surrounding fields… and all we could see were puddles. Early Saturday morning the rain turned to sleet and over the progression of a few hours the sleet turned to snow and then the snow started to blow sideways and heavy. When you’re sat indoors in front of a log fire it doesn’t really matter a great deal what’s going on outside.. it was only going to bed late on Saturday evening did I notice that the windows at the front of the house were ramped up with snow.

Peering out of the window this morning and we awoke to a spectacular sight.. it had been cold enough overnight for snow-melt to freeze solid and then get snowed-on some more. Everything in the garden was clad in a centimetre of ice and dusted with some more snow. It made for some spectacular pictures.. but we’re concerned for some of the more tender plants.

View of the barns with 30cm icicles

Courtyard cherry tree

Iced hydrangea

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