Autumn Delights: Apples, Quinces and Damsons

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Despite the chillier weather – and the need to find gloves, scarves and boots – there is something comforting about autumn. The trees are transformed into works of art, as the leaves change to beautiful coppers, golds and russets. Squirrels scamper from branch to branch, gathering nuts and acorns to store for the winter.

There are ruby red berries, and deep purple brambles waiting to be foraged and made into scrumptious jams, jellies and puddings. And trees laden with apples of all sizes, from tiny crab apples to huge Bramleys.

Quinces, Blueberries and Gin

I love spending days in October making preserves for the winter. As well as apples, I use quinces and damsons (which, as a city dweller with a small courtyard garden, I have to buy).

I find that the best places to purchase seasonal fruit are markets, farmers markets and local greengrocers; I have to keep looking and asking. It is worth it though, as the resultant membrillos, jellies and cheeses add cheer to meals throughout deep winter.

Last week, I was visiting a local friend who is fortunate enough to have two apple trees in her garden, and she kindly offered me some. There is something so fabulous about an unlooked-for gift of fresh Bramleys, and I wanted to make something more than a crumble or pie with them, so I decided on Apple Membrillo.

If you haven't made Apple Membrillo I highly recommend it. I discovered the recipe a few years ago whilst reading Sarah Raven's book 'Food for Friends and Family', and it's her recipe I return to again and again.

Apple

There is something magical about the transformation of fruit and sugar into a rich jelly that can be stored throughout the year. Iit adds so much to a simple plate of cheese and crackers. Quince Membrillo is equally lovely, but I also like to make a jelly, which I store in little jars. It's a treat with cold meats and game, as well as with cheese.

The damson cheese is a further take on these jellies/pastes and a traditional English accompaniment to winter dishes.

Membrillo

If you find the idea of three different fruit membrillos/cheeses too much this autumn, then why not just try the apple one this year. Once you've mastered that you'll be able to move onto the others next autumn!

Should you have quinces and damsons you could use them in homemade liqueurs instead. These are simple to make, and once decanted into pretty bottles can make a marvellous Christmas Gift.

Damson Gin

Prick the Damsons and fill a sterile, Kilner-type jar a third full with the fruit.

Add a third of a jar of sugar.

Fill the jar with gin, and seal (it may be necessary to add further gin after a few days, as the fruit and sugar settle).

Store in a cool dark place and shake the jar every couple of days. Keep for three months, before decanting into sterile bottles.

Quince

Quince Ratafia is made in a similar way, but the quince needs to be grated (it will discolour – don't panic) and use either vodka or brandy, rather than gin.

I hope you're enjoying the Autumn and have the time to make some lovely preserves and liqueurs. Do let us know if you have found something new and interesting, be it a fruit or a recipe.

 Thanks for reading!

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