Dried Pears, Apple Sauce and Italian Style Vegetables

dried pearsEasy, delicious and useful – these words are my guardian angels when choosing how to best preserve my harvest. There are many enticing sounding recipes out there and it’s easy to get seduced into fancy complicated preserves which don’t ever get used. The simplest preserving is storing the fruit/ vegetable whole; and the next is drying it. Dried pears and apples are easy (tick), delicious (tick) and very useful (tick)! Here’s how:

Dried Pears

  1. Peel pears (you don’t need to peel apples).
  2. Make a bowl of acid water by adding 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 litre of water.
  3. Set your mandolin up on top of this bowl and slice away so the fruit falls into the acid water. This stops it browning.
  4. Drain
  5. Lay the fruit out so it’s not touching on the shelves of your dehydrator of choice. An electric one needs to be set at 55 degrees. Check after 6 hours to see that there is no moisture remaining. It takes about 2 days in the solar dehydrator and 8 hours in the electric one.
  6. Store in your cool dark pantry in a sterilised jar.

Apple sauce

It’s just so helpful to have 2 cup portions of apple sauce in the freezer. A great way to use up all the blemished or bird pecked apples and useful in so many ways: muffins and cakes, pie and crumble, Sunday morning pancakes, on roast pork or in yoghurt for breakfast. I make it plain then tasty it up to suit once thawed – adding a bit of zest or sugar or honey or spices.

  1. Peel your apples if you must, but you really don’t have to. Faced with kilos of apples to process this is a fabulous shortcut. Wash them well if you don’t peel.
  2. Chop them up. I stand the whole apple on the chopping board and cut it into four chunks around the core then toss the chunks into the pot and the core into the pig bucket. For every four apples I add the juice of half an orange, but if you don’t have oranges a splash of water is fine.
  3. Cook on a low heat
  4. Whizz it up with the stick blender, et voila ready to freeze.

Italian Style Vegetablesitalianvege

In April the greenhouse overflows with peppers and aubergines, and the December planted courgettes are still pumping out fruits. This recipe is a wonderful way to preserve them altogether. You can easily double it.

  • 600g of aubergines, courgettes and peppers
  • 6 small bunching onions or shallots (left whole)
  • 500ml white wine vinegar
  • 2tsp raw sugar
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 150ml good olive oil
  1. Sterilise two 500ml jars in the oven for 30 minutes and pour boiling water over the lids.
  2. Put the vinegar in a saucepan, add sugar and salt and bring to the boil. Cook each type of vegetable on its own in the vinegar until they are al dente. As each vegetable is done, take out of the pot with a slotted spoon and dry on a clean tea towel. Leave until cool.
  3. Loosely pack the vegetables into the jars. Layer different ones as you go to make it look gorgeous. Sprinkle in your choice of herbs and spices. For example to each jar add a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme; or scatter 1/2 tsp fennel seeds throughout; or some chopped up chilli and a sprig of rosemary.
  4. Cover with olive oil and slide a knife down the sides to remove any air. Add more oil if needed, then store in the fridge for atleast a week before using. Keep topped up with oil so the vegies are always covered and they’ll keep for a couple of months.

Serve these up with good bread and olive oil for a simply spectacular autumn supper.

(You can make a lovely wintery version of this using broccoli or cauliflower, carrot, fennel, mushrooms and shallots.)