My neighbour over the back fence grows golden delicious apples. His tree is 27 years old and he grafted it himself all those years ago. I asked him ‘how did you learn to do this?’ to which he replied ‘I am from la campagna, from the land, not the city. It’s in my blood to do this’. I always try to learn as much as I can from him as he’s 80 years old and has been food gardening next door for over 30 years. His tree is heavily laden with fruit and he hands me over a crate of apples that fell to the ground that morning. I urged him to give them to family as we have heaps already. He wouldn’t take no for an answer as he gets so many from the tree he needs to make sure they will be eaten and used.
These ones all had a big bruise on the side they hit the ground and some had cracked from the force of the drop so they needed to be eaten pronto. I didn’t have time to preserve in jars so I decided to make fruit leather with them instead. I had four peaches that needed to be eaten soon as well as half a punnet of strawberries in the fridge. I made three different leathers all using the apple as a base.
1/2 punnet strawberries
Chop off any bruised or damaged bits and put in compost or give to the chooks.
Peel and core the apples. Don’t throw the peels and cores out, save them to make apple scrap vinegar.
Chop up the rest roughly and place into a large heavy based pot. Add a splash of water and put the stove on a medium heat. Add a lid. What you want is the apples to start softening so that you can use a stick blender to make into a puree. Once you have the puree use this as the base to blend in other flavours. No need to be precise with measurements but you do want enough of the other ingredients flavour to shine through.
Place baking paper on the dehydrator trays and add the puree. This was enough for 6 trays. Dehydrate on 70C for 7 hours. When finished let it cool. They should be able to be peeled off the baking paper without sticking. If they are still a bit wet or sticky put them back in the dehydrator for longer. To serve roll them up and slice into short lengths. Store in jar.
I went up to the hills in May with a local friend who showed me some old forgotten fruit trees. With permission from the property owners I gathered quinces, apples and giant river walnuts. On the Adelaide plains I collected some oranges from a neglected tree in a public car park. The oranges were just dropping on the ground and rotting so I figured that no one would mind if I collected some. The oranges were very concentrated in flavor. Very tart which is how I like my fruit.
With the quinces I made some stewed quinces in syrup as well as some quince paste (Membrillo). We ate the apples and walnuts fresh as is and shared them around to friends and family. Some of the walnuts I forgot about and left them outside and they sprouted into baby walnut trees. I am nurturing the seedlings and aim to do some guerilla plantings this winter somewhere close to home.
Membrillo -(Adapted river cottage recipe)
Wash the quince. Roughly chop the fruit but don’t peel or core them. Place in a large pan and barely cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook until soft and pulpy, adding a little more water if necessary. Leave to stand for several hours.
Rub the contents of the pan through a sieve or pass through a mouli. Weigh the pulp and return it to the cleaned-out pan, adding an equal weight of sugar. Bring gently to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer gently, stirring frequently, for an hour and a bit until really thick and glossy. It may bubble and spit like a volcano, so do take care. The mixture is ready when it is so thick that you can scrape a spoon through it and see the base of the pan for a couple of seconds before the mixture oozes together again.
When the Membrillo is cooked, pour it into the prepared moulds or jars. To seal open moulds, pour melted food-grade paraffin wax over the hot membrillo. Jars can be sealed with lids. Membrillo set in a shallow tray should be covered with greaseproof paper and kept in the fridge. If you would like it firmer, place in oven on low heat or dehydrator to make it firmer.
For optimum flavour, allow the Membrillo to mature for 4–6 weeks before using. Eat within 12 months.