The days may be getting shorter but there are plenty of things to make us Lincolnshire foodies smile. As Nikki Bawn finds, autumn is one of the most magical and abundant seasons of the year – and with a little bit of kitchen alchemy, you can stock up on delicious, comforting dishes for winter.
There’s nothing like taking a wander along a hedgerow, an orchard, or a vegetable patch to connect us to the seasons, and, if you do, you’ll see that Mother Nature is at her peak of generosity with goodies ripe for the picking everywhere you look.
Foraging folk wait for the first frosts to gather plump rowan, sloe and haw berries, as well as wild plum (bullace), rosehips and other crimson delights. I usually find myself competing with a resident family of squirrels, but I do love gathering nuts at this time of the year including beech nuts, sweet chestnuts, walnuts and hazelnuts which are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. They make fabulously flavoursome butters, purees and savoury pickles.
Other delicious pickings include the good old apple as well as squashes, beetroots, carrots, courgettes, plums, damsons and if you’re lucky maybe some gages too.
There’s an array of things you can do with the bounty of autumn ranging from sumptuous and nutritious soups and stews, to pickles, preserves, chutneys, jams, syrups and even schnapps. All are packed full of health benefits such as vitamins A, B6, and C, folate, magnesium, fibre, riboflavin, phosphorus and potassium. In fact, the meagre yellow squash is a serious nutrition power-packed veggie which is rich in manganese to help boost bone strength and our body’s ability to process fats and carbohydrates.
One of my favourite recipes is Hedgerow Jam. You can throw in any edible berries you can lay your hands on and this gloriously, gloopy ruby jam brings life to cheeseboards, sauces and even toasted brioche fit for any breakfast platter.
Whilst it is always a little sad to say goodbye to summer, the faint smell of log fires, spider webs jewelled with morning dew, glorious palettes of ambers, golds and reds and the promise of baskets filled with the colourful spoils of autumn always more than compensates.
• Put the fruit/berries into a pan and cover with water then bring to a simmer, and cook until the fruit is softened
• Strain the juice into a clean pan – for every 600ml juice, add 450g sugar
• Bring to a boil slowly and stir until the sugar has dissolved then bring up to a hard boil for eight minutes
• Turn off the heat, use a teaspoon to drip a tiny bit of jam onto the cold saucer and put in the fridge for 2 minutes. Push the jam with your fingertip – if it wrinkles it has reached setting point, if not, turn the heat back on and boil for two to three minutes more, then test it again
• Pour into sterilised jars and seal straight away then leave to cool
This lovely stuff will last and it gets even better with age – so stock up and use it to bring a little more cheer, even on the dullest of days. I promise the sun will come back before you know it!
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