suburban farmer: autumn fruit chutney
A few years back we planted a couple of fruit trees: apple, pear, and cherry.
The first year we watched as the birds ate every last cherry. Meanwhile one pear and three small apples ripened nicely. Suddenly a big wind blew up and half the crop (of four) fell to the ground. The following year the results were much the same. The cherries never even ripened before they went missing. Some kind of wild animal (raccoon?) took random bites of various fruits before dismissing them all.
This year, several years on, all of the trees were covered in spring blossom. Things looked promising. “It takes a while before they bear any significant amount of fruit,” we said, nodding, knowing nothing. The cherry tree was laden with tiny, unripe cherries. A multitude of small apples were forming, and possibly seven pears made an appearance.
“Perhaps we should cover the cherry tree with netting?” I suggested. We went out to look. The cherries were gone. Stripped bare – every last one. Then the apple tree (supposedly capable of producing four different varieties thanks to the miracles of grafting) lost all its leaves. The pear tree struggled on.
A week or two back we hauled in the harvest. Eleven small apples – all the same indistinguishable variety, and six small crabby looking pears. By the time I cut off the nasty patches – I had the equivalent of about a dozen fruit. We paid $300 for the trees. I think we’re up to a grand total harvest over the years of 20 apples and pears (combined). That’s $15 a fruit. The apple tree needs some sort of medicine to cure whatever ails it – if it’s curable. And I need to buy netting for the cherry tree. So if I average those costs in - the price per fruit will have to go up.
Even on this micro scale I’m gaining respect for farmers. Even more respect.
Luckily the blossom in springtime is priceless.
I made my lovely, tart apples and gnarly pears into a fall fruit chutney so I could think about my suburban orchard all winter long. I ad-libbed this recipe based on an old one my mother used to make. An English recipe.
This chutney would be perfect with a ploughman’s lunch, ham and cheese sandwiches, or a curry. I served it this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend – for Saturday lunch as part of a do-it-yourself sandwich buffet - olive and rosemary sour-dough, rosemary ham, hot Genoa salami, a selection of cheeses, garden tomatoes, and organic greens.
Fall Fruit Chutney
4.5 cups peeled, chopped pears and cooking apples
1 cup chopped cooking dates
1 large onion, finely diced
1.5 cups of apple cider vinegar
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp hot chilli powder
Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring the mixture slowly to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring frequently for about 30 minutes or until the mixture is thick. Remove from the heat and spoon into sterilized mason jars. So long as the seals work properly – you should be able to store this for a couple of months in a cool, dark place. Otherwise, refrigerate it.