Autumn sunshine, showers, wind and windfalls! Yes, frugal friends, it's that time of year again in our corner of Scotland - the time of apples, brambles, berries, chilli peppers and tomatoes! We don't have a heated greenhouse or polytunnel and winters can be long with summers short, but it shouldn't stop us eating seasonal produce.
The trees at both Frugaldom and Thrift Cottage are laden with apples, so these are being picked and shared with whoever wants them. At the moment, I'm processing about a bucket of apples each week, mostly stewing the fruit for freezing to use over the coming months as puddings and accompaniments. Apple crumble spiced with cinnamon is a hot favourite here and costs less to make than apple sponge. Indeed, crumble is just like crumbly sponge mix without the eggs, so it's ideal at this time of year when the hens and ducks slow down or stop laying!
Having already stewed down the garden plums with raspberries and apples to turn into jam, I saved some of the juice to turn into jelly, so that was another few jars into the store cupboard. The addition of some lemon and the pectin from the apples ensures a good set.
HOW TO MAKE HOT, SPICY APPLE SAUCE
After stewing apples, there's no point in wasting what's left over, so into the pot go all the peels, cores, lemon skins (I was given lemons by a neighbour to make her some lemon curd), two chopped chilli peppers and some cinnamon, just to spice things up a bit. Some people call this jam-making from leftovers 'compost jam' or jelly, if dripping it through the strainer, but this time I am making a sauce that can be used as a spread or a meal accompaniment. There's less waste in making sauce and what does get leftover can be composted.
Having boiled down all the cores and peels, I press the softened 'pulp' through a sieve to create what looks like a runny apple sauce, then I stirred in approximately 500g sugar per 500ml of fruit pulp. A rapid, brief rolling boil (about 5 minutes) thickens it up without turning the mix into jam and then it can be decanted into warm, sterilised jars. I got 3 jars from my peels and cores this time and the sauce has a lovely hot kick to it that will be ideal either on hot toast or served alongside pork.
Next time, I'll add some cloves to the mix before boiling it - you can easily experiment to discover which flavours you prefer. It's also fair to say that while cooking is going on, I don't need to turn on any heaters as the kitchen heat is sufficient. Better still is if I make the sauce over the logburner while it's stoked with foraged wood from Frugaldom - we have plenty of that lying about and are forever offering others the chance to collect some.
This being Scotland, we aren't known for our prolonged hot weather and summer sunshine, so without an artificially heated greenhouse or polytunnel, the chances of growing a huge, perfect crop of anything that needs heat are somewhat limited. As usual, my tomatoes in the makeshift plastic greenhouse have grown in proliferation but are having to be picked green and ripened on the windowsills. The chilli pepper plants have survived their stint outside on the caravan decking but these will be brought in very soon to try and over-winter them for another year. Not being a great fan of chutneys - they aren't frugal in the least when you can buy pickle for next to nothing - I prefer to use my tomatoes and chillies for making sauces, either chilli, Bolognese or curry. I find these much more versatile than having jars of chutney that few around me ever eat.
That's been my past week here in Frugaldom - jam, jelly and crumble making. Today I have another batch of apples, more chilli peppers, tomatoes and a tub of blackberries to process so I'm thinking it's going to be chilli for dinner followed by an apple and blackberry crumble. It's probably just as well that the weather has taken another turn for the better to allow me out to work off all these extra calories!
If anyone would like to join us in Frugaldom to sample this lifestyle, please get in contact. There are still plenty of blackberries, crab apples and rosehips ripe for picking so you could make it a fun foraging trip and take advantage of our Frugal Breaks, specially while the heated swimming pool is still open on the site nearby. Contact me before booking and I'll provide a special 'Friends of Frugaldom' discount to make sure your impromptu break is affordable! :)