This week we’re back in the kitchen with Sharon. Have you been following her series of autumn recipes – chard saag aloo and my favourites, rosehip syrup and jams? Today Sharon is sharing her twist on that old favourite: cheese and pickle. The cheese is a fruit cheese and the pickle is an instant fresh pear and bramble pickle.
A real change for lunch
‘Lunch can so easily become just soup or a sandwich’ says Sharon as she puts the last of some good looking vine, blackcurrant and bay leaves on a board. And then adds oat cakes, an apple and some thinly pared slices of strong cheddar cheese. Apparently, Sharon learnt to do this in Spain where manchego cheese is served in wafer thin slices. The trick here is to use a vegetable peeler to slice your cheese and, yes, some of it does crumble but all you need to do is tuck that underneath the good looking slices!
Next Sharon added three small wedges of damson and crabapple cheese and a big spoonful of pear and bramble pickle. The flavours and textures complimented each other beautifully. They felt mellow and autumnal. A real change for lunch.
How to make a fruit cheese
A fruit cheese is fruit (this can be one sort, but you might like to mix apples, pears, elderberries, brambles, quinces, damsons, plums, crab apples and even a few mulberries) simmered to complete softness in very little water and then sieved. Recipes say to add the same weight of sugar as sieved fruit but if you have a concentrated puree – that is – you added just enough water at the start to stop your fruit catching; and if you use sugar with added pectin, you can use less. You can also use up to one-third less sugar if you have any damsons in the mix.
In a large pan – you might have to wrap your hand in a tea towel if it spits – warm and stir until all the sugar is dissolved and then simmer until really thick. The traditional test for establishing whether you’ve reached the correct thickness is this to draw your wooden spoon through the mix, the gap formed should not fill up with loose liquid. You need to keep stirring to prevent it catching on the bottom of your pan. Sharon told me she likes her cheeses soft, and jam-like, right through to a hard-to-cut with your knife firmness. Once in its container you can also thicken it more by leaving it with the lid off.
Fruit cheeses set but also simply thicken. They are easierto make than jams and are excellent for using up small amounts of a variety of fruits.
You can serve these fruit cheeses spread on buttered toast or crumpets but also with roast or grilled meat, cold meats and cheeses. Sharon told me that she dreams of having a collection of fruit cheeses in several different hues ranging from a delicately pink crab apple through to a nearly black elderberry and damson.
Pear and bramble pickle
For this you can use any combination of brambles and pears. Simply peel, core and chop the pears. Simmer them in a mix of cider vinegar and sugar with cloves, mixed spice and cinnamon.
Adjust the amount of vinegar and sugar to taste. The pear pieces should be just covered and need to cook until tender right through (with some rock hard pears this can be for about 40 minutes). Then stir in the brambles gently and simmer for five more minutes. Lift the fruit out with a draining spoon and boil the pan liquid down to a syrupy consistency. This hot liquid will be very pungent and catch in the back of your throat but cool a little of it and check you like the balance of sweet and sour. Pour the pan liquid over the fruit and leave to cool. And then its ready to use.
You could add quite a few cloves to this mix – they have a lovely scent and taste. This pear and bramble goes so well with cheese but also with cold game.
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Keeping in touch
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Until next time, happy flowers
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