The changing of the seasons and the arrival of autumn heralds many things; a nostalgic pining for spring and summer, an increased intake of pumpkin spice lattes, a renewed love of cosiness, and a concerted effort to look on the brightside regarding hearty stews and cold weather fashion.
Here at IDEAL, right now it’s all about autumn fruit. It can be hugely inspiring and soul-nourishing to eat with the seasons, giving you a new appreciation for nature and the passing of time, as well as enjoying produce at its very best. What’s not to love?
Some of Britain’s most beloved fruit also finds autumn to be a purple patch; apples, pears, plums and figs are all begging to be picked and eaten right about now. Phwoar. So, without further ado, here are 5 ways to make the most out of autumn’s fruits.
Jams, Chutneys, Jellies & Pickles
While the autumn harvest brings a selection of fresh produce that’s truly at its best over the next couple of months, that’s not to say that you can’t preserve the best of the season’s fruit to enjoy throughout the rest of the year.
The options are endless when it comes to preserving this bounty. You might opt for making mulberry conserve, or perhaps a crab apple jelly, but you could go further; autumnal fruits of all varieties, such as plums, damsons, apples, and pears all work well as both jams and chutneys. And let’s face it, a cheeky crumpet with a good slathering of butter and jam is enough to lift the spirits as the days get shorter and the temperature drops.
Consider making an autumn fruit chutney of apples, pears, apricots, and cranberries, given lift with a little crystallised ginger. It’s a delicious accompaniment to many a meal, but particularly a cheese board.
Speaking of which, here at IDEAL, one of our Friday night autumn rituals is to enjoy something we like to call a ‘harvest cheeseboard’, which makes use of the season’s homemade fruit chutneys and even a few autumn pickles, big on heady spices like star anise and cloves. Some of our favourite pairings include fig jam with goats cheese, manchego and quince jelly, and the aforementioned chutney with just about any mild, soft cheese going. Brie is a particularly good partner.
We’re also fans of pickling fruit. Tasty and tangy, pickles are a wonderful way to add intense flavour, and bursts of brightness and piquancy. While you can pickle all manner of fruit, at this time of year we particularly like pickled figs, which make for a delectable accompaniment to most grilled meats. As a partner to fish, pickled pear (we love the Nashi variety, particularly) is also a real winner.
Make Fruit Or Nectar Juice
As we all know, the changing of the weather associated with the beginning of autumn often sees with it the arrival of seasonal colds and flus. As such, it’s important that we have lots of Vitamin C in our diets. This powerful antioxidant helps strengthen your body’s natural defences and contributes to immune defence by supporting cellular function required to battle illness. And what better way to get your daily dose of vitamin C than via freshly squeezed juice.
While we usually think of orange juice to be rich in Vitamin C, many autumn fruits also boast this powerful antioxidant – particularly pomegranates, apples and pears.
When it comes to making fruit juices at home, you can either make fruit or nectar juice. The juice experts at E.E Brian Smith tell us that “Nectar juice is more popularly known as pulp juice, but it is also called a nectar drink. It simply refers to fruit juice that contains the flesh and the pulps.”
They go on to say that nectar is thicker than fruit juice, and isn’t as clear or smooth as fresh fruit juice, needing to be diluted down to get the most from it. If you want to learn more about the difference between fruit and nectar juice, click here.
Autumnal Infusions, Cordials & Cocktails
Infusing booze with fruits is a lovely thing to do at any time of year. But when things start getting cooler, injecting a little of the magic of autumn fruits makes withstanding the changing seasons that much easier.
Sloe gin is a seasonal favourite here at IDEAL and can be made just in time to be enjoyed over Christmas. It also makes an excellent Christmas gift! Homemade damson vodka is another autumnal favourite that can be enjoyed neat or in seasonal cocktails, whether that’s a damson vodka martini or a amusingly-named damson in distress.
Cordials are a great way to drink the fruits of the season, too. From elderberry to hawthorn, you can turn more or less anything that grows and is edible into a cordial.
We also love making a puree out of the season’s fruit and using them in seasonal cocktails. Let us direct you to our article on 4 autumnal rye whiskey cocktails using the best of the season’s ingredients for more on that.
If whiskey isn’t your ‘dram’ then take that pear juice you made earlier and make this spiced pear cocktail. Sweet and warming, this simple cocktail is a concoction of vodka, fresh pear juice, lemon juice, cinnamon simple syrup and ginger beer – the latter of which gives a welcome, fiery warmth on a chilly autumnal day.
While autumn’s bounty of fruit just so happens to arrive at the same time as one’s desire for hot, warming puddings, the season’s colder weather shouldn’t necessarily mean stodgy puddings until spring.
At this time of year, poached pears are a firm favourite in households up and down the country – the sweetness and spice of this retro dish is as nostalgic as it is deliciously comforting. If you haven’t done so yet, for something a little different, try poaching quince and serve with heaps of mascarpone for an oh-so comforting autumn desert.
Trays of baked fruits are yet another great way to celebrate autumnal fruit. A dessert of the season’s fruits, baked together in sherry and maple syrup and served with custard is simple and satisfying.
Autumn is also the ideal season for crumbles and tarts. During early autumn, you’ll still find greengages at their best, and these guys go just beautifully with plums in a crumble. Similarly, blackberries and apples are a classic pairing, as are damsons and apple, both for good reason; they just work!
Here at IDEAL, we’re also huge fans of an apricot crumble – the secret here is to add a little marzipan into the crumble topping which highlights the almondy characteristics of stone fruit.
Speaking of almonds, pear and frangipane tart is a real winner at this time of year, as is an ‘orchard frangipane tart’, which is any autumn fruit (we like blackberries, pears and apples here) of your choice crammed into a pasty case alongside almond frangipane.
‘Tis also the season for apple tarte tatin, but why not experiment with some other autumnal fruits in this most beloved of puff pastry tarts – fig and honey tarte tatin anyone?
But perhaps the best way of all to make the most out of the season’s fruits is in an ‘autumn pudding’ – an autumnal version of a summer pudding, which is just fabulous.
Pair Your Fruits With Savoury Dishes
Finally, autumnal fruits needn’t only be restricted to the sweet stuff or cheeseboards; they can also be made into compotes, purees and added to sauces, bringing a beautiful counterpoint to all manner of meat dishes, salads, tarts and more. Here are a few ideas:
- A simple salad of figs, goat’s cheese, honey, walnuts and pomegranate molasses is pure pleasure.
- From chops and prosciutto, all the way to a glazed ham, pork goes well with so many of the season’s fruits. Whilst pork paired with apple sauce is a classic culinary combination for a reason, we’re equally as enamoured with a porcine and apricot one-two punch. With a little sage thrown in for good measure, it’s magic. Oh, and a side of baked slices of apple and prunes will lift Sunday’s roast pork to dizzy seasonal heights.
- This season, instead of roasting your chicken with lemon, why not try a side of cranberry compote?
- Duck with plums is another one of those ‘classic for a reason’ combinations that just works so well.
- Autumn heralds the height of game season, too, and wild British meats, such as venison, boar, pheasant, partridge and grouse, all pair beautifully with the season’s fruits. A venison and juniper berry stew is autumnal comfort food at its best, whilst grouse and damson jelly is a match made in heaven. And don’t get us started on partridge and pear… Actually do get us started, and we’ll happily finish the whole lot, and then sing the song!
The Bottom Line
As the days grow short and you start bringing out your winter woollies, don’t be downhearted. Instead, take inspiration from the changing fruit of the land in your cooking and drinking, and you may just find comfort in the less hospitable months ahead.