Fruit for thought

Now that autumn is over, it’s time to use up what’s left of its bounty

“Because apricots have a sweet-and-sour quality, they marry well with both savoury and sweet food stuffs.” Photograph: iStock 

“Because apricots have a sweet-and-sour quality, they marry well with both savoury and sweet food stuffs.” Photograph: iStock 

 

We bade farewell to autumn this week.“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” wrote the English poet John Keats in his paean to autumn in 1819. Keats wrote wonderfully of how the fruits of autumn grow and subsequently decline over the course of the season. Now it’s at an end, it’s time to use up what is left of autumn’s bounty. 

Driving to Cork, I travel through roads lined with falling leaves of all colours. But what of the fruits? Where are they all hidden?

We may be used to apples from the supermarket, but how many of us get a chance to climb up a tree? Or pick wild plums from an old orchard. Probably never, but keep an eye upwards in case you happen across some late treats. 

Soft fruits, such as plums, peaches and apricots don’t fare particularly well in Ireland. Though that has not stopped us using them. Global trade is not a new phenomenon. It is just more widespread than it once was. 

Apricots have been enjoyed in Ireland for hundreds of years and have been successfully grown in the south, though under the protection of walled gardens or conservatories. Stewed, dried and pickled are some of the ways we have enjoyed these foreign fruits over the centuries.

Sweet pickled peaches were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries in several ‘Big Houses’. We must remember before the fridge and freezer, all fruits needed salt, vinegar or sugar to be preserved. 

This time of year, I like to make an apricot chutney to possibly pair with pork, or grill them to serve with some autumn lamb. Because apricots have a sweet-and-sour quality, they marry well with both savoury and sweet food stuffs. 

Apricot jam with chocolate, as makes up the famous Sachertorte from Vienna, is an excellent combination for darkening evenings.

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