…especially when the aroma from spices like star anise perfume the kitchen.
We’ve been storing some pears in a little fridge in an outbuilding. The Williams were still nice and firm, so I decided to use them to make Tom Kerridge’s version of spiced pear chutney.
The recipe calls for a small amount of perry, the pear version of cider. We don’t produce enough pears for perry making so I headed off to our local grocery store. The most famous brand, of course, is that great retro drink, ‘Baby Cham’. I didn’t realise that the brand was still around but it is! though it’s not stocked at my local; which is a shame as I seem to recall that the bottles were quite small which would have been handy as the recipe only needed 100ml.
Though we are in December, I don’t like to start decorating for Christmas too early, however, we will be getting our tree this Sunday. Once again it will come from a neighbour’s small plantation of Norway Spruce, a tree I much prefer to the Nordmann fir in spite of the propensity to drop its needles. I understand that this year our neighbour has upped his retail offering and made a netting machine from an old oil drum.
In anticipation of the tree’s arrival, I have been rescuing forlorn baubles from the charity shop…..
….getting a lot like Christmas.
We have a number of pear trees which are planted along the piggery wall. They should have been fan trained on wires sometime ago. They will be, they will be.
The varieties we have are: William Bon Chretien; Buerre Hardy; Doyenne du Comice; Beth; Conference; Concorde and Invincible. All except Beth have produced a reasonable crop either this, or last year. I’m keeping my eye on the Beth specimen. In theory the variety is meant to be easy to grow and reliable. It certainly is a vigorous specimen so perhaps I need to concentrate on a July prune to develop more fruiting spurs or somehow stress the tree.
The Doyenne du Comice and Buerre Hardy trees gave good crops this year. Originating in France in the 19th century, both produce utterly delicious dessert fruit though, at this precise moment, the Buerre takes top spot because the flesh is so juicy, sweet and, yes, does have a ‘melting’ quality. The Comice needs to ripen more.
It is notoriously difficult to judge the exact point of ripeness of a pear on the tree so we picked all the pears in October and then placed them in a fridge housed in one of the outbuildings. A period of time in cold storage seems to help to ripen the fruit. We take them out a few days before eating.
It is a real treat to eat a properly ripened pear rather than munching through a hard green Conference, the beloved variety of the supermarket, though the sweetness of the fruit marries perfectly with the salty creaminess of blue cheese and the crunch of walnuts, drizzled with some of our elderberry vinegar. A delicious lunch, rustled up in minutes.
The OH and I had a DAY OUT last weekend whereupon I dragged him off to visit a lovely walled kitchen garden in Sugnall, (http://sugnall.co.uk/walled-garden/), followed by the gorgeous gardens at Wollerton Old Hall (http://wollertonoldhallgarden.com/). Both are well worth a visit but I reserve a soft spot for Sugnall. Privately owned, bravely restored – it costs just £2.00 to visit, (August 2014). The 2 acre walled kitchen garden contains an interesting mix of pyramid trained apple and pear trees lining the quadrants; (the owner was assisted in the selection by Nick Dunn of Frank P. Matthews – a complete guru in matters of top fruit and ornamental trees. I have seen him pruning orchards – amazing doesn’t come close). Some modern varieties plus many old including the Black Worcester pear, an old English cooker which probably pre-dates Tudor.
The Walled Kitchen Gardens network (http://www.walledgardens.net/) has a handy pdf listing restored and partially restored walled kitchen gardens which one can visit. I’m determined to go and see more, because they might not be there forever. It takes a lot of manpower to maintain a working kitchen garden and let’s face it, the produce grown within them won’t cover the wages of the gardeners. So if a few quid from me in entrance money and a cream tea helps then that’s money well spent.
Black Worcester Pear
Reading this week: Cottesbrooke by Susan Campbell
Ahh, Yusuf / Cat Stevens – a wonderful singer-songwriter. But I’m not here to indulge my late 1960’s youth. No, no, I can’t put it off again – well I could… but therein lies trouble. I should have done it last year – really, really should have. Best laid plans and all.
Anyhow, apple and pear tree formative pruning. The trees were put in last year and I should have pruned just after planting, but I didn’t, because it’s all a bit scary pruning top fruit for the first time and I was probably so impressed that they all got planted that I didn’t get round to pruning. So here I am one year on and I had better get on with it.
We don’t have any true tip bearing varieties – so that makes it a bit easier. What I should have at the end of pruning is an open goblet shape with about 5 main branches and the new growth reduced by about a third to an outward facing bud. So I trundled off into the orchard to have a bash. But just to prove that it has been done – a before and after.
Before and after shot of apple Winter Gem
Whew… well better get on with the other pruning I haven’t quite caught up with – like the summer raspberries canes that should have been cut right back at the end of fruiting (the ones that fruited that is)….
Reading this week: Turned Out Nice Again: On Living with the Weather by Richard Mabey.