Getting into a stew as autumn draws in

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THIS week, apples. Lots and lots of apples. We have three trees at Shoogly Towers, four if you include a wee crab apple (which we can’t actually include this year as it hasn’t fruited) in the front ‘formal’ garden.

I digress slightly as I feel I have to explain my use of ‘formal’ garden. The term is an extremely loose one, meaning the bit that isn’t the gravelled bit where the cars and garden furniture go, or the bit that is mature woodland Where the Wild Things Are (ie. The Shoogly Nippers). They have a wooded bit with swings, climbing frame, tree swing, slide and unevenly-cut logs to balance on/fall off. Oh, and a death-trap see-saw that is not only not fastened down but also spins round. Right at child teeth height. Health & Safety eat your heart out).

The ‘formal’ garden is also not the third of an acre or so out back which used to be trees and lawn (but is not just trees and mud) where the chooks are. So that’s the bit at the front of the house where the lawns, plants and paths are. And more trees. And if you squint a bit when you look down into it, it actually appears to have some kind of order to it (compared to the rest of the ‘garden’, again a term I use loosely).

Anyhoo, we have one small apple tree in the ‘formal’ garden opposite the crab apple which, I imagine, has been pulling faces and thumbing its nose at the crab as it did have a fine crop this year.

The other two are proper, big, old-fashioned trees now marooned in the chicken area, along with a pear and a plum tree which must have, in its hey-day in about nineteen-canteen, have been a wee bit of an orchard.

The pear tree buds are always ravaged by the chickens which manage to jump up and peck them off. Must be a delicacy to chooks. So we never have any pears.

The plum tree was heavily-laden about three years ago and we made everything from wine, to plum brandy/vodka and jam. Scrummy. Since then, exhausted by its labours, it seems to have fallen into a sleep deeper than Mr E after a good night on the ale. Nada. Zip. Not a solitary plum.

But this year’s apple crop has been quite good, and so far they have been stewed and crumbled. We tried to store them all beautifully wrapped on racks in a stone shed one year, but they all went mouldy or were eaten by mice. Never again.

Now I’m a firm believer in making them into something that can be frozen or eaten straight away. One of the Shoogly faves is stewed apple. With a wee pinch of freshly ground nutmeg, cinnamon and sultanas. Mmmmmmmm.

It freezes beautifully, last for aaaaages and is delicious served hot with good vanilla ice-cream or cold with thick, Greek yoghurt. And it’s one of the nice things about autumn that gently eases you into this mellow season, before everything gets dark and muddy next month, and stays like that for the next seven months until the sun shines again. Boo hoo.