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For crumbles to be enjoyed as they’re meant to be, butter is a key ingredient and to finish off any sweet crumble then where would you be without lashings of cream? Pouring, or whipped, as you like it. I hope my doctor isn’t reading this.
I’m not a usually a sweet cook. Give me a box of salt and I can cook dinner, give me a bag of sugar and it can take me a week to get the courage to make a chocolate cake. And this is where crumbles are my friend. In my freezer I keep two tubs of crumble mixes ready, one sweet and one savoury. What could be simpler? On a whim you can add it to anything and dinner or desert is ready in minutes.
At this time of year the fields, hedgerows and gardens are overflowing. Apples, pears, hazelnuts, plums and of course damsons, those tiny navy blue plums. Farmers say they’re ready to pick when the cattle are ‘stealing them’ from the bottom branches, because they know when they’re sweet enough to eat. How about that, smart cattle...
For me, Monaghan, the county of my birth, was always the world capital of damsons. But on a recent visit to my Aunt and Uncle in Co Meath, I was told of an area called Barley Hill famous for the fruit. I headed straight there, and for four hours picked to my heart’s content. A local lady told me there were so many damson trees in this area because it used to be a cash crop in the sixties. Farmers would pick the fruit and deliver it to a shed at Barley Hill. It would be weighed and then the Fruitfield Jam Factory from Dublin would send a truck to collect it. The farmers got paid for their crop and Fruitfield made great jam. Happy days. So now my freezer is full of fruit and the first batch of jam is made, to be enjoyed with ham, roast pork, game and of course the Christmas day turkey. Who needs cranberry sauce?
Tip for removing stones from fruit before cooking.
Freeze fruit for a couple of days. Let it defrost, and the fruit is now soft and it’s easy to pop out the stones. If you have a cherry pitter all the easier. Keep the stones and while you’re cooking the jam put them on to boil in a little water. When the jam is ready, strain the stones and add the water to jam. Nothing wasted...
Share a gift of food.
If you have an abundance of fruit or veg in your garden, share with your neighbour. As our mother taught us, a wilful waste leaves a woeful want.