Goin’ Nuts

It seems like fall has come all too soon in these parts, with the nights turning colder and the days shorter. Can it already be autumn at the beginning of September? And here I was, hoping for an Indian summer. But no matter, it is here, and I am glad.

Late summer is my favorite time of year. The gardening season is winding down, fruit falling off the trees, colors are starting to deepen. Apples are already making an appearance, pears are too. It’s time to make apple sauce. It’s time to assess what could be improved next year, ideas on what new herbs and plants should be planted next. The last time you could spend a warm summer night on the balcony, relaxing with a glass of wine.

I am still amazed how many fruit and nut trees grow in the streets of Erfurt. Just keep your eyes open, and things start revealing themselves. Walnuts have already started ripening and falling off trees, picking them from trees while when I go on walks. I’ve also discovered several hazelnut trees that I used to ignore until somebody pointed them out to me.  I’m currently looking for ways to use the hazelnuts. If anybody has got an idea, I’m all ears!

 

Plum Season

What I like about living in Europe is that you can still pick fresh fruits for free, even in urban areas. All you need to have is an attentive eye for splattered, rotting fruit underfoot and you begin to notice which fruits are in season.

I was going about my normal jogging route when I noticed black fruit flies congregating on sticky-looking mush on the pavement. I looked up and saw a tree laden with huge yellow egg plums! They deserve the name, it really are as huge as small eggs. I returned with a net and a basket after my jog and hauled a total of five kilos of fruit. My basket was only a fourth full!

The plums were tart with their skins, but they were super sweet with the skins peeled off. And the seed just separated itself so easily, which is a big advantage for fruit. I baked a plum cake, and I still had a kilo left over. Unfortunately, plums don’t keep well, so I had to throw the rest away, despite snacking on them non-stop since last weekend. The cake is safely stored in the freezer, and I now have cake to feed unexpected guests with.

Plum and mirabelle season is  in full swing in Europe, so I reckon you should get out there and pick them plums!

Cherry Cupcakes!

Another recipe from North & South are these fabulous cherry cupcakes that you really just have to try!

240 g unsalted butter                                   210 g self-raising flour

200 g caster sugar                                      90 g plain flour

3 large eggs                                                 36 or more fresh cherries, stoned, halved and                                                                        de-stemmed

Zest of half an orange                                  12 fresh cherries, stoned, with stems intact

 

Line a muffin tray with cupcake inserts. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until white and fluffy. Add eggs and orange zest, mix well. Fold in the flours gently, then add the cherries. DO NOT OVERSTIR! It’s ok if there are still patches of flour here and there, overmixing will make your cupcakes dry!

Divide the mixture  among the hollows in the cupcake tray, placing a cherry on top of each cupcake just before baking. Bake at 200°C or 180°C on fan bake for about 10-15 minutes or until a skewer comes clean. Allow to cool and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

While the recipe says it is enough for 12 cupcakes, I was able to bake 16 cupcakes total. The cupcakes do not keep well, so consume within 48 hours. I haven’t tried refrigerating them but the article warned against it. 

Cherry, Cherry Cherries!

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This year is turning out to be a good year for fruits. It’s not so hot, not so dry, and the rains have come at the right time. And because of the hot spring/cool summer we are having in Germany this year, the sweet cherry and sour cherry varieties arrived almost at the same time, instead of the sour varieties coming in this July. This may differ from region to region, so I cannot speak for the whole country.

So I have a bucket full of cherries. The darker ones are sour cherries from the backyard, while the lighter ones are from the tree I spoke of last year. I believe the tree is a Royal Ann cherry, but I am not sure what kind of cherry is the one from our backyard. It is not really sour, it’s more tart-sweetish, and quite juicy.

I’ve made three jars of jam, and one wonderful cherry chutney so far. I hope to make cherry cupcakes today, and maybe freeze the rest, if I am not able to harvest any more this weekend.

What amazes me is the difference of the cherries from the backyard tree from this year and last year. It was pruned this spring, and the cherries are huge and juicy! I wish I could learn more about tree pruning, but I guess that is for when I have more time.

 

 

Bärlauch

Ah, spring. Spring means that the lovely, lovely seasonal fruit and vegetable bounty starts. In the German cycle, early spring means that Bärlauch becomes omnipresent on the menu. People go crazy for this stuff! Known in English as ramsons, or bear’s garlic, among other aliases, it is a wild realtive of chives.

I had bought a bunch of leves from the market and put it into Chinese dumplings, soups, and used it as garnishing. I got myself a lovely jar or leek pesto from my favorite pickle and mustard maker.

Although I have been trying to plant them on my balcony, my attempts to grow them have never been sucessful. Apparently the prefer a speciaI kind of soil, in forests, with slightly acidic soil. I never try to gather them in the wild, as I am not exprienced enough to distinguish it from its doppelgänger, the lily of the valley. The season is almost over in Germany, but it should just be starting in the US, after a long and hard winter.