It was a wonderful autumn weekend. The trees were turning every shade of yellow, orange and red. I was celebrating the fruits of mine - and others' - labours.
It started with a trip to the Redhill Beer Festival at Merstham Village Hall, on Friday evening. We were some of the lucky ones that got in, given the 'one in one out' policy that is testament to the excellent work of CAMRA that puts on the event. There was an array of great artisan perries and ciders. I enjoyed Broadoak's Old Bristolian Cider. I agree with officionados on the 'ratebeer' website that it has a challenging taste, but I think it has improved this year. You can't go wrong with the flavoursome Two Trees Perry and Cider as well. I'd have liked fewer mainstream choices such as Weston's to try, but I realise I have a certain palate. One merrymaker complained the perry 'smelt like old socks, tasted like old socks!' I was pleased to see many others enjoying a glass of it though.
I spent Saturday digging over ground and exposing clods of clay for the coming frosts to break up. Then, on Sunday evening, I poached some pears for pudding. Some were the first fruit from my own young trees - a pic of me picking them and looking very proud is attached. The rest were donated at the Free Fruit Day stall on 15 October. To thicken the spicy syrup, I added a spoonful of honey made by our bees at the plot - the taste of all the flowers in Merstham in one jar! Friends would call it one of my 'smug' homegrown suppers, and it definitely was, recipe see below.
Pears poached in cider.
Allow two firm pears for each person, preferably homegrown or donated by a neighbour. Peel them with a potato peeler, leaving the stork on. Take out the hard core from underneath, removing the pips if you can. Trim the bases so the pears will sit level on the serving plates. Alternatively, cut the pears into quarters.
Put a couple of cinnamon sticks and star anise, and a few cloves and black peppercorns, into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add a tablespoon of unrefined (I use demerera) sugar and a pint of good quality cider (or perry). Bring the sauce to the boil. Simmer for 10mins to melt the sugar and slightly thicken the sauce. Put in the pears and coat with the liquid. Poach for about 15 minutes.
Lift the pears out when softened (but not mushy), and reduce the sauce down by cooking it more vigorously with the lid off. You can add a spoon of local (homemade if you have it) honey if desired at this stage, which helps to sweeten and thicken it.
Lift gently onto serving plates and serve with a drizzle of cream or vanilla ice cream if desired. Delicious!
Debbie Fox, Chair