Bank Holiday Jam Day, and other ways to cope with a glut

This past bank holiday will forever hence forth be know as Jam Day in our house. Something powerful came over me that weekend, and I knew I just had to get my jam on. I spent hours that Monday, chopping, coring, stoning, peeling, boiling, simmering, pouring, and then cleaning up, copious quantities of fruit and veg harvested from our garden.

In fact, it wasn’t just our garden produce. At the point where I was beginning to panic about how we would possibly cope with the annual August garden glut, my lovely parents-in-law turned up at our house with two large bags of apples and plums from their garden! Thanks!!! (No, really, actually, thanks, because it all came right in the end *not sarcastic here, honest!*)

If you have been struck by a glut, fear not, there is much you can do. And it seems a pretty common theme among gardeners and allotmenteers at the moment. Everywhere I drive, I see little tables set up on the pavements outside houses, optimistically laden with monstrous marrows, engorged courgettes, and stacks of twisty runner beans. I don’t think the answer is to try to sell them. These are my tips for how to cope with a glut…

1. Give your bounty away to gardenless Londoners

They will be amazed by your clean-living, Good Life credentials, even more so when you assure them that these veggies are all totally organic and eminently suitable for a paleo diet (or whatever other hipster diet is currently trending). Point out how cheap free your produce is when compared with buying the same stuff in Whole Foods. I was able to palm off a tonne of patty pans, ball courgettes, and multi-coloured climbing beans this way last week.

2. Impress same Londoners with a salad banquet of same produce

Our bank holiday weekend BBQ abounded with home-grown veg. Make sure, if you plan on doing this, that the food is shared with your guests with a slightly smug but friendly tone. Our salad menu was as follows:

  • Raw courgette salad – Much tastier than it sounds. Use a veg peeler to ribbon your courgettes, then dress with your preferred dressing, fresh herbs, chilli flakes and lemon zest. “This salad is so easy, we do it all the time.”
  • Roasted courgettes – BBQ-ed slices of yellow and green courgette, served with halloumi and hummus. (Obviously, courgettes dominate at this time of year.) “We just loooove courgettes. Yes, the yellow ones are so much sweeter, aren’t they?”
  • Potato salad – We used our last batch of Charlotte potatoes, some mayo and parsley. “Oh yes, I so agree, home-grown potatoes do taste so much better than shop-bought, don’t they?”
  • String bean and tomato salad – Blanched beans, sliced tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. “You must try growing these, especially the white and purple varieties, as they’re impossible to buy in the shops… Perhaps you could try it on your balcony?”
  • BBQ-ed corn-on-the-cob – Sadly, our corn was not yet ready to harvest, but I was at least able to point to it and say, “It’s not quite ripe enough to pick yet, but I’m really thrilled with this year’s crop.”

3. Treat friends & family to a dessert of home-grown fruit

I made a plum pie using fruit from the gnarled old Victoria plum tree at the bottom of our garden. This is very easy, if like me, you are happy to use ready-rolled, supermarket pastry. Halve and stone the plums, coat them with demera sugar, ground ginger and white flour, and dump them into a deep pie dish. Then cover with short-crust pastry, fork the edges down, and decorate with pastry embellishments. Brush the top with milk or egg wash. Bake at 180 degrees until golden. We ate it with custard. Yum.

4. Make good use of your freezer

This is a dull but effective tip. Beans can be topped, tailed, and then blanched before freezing. Courgettes get gross and mushy when frozen so don’t try this with them. Plums can be halved, stoned, and frozen in trays, then bagged up and put in a freezer drawer. You can also freeze tuppers full of cooked crumble or pie mix, using whatever fruit you choose. I’ve done this before with apple crumble filling, when I’ve made double the quantity and frozen half for another time.

5. Make secret veg & tomato sauce

Courgettes, which are the main culprit in the August veg glut, are the ideal ingredient for creating a secretly healthy tomato sauce. My son is still very squeamish about eating most vegetables, but like most kids, he will happily guzzle tomato sauce on pasta or pizza or rice. We smuggle vegetables into him by making a mixed veg and tomato sauce which we then blend up. He knows there’s veg in the sauce but is happy to eat it because he can’t actually see the vegetables. Dice and fry up the veg (onions, courgettes, carrots, garlic, etc), then add passata and simmer. Blend once cooled, and stock pile in small tubs in the freezer.

6. Get your jam on

I should make it clear, at this point, that I am not the cook in this house. That is my husband’s talent. But even I managed to knock up a number of batches of jam and chutney. There are many recipes out there on t’internet, and I chose three that matched up fairly well with the ingredients I had to hand. I made a courgette chutney, mixed fruit chutney and plum jam. It was an extraordinarily satisfying and relatively uncomplicated experience. Now we just have to wait another week or so to taste it all.

I bought some cheap preserving jars from a local cook’s supplies shop. A wide-necked funnel is essential for filling your jars. Sterilising was easy as I used the oven. The funnel, jars and lids go into the oven on a tray for 10 minutes at a low temperature. Leave them in there until you’re ready to fill the jars. You’ll need a specialist jam pan, or just a large stainless steel pan like I used. Certain pans, apparently, are not suitable for making jams/chutneys because of the amount of sugar or acid in the mixture, and the way the pan surface interacts with the mixture, or something.

If we don’t eat it all, it is very likely that friends and family will receive jars of jam or chutney from me this Christmas. You’re welcome. xx

Plum pie, ready to go in the over.

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