I say to Alex one of things I love best about living in these climes is the fruit and vegetables that grow so easily and abundantly. Autumn is an especially wonderful time with trees by the roadside laden with apples and plums. What better way to preserve over-ripe (or underripe) fruit then to cook down with spice and honey, puree and air dry - fruit leather being the happy result! It can then be cut up and put in cooking, soaked for muesli, or eaten as is, with a slice of cheese or two... my two favourite combinations are:
plum, apple + vanilla bean
4 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
10 small/medium plums, cored and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla bean
raw honey to taste (I used about 2 tablespoons)
pear, rhubarb + cinnamon
4 large pears, peeled, cored and chopped
4 stalks of rhubarb, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon ground
raw honey to taste (I used about 2-3 heaped tablespoons, but you might want more to counter the rhubarb's tartness)
Cook fruit on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes. Cool and blend into a fine puree. Smooth puree out over baking trays lined with baking paper and dry in a very sun place covered by mesh or glass or in the oven on it's lowest temperature overnight - I tend to put them on a table that gets flooded with morning sun for a few hours, then in a switched-off oven after I've done a big batch of baking so it's still very warm. You'll know it's dried sufficiently when the surface is firm and shiny. Gently pull leather away from baking paper and store in an airtight container.
Other things are being harvested too - copious handfuls of basil, chives and parsley are picked for batches of pestro - which I spoon into ice-cube trays, freeze, press-out and store in bags for the rest of the year.
I've also been rendering lard from the fat of two very well fed and cared for free-range pigs (courtesy of our good friends). Lard is so luxurious - fragrant as a belly roast as it melts - snow white and odourless when set - keeps for years in the fridge (and beyond in the freezer) - it can be safely heated to deep frying and roasting temperatures without burning or denaturing like most other fats and oils - a wonderful source of saturated fat - it's hard for me to fathom why this fat became so unpopular, and why it becomes a discarded "waste product" in abattoirs. I plan to use most of this lard for soap-making, as well as experiment with lip balm and hand salve using our own beeswax and dried herbs...