A Summer of Superlatives

That’s what we got this year in answer to our springtime ponderings:

April warm, Mai kühl, Juni nass, füllt dem Bauer Scheuer und Fass

April warm, May cool, June wet, fills the farmer’s barn and barrel.


April was warm and frost free, May was not particularly cool and June was certainly not wet, neither was July, or August, or September… it was just hot, very hot, and very dry, for very long…

Yet the fruit harvest in Franconia’s orchards is a recordbreaker this year (and about three weeks ahead of “normal” ripening times).

But what does that actually mean in these times of far removed mass plastic food production? Who can picture what a “record harvest” might look like?

Let’s have a go.


Here in Bavaria’s main plum growing area it means : 400 tonnes more plums than usual.


Here in our district the fruit presses have stopped taking apple deliveries because they are overloaded…

Narrowing it down to facts and figures based on our 2 hectare traditional (i.e. non-plantation) orchard:

8kg redcurrants, 10 kg sour cherries, 10kg nectarines, 11kg mirabelle plums, 26kg blackberries, 57 kg cherry plums, 70 kg grapes, 85 kg Switzen plums…

All of which is in fact the upper end of normal,

and then we get to the apples:

3200 kg to date with about another 1000 kg still to come off the trees. The previous record over a period of six years was 1500 kg.

Still to come are the pears and the quinces, both looking like weighing in at the upper end of normal too.

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So its the apples that have done it: more or less three times their previous record harvest!

We invested in our own stand alone fruit press this year – and not a minute too soon!

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18_08_2018 sacks filling up 18_08_18

18_08_2018 01_09_2018

18_08_ waiting for the apple express

Hand-picked, processed and pasteurised by ourselves:

that takes us right back to the origins of where food – and drink – come from!




Earth Mother in the Winter Kitchen

I admit it, preserves and preserving bring out the Earth Mother in me and I have been known to disappear into the cellar on occasion just to sneak a peak at my rows of jars glistening in gorgous colours…


But I am not a hoarder and so I do use them up. With snowmen and winter pruning being all that is going on in the orchard at present, all that mellow fruitfulness preserved during the preserving season is keeping us supplied with ready-made (almost) meals through the winter:

Full-Bodied, Fruity Red Cabbage


Spicy Plum Chutney

 Plum Sauce with copyright

+ red cabbage 

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= a winner in our house from the autumn through to the spring.

The chutney has all the flavours you need for a a really fruity, flavourful dish of red cabbage (whether for a festive table or  for weekday suppers to accompany some full-bodied sausages):

  1. Thinly slice your red cabbage, chuck it in a saucepan together with a jar of Spicy Plum Chutney, give it all a good mix and simmer slowly over a low heat (not too hot otherwise the chutney will catch and burn on the bottom of the pan) – the liquid from the cabbage, together with the chutney, provides enough cooking liquid – do not add water as it simply makes the end result insipid.
  2. Simmer, covered, for about an hour, then remove then lid and increase the heat a little to then boil the liquid down (you’ll be surprised how much water there is in red cabbage!) About another half an hour of cooking and you will have a pan of glistening, fruity  red cabbage.

This recipe also works well with

Quince Chutney

which also makes a fine

Fruity Winter Beetroot Salad:


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+ beetroot (steamed or roasted)

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is all you need.

Spicy Plum Chutney and/or Quince Chutney dressing

(dilute with a dash of olive oil and/or red wine, fruity vinegar or similar according to taste)

on a winter salad of leaves, nuts and citrus


Comprising almost 50% onion and garlic,

my Quince Chutney also makes a great addition to meatballs and vegetable fritters

and I have used it in sauces and risottos  as a replacement for sautéed onions.

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And last but not least, spreading either

Spicy Plum or Quince Chutney over a flammkuchen base

before adding the rest of the toppings is a really good idea – believe me!

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“Those fine blue plums…”


Those fine blue plums which hang by such millions by the waysides and […] used for those nice large plum tarts or cakes, of half a yard wide, which they bake in tins, with the plums cut in halves and stuck with the split side upwards all over them.”

This was William Howitt’s description of what are known as “Zwetschgen” here in southern Germany, in his book The Rural and Domestic Life of Germany, published in 1842.

Known in Bavaria as “Zwetschgendatschi”, those nice plum tarts half a yard wide are still as ubiquitous today as the fine blue plums (oval-shaped Switzen plums) from which they are made…

… but there is only so much Zwetschgendatschi you can eat in one (late) summer and so these are some of the other options I turn to for all our fine blue plums:

Spicy Plum Chutney

Recipe here

Plum chutney

Buttery Plum Dumplings

known in the vernacular as “Zwetschgenknödel

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Prep. Time: 15 minutes + 15 minutes resting

Cooking time: approx. 30 minutes

Serves: 4

Floury potatoes                                                      400g

Flour                                                                     130g

plus extra for dusting

Egg                                                                       1


Ripe plums                                                             12

Brown sugar                                                           6tsp

Ground cinnamon                                                    3tsp

For the buttery coating:

Butter                                                                    150g

Polenta                                                                  70g

Brown sugar                                                           50g

Whipped cream to serve

1. To make the dumpling dough, wash, peel and boil the potatoes. Mash so that there are no lumps left and leave to cool.

2. Add the flour, egg and a pinch of salt to the cold mashed potato. Knead into a smooth dough and leave to rest for about 15 minutes.

3. Wash the plums, slice them open lengthways, remove the stones and then place them, cut side up, on a plate.

4. Mix the brown sugar and ground cinnamon togetherand place half a teaspoon of the cinnamon sugar in the hollow of each plum.

5. Shape the dough on a floured surface into a roll about 5 cm thick. Cut the roll into 12 slices.

6. Place a plum on each slice of dough and wrap each plum in dough so that it is fully enclosed. You don’t want too thick a lump ofdough, though, otherwise your dumplings well tend towards soggy.

7. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the dumplings and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the cooked dumplings from the water and drain.

8. To make the buttery coating, melt the butter in a large frying pan (the dumplings will need space in the pan to crisp up so do this bit in batches if your frying pan is not large enough).

9. Place the drained dumplings in the frying pan with the butter, sprinkle with the polenta and brown sugar and fry over a medium tohigh heat until brown and crispy on the outside, moist and fruity on the inside. Serve warm with a dusting of cinnamon and generous portions of whipped cream.

And if you do want to have a go at Zwetschgendatschi yourself, you will find a German recipe here: http://www.bayerische-spezialitaeten.net/…/bayerischer-zwet…

Bayerischer Zwetschgendatschi

Bayerischer Zwetschgendatschi

or an English version in Elisabeth Luard’s European Peasant Cookery, Grub Street Books (paperback 2007), page 468.

http://grubstreet.co.uk/product/european-peasant-cookery/ (and no, they are not paying me to write this…)