I’ve been trying to get a shot of Florrie, my normally magnificent, if a bit crazy, black leghorn but she’s even more jumpy than usual. She’s undergoing a seriously dramatic moult and is a shadow of her former self, with huge bald patches with the hedgehog like spines of new feathers poking through her skin. You can see the contrast of the rather shabby looking creature at the back compared to Dottie in the foreground.

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Cross section of a Montserrat tomato, a heritage variety from Catalunya, north east Spain

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Signs of autumn

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Apple purée and passata - sieved tomato paste

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Bottling fruit in my ginormous pressure cooker

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Apple production line

Another warm, still day so we got the ladders out, climbed onto the shed roof and picked two bucketfuls of Bramley apples from the tree in our garden. It’s showing its age and is a bit higgledy piggledy but still crops well and this year’s fruit are enormous.

I selected the ones with perfect skins, no bruises or blemishes and wrapped them up in newspaper to store in a box in the garage; they should keep for a good few weeks if not months.

For the rest, I’m making the most of the late September sunshine and am sitting outside, peeling and chopping to cook them down to a purée for bottling (canning) later. Robins are singing, the chickens are sat in a row on their favourite perch, preening their feathers in the sun and the children next door are giggling hysterically as they play some surreal game of their own invention whose rules I cannot fathom.

If you’re single, my grandmother told me that if you can peel an apple in one long strip and throw it over your shoulder as you walk away, it will spell the initial of the person you’re going to marry.

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Mini San Marzano tomatoes stripped off the plant to finish ripening in the kitchen.

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Tomato production line

September has been almost exclusively warm, dry and still, perfect weather for my fantastic crop of tomatoes to ripen. They were a bit slow to start fruiting as the Greedy Gardener household was under rather a lot of stresses and strains earlier in the year, so they got a bit potbound before I had the chance to put them in their big pots against the south facing wall at the back of the house. They’ve more than made up for it since and we’ve been eating tomatoes with everything as well as giving some away to friends.

The weather looks set to hold into October but some nights it’s getting a bit chilly so I decided to strip the plants of the remaining fruit. I’ve put a bowlful of fully ripe ones in the kitchen and a large pot on the stove to cook down to make my own passata which I’ll bottle later today in my giant pressure cooker. The green and unripe ones are being laid out on trays in the greenhouse to be eaten as they ripen. I should have enough for another batch of passata and maybe a few green ones left for chutney.

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If you have a fine crop of heritage tomatoes, even a simple meal of pasta and sauce is elevated to the seriously gourmet.

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Spiced tomato and apple chutney

I make versions of this each year and it’s a good way of making the most of the September glut of tomatoes and apples. I’ve had a great crop of onions too so all the main ingredients are home grown. The recipe I posted previously is for green tomatoes, which is what we often get stuck with here in the UK at the end of the season or if there’s blight about.

My recipe is open to tweaks and improvisation. For this version, I’ve used red wine vinegar instead of cider and increased the amount of whole spices. The ginger was finely chopped, not added whole and fished out and added to the mix along with a carefully seeded and finely chopped super hot Ring of Fire chilli. If you don’t want to add whole spices, you can wrap them up in a small piece of muslin, tied tightly with string and add the little parcel to the pot, taking it out when it’s done.

Chutney is best left to mature for several weeks or even months before it’s eaten. Some of this batch is intended as Christmas presents by which time it will be perfect to eat with a nice bit of strong cheese and a cracker or some crusty bread.

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