Jan Bilton: Make use of summer produce

By Jan Bilton

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There is such a wide variety of summer fruit available. Photo/Thinkstock
There is such a wide variety of summer fruit available. Photo/Thinkstock

With so much delicious summer produce available, it's difficult making decisions regarding which delight to enjoy next. Plums, peaches and blueberries are in full flush together with sweetcorn, rocket, mint, basil and coriander. Mix the whole lot together with some cold pasta and a curry dressing and you have the ultimate summer salad.

A problem with stone fruit is that once sliced unless you work fast it oxidises, that is, it turns brown. You can add a little lemon juice to prevent the discolouration, or - a great trick from the dark ages when we froze everything from peaches to pumpkin - add a dash of ascorbic acid (vitamin C powder).

You need only about a quarter of a teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder dissolved in a quarter of a cup of juice, syrup or water to prevent a kilogram of fruit from discolouring. It's great for keeping fresh fruit salads bright and appealing. It isn't as acidic as lemon juice and is available from health stores.

Not all of our plums will find themselves in desserts or preserves. My husband makes plum "wine", a misnomer really as it is more of a fruit liqueur or syrup. "Umeshu" is Japanese in origin and is best prepared with slightly under-ripe greengage plums or small tart red fleshed plums. Wash 250g of plums in cold water and remove the stems. Layer the plums alternately with four tablespoons of sugar in a one-litre glass jar. Top up with vodka, about one cup. Cover and leave in a cool place for three months, shaking every day until the sugar is dissolved. Try umeshu as a drink on ice or drizzled over fruit and icecream.

Many herbs can be frozen for later use - although fresh is always best.

Parsley can be washed and dried and packed into plastic bags. It becomes very crisp once frozen so if you need it chopped, just slap the bag and it will disintegrate. Basil is best pureed with a little oil, frozen in small containers and used in sauces or pesto.

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