How to preserve an abundance of stone fruit

Cook apricots with an equal weight quantity of sugar plus the fleshy kernel of the apricot pip.
Cook apricots with an equal weight quantity of sugar plus the fleshy kernel of the apricot pip. Photo: iStock

​I have so much stone fruit – how do I preserve it? L. Handley

When I was growing up on the farm, my family inherited an orchard of gnarled fruit trees. Their limbs were cloaked in layers of lichen and riddled with various forms of canker. They had grown protected from the prevailing winds by a hedgerow of cypress. Every odd year they threw a surfeit of fruit. This was in the era before freezers, so some of the softer fruit were turned into jams. We cooked apricots with an equal weight  of sugar plus the fleshy kernel of the apricot pip to add a marzipan note to the conserve, plus half lemons to add acid and pectin. Apricots love a touch of warm spice such as cinnamon or cardamom and even a pinch of salt.

Blemished nectarines received a similar treatment. But as you know, there is not much better than a tree-ripened nectarine. What we didn't eat direct from the boughs became valuable barter for the neighbour's late-spring lamb chops. That was when I discovered just how well grilled lamb and grilled nectarine go together.

The clingstone peaches were blanched in hot water, stones removed, and drowned in light sugar syrup made by dissolving 200g of sugar in one litre of water over heat. The peaches' skin was slipped off and the flesh sliced into lobes, which were then dropped into sterilised Fowlers Vacola jars, covered with the light syrup, sealed, and put into the old green steel pasteuriser for an hour. The bottled peaches would appear a few weeks later as the bottom layer of the Christmas trifle.

Technology has given us some great dehydrators that make excellent dried fruit and leathers.

If freezing apricots and peaches, blanch to remove the skin first as skin can harden during freezing. Cut apricots in half and larger fruit into lobes. Place flat in small containers and cover in light syrup or water. Cover and freeze for up to six months.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 19:  The flatiron steak with carrots and labne at the Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel on January 19, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Josh Robenstone/Fairfax Media)

Flatiron steak at the Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel in Melbourne. Photo: Josh Robenstone

What is a flat iron steak? K. Jamieson

Delicious. Underrated. Hard to come by. Perfect for the barbecue. It is a beef steak that comes from the shoulder blade of a cow or steer. Anyone who has done a shoulder rotator cuff injury will know exactly which muscle I am talking about. Until 2002, this muscle was cut across the grain with a dirty great piece of gristle in the middle and called "oyster blade". Then, almost 20 years ago, meat researchers – and yes, that is a job title – at the University of Nebraska worked out that slicing the muscle lengthways and removing the gristle would reveal two big, meaty steaks, each about the size of Jorge Taufua's hands. (For AFL-loving readers, think St Kilda's former Stewart Loewe doing a high five).

Flat iron steak is full-flavoured, but can be lean in younger cattle. In older beasts, and wagyu, it can be incredibly well-marbled. To cook season, grill over coals or on bars for a few minutes, flip, then repeat. Rest. If your butcher is not up to speed on this now 20-year-old cut, buy an oyster blade and remove the gristle by cutting either side of it to create a steak that looks like a salmon cutlet – season and grill grain side down. A well-trimmed oyster blade is just as tasty but doesn't have the sexy moniker. 

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