Sky’s the limit during British Columbia fruit season

Crisp, slightly sour McIntosh apples make excellent applesauce. They break down easily during the cooking process. | Sarah Galvin photo

British Columbia fruit season was my favourite season when I was growing up on the family farm in southeastern Saskatchewan. Every summer the general store took orders for cases of peaches, pears, cherries and plums. Every year my mother would water-bath can the delicious fruits and stock the cold room for winter meals.

Meeting Kulwinder Dhillon and Sukh Singh of Little Quail Ridge Orchards brought all these fond childhood memories back to me. They were friends and cousins in India and emigrated to Canada more than 25 years ago. Sukh was the first to emigrate and Dhillon joined him soon after.

The two men worked in orchards in the Osoyoos region and after three years decided to lease an orchard and be their own bosses. Today they farm seven orchards, including one organic operation near Oliver, B.C.

It’s a family affair and both now have wives and children working in the business. It’s hard work with long hours but they are good at what they do.

When I visited their orchards, Sukh took me on a tour. He knows the variety of every row of peaches and pears. He talks about when to mow the grass and weeds around the trees.

“As long as the grass is there, the insects won’t touch the fruit,” he told me.

At first, they sold about 25 percent of their fruit at markets and the rest through the B.C. Tree Fruits co-operative. Later they dropped out of the co-operative and now they sell only at markets.

They’ve brought their fruit to Saskatoon farmers markets for more than 18 years. They participate in eight markets in Saskatoon, one in Prince Albert and one in Swift Current.

Selling direct to the consumer is their passion.

The fruit is picked at the peak of the season. It isn’t picked green so it can be stored for weeks and sold in grocery stores. It is field ripened and in the customers’ hands within the week.

In the early years, they drove a small refrigeration truck weekly from Oliver to Saskatoon with very little fruit. They didn’t make any money but they persisted. Now they have a semi that makes the same weekly trip between provinces, and small refrigeration trucks go to the Swift Current and Prince Albert markets from Saskatoon.

Basic Applesauce

  • 5 lb. apples, combination of McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji 2.5 kg
  • 1 c. water 250 mL
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice 30 mL
  • 3-in. cinnamon stick 7.5 cm

Optional additions:

  • 1/2 c. brown sugar 125 mL
  • 2 tbsp. butter 30 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 2 mL

Peel, core and slice apples into small chunks. Transfer to a large saucepan or pot.

Add in water, lemon juice and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and let simmer 20 to 30 minutes until apples are soft.

Puree using a blender, food processor or immersion blender for a smoother applesauce.

For sweetened applesauce, return pureed applesauce to pan. Stir in brown sugar and continue to cook, uncovered, until the applesauce thickens, about 10 minutes.

For a more flavourful, dessert type applesauce, stir in butter, ground cinnamon and vanilla extract until butter is melted.

Serve warm or cold, or freeze or can using proper canning procedures for later use. Applesauce will stay good refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Brown Sugar Nectarine Ice Cream

  • 1 lb. pitted, coarsely chopped nectarines 500 g
  • 1/3 c. water 75 mL
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar 125 mL
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 c. whipping cream 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. milk 125 mL
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract 1 mL

In a medium saucepan, combine nectarines and water. Bring to a boil, cover, then allow to simmer over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until the nectarines have broken down and released their juices. Set aside to cool.

While the nectarines are cooking, combine brown sugar, egg yolks and heavy cream in a medium saucepan. Whisk to combine, then heat mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and reaches a temperature of around 170 F (76 C). The mixture should coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, whisk in milk, then place in the refrigerator to cool.

When both mixtures have cooled, combine them in a blender or food processor and blend on high speed until completely smooth and combined. Stir in lime juice and vanilla, then refrigerate until complete cooled, about two hours.

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Makes one quart (1 L).

Pear Mushroom Melts

  • 2 tbsp. butter 30 mL
  • 4 c. sliced baby portobello mushrooms 1 L
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper 1 mL
  • 8 slices whole wheat bread, toasted
  • 2 large ripe pears, thinly sliced
  • 8 slices provolone cheese

Preheat broiler. In a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, cook and stir until tender, five to seven minutes. Stir in salt and pepper.

Toast both sides of slices of bread in the same pan. Top with mushrooms. Layer with pears and cheese. Broil three to four inches (7.5-10 cm) from heat until cheese is lightly browned, two to three minutes.

Plum Cake

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour 375 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder 7 mL
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 5 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg 1 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. cardamom .5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan 125 mL
  • 1 c. plus
  • 2 tbsp. sugar, divided 250 mL, 30 mL
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 5 mL
  • 1/2 c. milk 125 mL
  • 1 lb. plums, pitted and quartered 500 g

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) and set an oven rack in the middle position. Grease a nine-inch (22 cm) springform pan. The cake may also be made in a nine-inch (22 cm) cake pan or pie pan and served directly from the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and one cup (250 mL) of the sugar until pale and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, and beat on low speed until smooth. The batter will be quite thick.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Arrange the plums on top, skin side up, in a circular pattern so that they mostly cover the batter. Sprinkle the remaining two tablespoons (30 mL) of sugar over the plums.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until golden on top and set in the centre.

When the cake is hot out of the oven, run a knife around the edges of the pan and then remove the springform edge, leaving the base in place. Let the cake cool on a rack completely. Slice and serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

This cake keeps well, loosely covered at room temperature, for several days. The cake can be frozen for up to three months. After it is completely cooled, double wrap it securely with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place it in heavy-duty freezer bag. Thaw overnight on the countertop before serving.

Using The Garden Harvest

Harvesting the garden and storing the produce for the winter months are common fall activities. Most families have favourite recipes that are particularly enjoyed when made with freshly harvested fruit and vegetables.

We would love to share your family’s favourites. Please send them to Harvest Favourites at team@producer.com or mail them to:

The Western Producer,
1000–3530 Millar Avenue,
Saskatoon, SK S7P 0B6

All entries must be received by November 8, 2021.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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