This week sees the official start to autumn. Autumn starts on or around September 15, with this year being on the 22nd, and ends on about December 20 in solar terms.
Autumn (also known as fall in North American English) is one of the four temperate seasons. Autumn marks the transition from summer into winter, usually in late September when the arrival of night becomes noticeably earlier.
In Ireland, the autumn months according to the national meteorological service, Met Éireann, are September, October and November. However, according to the Irish Calendar which is based on ancient Celtic traditions, autumn counts throughout the months of August, September, and October.
As all of us know we can have a blustery autumn day in the middle of July too!
One of the best things about the autumn is getting out of the city and seeing the leaves change color, but why do they do this? Well let me tell you a little bit about photosynthesis:
Leaves are the parts of plants and trees that make the food necessary for sustaining life. Trees use sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide taken from the air to produce energy. The carbon dioxide and water are converted to glucose, which is a type of sugar. The glucose is then used as energy for the tree to live and grow. This entire process is called photosynthesis. Leaves are green because they contain the chemical chlorophyll, which facilitates photosynthesis.
Once the days and nights begin to cool and the nights get longer, the trees sense that fall and winter are approaching. In the trees' preparation to go dormant, circulation to the leaves, which are no longer needed to produce food, is cut off. Due to the longer nights and reduced sunlight, the production of chlorophyll is reduced, meaning that the green will eventually disappear from the leaves. Some of the pigments responsible for causing the vibrant colors in the leaves, such as carotenoids, are already present in the leaves, but are obscured by the green chlorophyll. Carotenoids are responsible for yellows, oranges, and browns.
The pigments that cause bright reds, russets, and purples are called anthocyanins. These are produced in the leaves of some species in the fall due to the excessive amounts of glucose in the leaves, along with the bright light of fall. This is why certain species of trees produce bright red leaves as opposed to others that turn out yellows or golds.
Phew, with all that out of the way (and thank you Google, you truly are a friend) let’s make some pudding.
IRISH AUTUMN PUDDING
This is similar to a luscious summer pudding, but the gorgeous tartness of the Bramley apples adds another dimension to the usual very-berry pudding. The plums also work really well, adding great texture and color.
14 oz Bramley apples.
14 oz plums.
9 oz fresh or frozen blackberries.
4 ½ oz golden brown sugar.
4 fl oz dry red wine.
4 tablespoons crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur).
About 10-12 slices of white bread, crusts removed.
Fresh mint sprig, to decorate (optional).
A sprig of redcurrants, to decorate (optional).
Cream or crème fraiche, to serve.
For the berry sauce
1lb fresh or frozen blackberries or mixed berries.
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste.
5oz sugar, or to taste.
Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Aim to make the pieces about the same-size so that they cook evenly.
Halve and stone the plums and roughly chop them. Place the apples and plums in a medium-sized saucepan along with the blackberries, sugar and wine and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil then simmer gently for about 15 minutes, or until the apple pieces are soft and rather mushy.
Take off the heat and add the crème de cassis. Leave to cool.
Line the inside and base of a 1-litre (13¼4-pint) bowl or mould with the slices of bread. Overlap the slices slightly on the sides to ensure that the filling does not leak through. Any leftover bits of bread can be used to cover the filling (this will be the bottom of the pudding when it is turned out).
Place the cooked, cooled fruit carefully in the lined mould and press it down quite firmly. Fill it nearly to the top, and then cover it completely with the remaining bread. Weigh this down with a can on a plate and place in the fridge overnight.
To make the berry sauce, simply purée the berries with the lemon juice and sugar in a food processor. Pass through a fine sieve and taste for flavour. Adjust with more sugar or lemon juice as necessary.
To serve, carefully turn the pudding out onto a serving plate.
Brush any uncolored bits of bread with a little sauce and decorate with a mint sprig and a sprig of redcurrants on the top, if you wish. Cut the pudding into wedges and serve with a dollop of fresh cream or crème fraiche, and some of the berry sauce on the side.