Apple Day is one of those seasonal markers here in the UK which gloriously celebrates traditional harvests and seasonal food. Autumn and apples simply go together, from the cool crisp dessert apple that tastes wonderful on a misty autumn walk to the heady aroma of hot apple pie. Cooking with apples has always been popular, but cooking with varieties perfectly suited to your recipe is just heavenly! Do check your local area for any Apple Day activities - most will have apple identification, apple pressing, apple bobbing and lots of recipe ideas! It's also a fabulous opportunity to find out which varieties are growing in your neighbours gardens and arrange a swap!
Long before modern apple varieties appeared in supermarkets, there were numerous traditional varieties bred and cherished for cooking, medicine, and cider. The famous Brogdale Horticultural Trust in Kent still grows over 2000 varieties. Dessert apples still show great variety in colour, flavour, texture, sweetness and sharpness. There used to be a great variety of cooking apples too, but now the ubiquitous Bramley is usually the only cooker on the supermarket shelves. This is sad, as there used to be an equally impressive range of cooking apples as eaters in British gardens and apple orchards. You can ask your neighbours if they have any to spare, and do check at your local farmers' markets and farm shops!
Apples chosen for cooking reflect the specific requirement of each recipe. A good baked apple needs to hold its shape and not collapse into a soft mush. The best pie apples are both sharp and also non-mushy so there remains structure to hold the pie crust and give some contrasting texture in the fruit.
Apples are very versatile and after picking can be stored until Christmas and even into the New Year. Windfalls may be bruised or damaged and won’t store, so make these quickly into chutney, apple juice, cider and cider vinegar. Crab apples make an intense dark pink jelly.
To store, lay the apples out on trays or in shallow boxes – plastic mushroom boxes are good as they are well ventilated, or ask your greengrocers for the indented foam separators they use in apple boxes. You need to make sure that the apples don’t touch each other as one bad apple can turn the whole lot rotten very quickly. You can wrap each apple loosely in newspaper to prevent this. Store in a cool, dark, frost-free place and check regularly to make sure they don’t go bad.
Apples can also be dried in rings. The famous drying apple was the Norfolk Beefing Apple that was dried in the bread ovens as they cooled down, and then the dried apples – known as ‘biffins’ – were packed in boxes as a Christmas delicacy.
Demuth's Apple Recipes
Which is your favourite apple variety and what is your favourite apple recipe?
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