Treasured fruit around the world say the sales and the rich history. On these shores especially – it is the last of our fruit we’ll see until spring’s rhubarb. So time then to turn a blind eye to the shelves of Golden Delicious sent over by the French and to search out and taste our own apples – less uniform in size, shape and flavour. There seems to be a good scattering of trees in country and city alike standing awkwardly, in isolation and beginning to brim. Perhaps there’s a stranger’s door to knock on and offer a hand with harvesting, or else in the markets and small greengrocers. Don’t insist on organic – it’s not so easy at all to grow a good amount of apples organically in this climate. Rather avoid the super shiny and go by taste. For the recipes below tart eating apples, such as the Kerry Pippin will work best
Hot, boozed, spiced apple juice
Heat up some pressed apple juice in a pot with some allspice berries and some cinnamon bark, a sliver of lemon zest and a little vanilla pod. Let it simmer for a minute, turn off the heat, and leave to cool and infuse. When it’s needed reheat with brandy to taste.
Baked apples and hot custard
Cut peeled and cored apples into thick wedges and mix with some sugar and a little melted butter. Bake in ramekins until tender and browning. Serve straight away with steaming hot, home made custard on top
Burnt apple shortcrust tart
Make some rough short crust pastry. Chill it and then roll out a quarter of an inch thick – enough to fill a baking tray (the rest will be happy in the freezer).
Peel and core the apples. Make a glaze with the peels and cores – simmering them with equal water and sugar for half an hour.
Slice the apples into very thin wedges. Load them up on the pastry, each sliver resting on its neighbour. Then sprinkle generously with sugar and bake in a medium hot oven until the exposed pastry and tops off the apples begin to blacken. Pour the glaze over for the final ten minutes of cooking
Three not so classic:
Potatoes, apples and rosemary
Boil some peeled, floury potatoes in some lightly salted water. Drain them, then shake around in a pan on a low heat so to dry them. Mash well and, when they’ve cooled, with your hands, mix with half the quantity of flour and a little sugar. Rap and chill the dough for an hour or so.
Rip off the rosemary leaves bash them up a bit in a mortar and then with some sugar. Leave to infuse, stirring every now and then. If motor-less then a blender should be fine. Begin to pulse the leaves then add sugar. If also blender-less, then a couple of stems of lightly bruised rosemary left for a day or two in half a jar of sugar.
And so the apples – peels and cores get a stock-like treatment, simmered in water for half an hour, then the liquor reduced to syrupyness. The flesh is then cooked at a simmer with some water not quite to cover and not a lot of sugar – ten minutes with a lid and ten minutes without.
Then shape your potato dough into dumplings the size of squashed squash balls. Boil them in lightly salted water until they bop to the surface and then shock them in cold water.
All this business can be prepared in advance. When you are ready to rumble, heat some neutral oil in a pan, enough to reach half way up the dumplings. Fry until golden brown on both sides. You might have to do a few batches but they should be eaten as they come. While still piping hot and crispy sieve the rosemary sugar over them and have a bowl of the apple sauce and one of the yogurt for dipping.
Apple and hazelnut bread
Needn’t worry too much about the size of the tin – you can just make the bread thin or deep and vary the cooking time accordingly. For the proportions I’ve given I used a terrine which overflowed a drop or two and fed eight people for late night tea time.
First lube the inside of a cake tin up with a thin layer of butter. Then jig some flour about so that a thin layer of it sticks to the butter. Discard the excess flour and keep the tin in the fridge.
Whisk together a cup of flour, one of milk, and a heaped teaspoon of dried yeast. Leave covered in a cupboard for a morning or an afternoon or both.
When ready to bake – make a sauce as above, with three and a half apples. Cut two and a half apples into wedges.
Add to your lively flour-milk-yeast sponge, a further cup of flour, a cup of sugar and four egg yolks. Whisk four whites to a stiff peak and gently fold into the batter with a wooden spoon, leaving some white streaks so not to burst all the bubbles. Tip it all in to your tin and throw in some hazelnuts (some chopped, some whole). Then spoon over most of the thick apple sauce. Then the apple wedges on top, some more hazelnuts, the rest of the sauce and plenty of brown sugar and a couple of knobs of butter on top of it all. It will rise some in the oven so keep a little space for that.
Straight in a medium hot oven then and bake until mahogany. It should slip right out of its vessel because of the butter, flour treatment. Serve still hot with thick cream and honey or cold custard.
Apple, barley, milk and honey
Soak some barley in water overnight.
Peel, core and slice the apples into thin wedges. Make a syrup with the peels and cores. Fill an oven dish about a third full with barley, add the apple slices, plenty of honey, a couple of torn bay leaves, the syrup, and then fill the dish with milk. Mix and then bake in a medium oven. Keep an eye on it, if the milk is boiling and overflowing, turn the oven down. Give it some occasional stirs. When all the milk is slurped inside the barley grains, keep on cooking, for another hour or so. When you’re more than ready to eat, drizzle some cream on top and a sprinkling of brown sugar and finish under the grill
Image by Fiona Hallinan