Saturday, 9 October 2010

Apple week

At this time of year there are numerous "Apple Day" events on around the country. They are lovely events, usually along the lines of a farmers' market or country fairs but with an emphasis on apples. They are a celebration of the humble British apple, of which there are over 1200 different varieties. With all these varieties available, it is possible to eat British apples between August and May but October is the prime apple season. So if there is an apple day event near you why not go along and have some fun as well as enjoying this lovely fruit. But if you can't manage that then at least try to find a bag of apples with the union flag on (rather imported apples) to buy and enjoy.

On our allotment site, every allotment plot was pre-planted with an apple tree in one corner when they were first established. We have two allotment plots, hence two trees, of different varieties. I don't know the names of either variety but one ripens from the end of August, producing soft, sweet eating apples. The other is ripe by October, producing firm cooking apples that store well for months. Together they supply us with more than enough apples.

When I went out onto the plot in a brief break in the rain last Sunday I discovered yet more of the eating apples blown to the ground. I scooped up as many as I could that weren't already rotting. They don't store well anyway but with bruises and nibbles they last only a few days so would need immediate attention. Then I went and checked on my pears. I only planted the pear tree two years ago and this is the first year that we have had any fruit. It is a dual pear, with two different varieties grafted onto a single trunk. One variety is clearly a conference pear which should be ready towards the end of October, but the other was already looking almost ready when I had been to the plot the previous weekend. Now, with the wind howling around my ears, I discovered nearly all of this variety on the ground. I gathered these up, harvested the last of them from the tree, feeling especially pleased with myself for having my first ever homegrown pears.

With October now with us and the first frost surely just around the corner I snipped off all the remaining trusses of green tomatoes and took them home. You may remember that last year with strung them across out conservatory and in our kitchen as an autumn garland and tomato chandelier. They provided us with fresh tomatoes all the way to Christmas so it was well worth it.

Back at home I made another batch of apple and cider mincemeat since it is such a quick recipe. On Monday, I used some of the green tomatoes along with the apples to make my grandma's green tomato chutney recipe. Just the smell of it took me back to holiday picnics with cheese and chutney sandwiches! Then on Tuesday I made cucumber and apple chutney. Wednesday was apple flapjacks, Thursday was pork and apple casserole and Friday apple, pear and plum jam.

So not just an apple day for me but a whole apple week... maybe an apple month!

Grandma's Green Tomato Chutney

Ingredients (makes 2-4 jars)
2lb (900 g) green tomatoes
1lb (450 g) cooking apples
8 oz (225 g) onions
1 oz (25 g) salt
4 oz (110 g) sultanas
1 pint (600 ml) malt vinegar
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp pickling spice (e.g. cloves, cinnamon, allspice berries)
8 oz (225 g) light brown sugar
(optional) 1 tbsp black treacle

Coarsely chop the tomatoes then peel, core and chop the apples (weigh after preparation). Peel and chop the onions and tie the spices in a piece of muslin. Mix all the ingredients except the sugar in the preserving pan and bring to the boil. Drop in the spices. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the pulp is tender (20 to 30 minutes). Add the sugar and stir well until it has completely dissolved. Bring back to the boil and continue to boil until thick. Pour into warm jars and seal immediately.

Cucumber and Apple Chutney

Ingredients (makes 1 jar)
For every 1 lb cucumbers:
8 oz (225 g) apples
1 large onion (8 oz; 225 g)
1 to 2 sticks of celery (depending on size)
½ pint (300 ml) white wine vinegar
8 oz (225 g) light brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
¼ tsp turmeric
Pinch of ground allspice (Jamaican pepper)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Cube but don’t peel the cucumber then finely slice it in a food processor. Peel the onion and core, but don’t peel, the apples. Use the food processor to finely chop the celery sticks, apple and the onion. Place the vegetables in the bowl and place a small plate on top. Press down on the plate to squeeze the water out of the vegetables, and discard. Place the vegetables in the preserving pan and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring to avoid sticking. Pour in the vinegar, sugar and other flavourings and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the liquid has almost gone. Ladle into a warmed jar and seal immediately.

Apple Flapjacks

1 lb apples
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
4 oz light muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
4 oz butter
2 1/2 oz flour
8 oz oats

Preheat oven to 200°C, gas 6 and grease a suitable shallow tin. Peel, core and chop the apples then toss with demerara sugar and cinnamon. Melt together the butter, sugar and syrup then stir in the flour and oats. Spoon half this mix into the bottom of the tin then layer the apples on top. Finish with the rest of the oats mix and press down lightly. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes then cut into pieces before leaving it to cool completely.

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