In the days before apples grew in small plastic coffins ranged neatly on supermarket shelves, our predecessors put a good deal of time and effort into growing different varieties that cropped sequentially so that there were apples to eat throughout the autumn. They would also have "keepers" that would last through the winter. To keep well, apples need to be stored in a stable temperature with good air circulation and the golden rule is that they should never touch one another because if they do they will go rotten. If you are lucky enough to have a few apple trees, the "Ten drawer traditional apple rack" from the Burford Garden Company is a wise investment. It's made from solid beech and is wholly practical and magnificently utilitarian.
£195 from www.burford.co.uk
The sweetest feeling
On a long car journey there is no accessory quite so useful as a supply of "sucking sweets". Forget chocolate, what you need is a slow release, something that will last for a couple of motorway junctions or more. Doubtless this was what Mrs Santus had in mind when she began making sweets in her Wigan kitchen in 1898. The first success was the iconic Uncle Joe's Mintball, which became very popular with local miners and by 1921 the Santus factory had been built on Dorning Street. If you have already tried the mintball – and it is very good – look out for the Winter Nips or the Sarsparilla Drops (right).
Uncle Joe's Mintballs start at around 75p for a 75g bag, and are available from good sweetshops, Asda, Tesco , and from Uncle Joe's Postal Service, PO Box 115 Wigan, WN5 0WW
Oat to joy
At the 2007 Great Taste Awards, Lucy O'Donnell's Lovedean Granola picked up yet another gold. What is it about cereals? Porridge has re-invented itself, muesli has been revamped ... perhaps this will be the winter when that old stalwart granola comes to the fore? Lovedean Granola is made by toasting oats, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, plus pumpkin, hemp, sunflower and linseeds then adding a little honey. The result is breakfast fodder that manages to taste nice and be good for you at the same time.
Lovedean Granola is available from independent health food shops and www.lovedeanlarder.com. It comes in four varieties – Original No 1 breakfast; No 1 Lite (35% less fat); No 2 breakfast (with cranberries); and No 3 breakfast (with dates and apples). 450g pots £5.95
If you read The Independent during the mid-Nineties, you will probably remember the food writer Simon Hopkinson's excellent recipe columns: cogent, witty, informative and above all practical. You may even have a gravy-stained bundle of cuttings somewhere testifying to how useful these weekly musings about seasonality, tradition and, most important of all, the pure pleasure of cooking and eating became during his time on the paper. For his column, Simon won the Glenfiddich Award for Cookery Writing no less than three times. The new book, Week in Week out, pulls together 52 of those columns and arranges them according to the seasons. Hopkinson's prose is a joy to read and the recipes have a confidence and thoroughness about them that is so important when you embark nervously on an unfamiliar dish. It's hard to single out a particular example, but from the autumn section the column about eggs is a particular delight – and the recipes include oeufs en cocotte; baked eggs with tarragon; baked egg with spinach; oeuf en cocotte aux truffles; and oeufs en cocotte Pascal. The essay part of this piece ranges all the way from Pizza Hut to black truffles – three pages that make you reconsider the role of eggs. Week in Week Out is a large, glossy and glorious book, the photographs are by our regular food and drink lensman Jason Lowe and they have a beauty and an honesty about them that complements Simon's prose perfectly. What a splendid book.
'Week in Week out – 52 seasonal stories' by Simon Hopkinson is published by Quadrille, £20Reuse content