Every year, around the end of July, I am surprised by the arrival of the first ripening apples. At that time of year I am usually submerged in all the other summer fruits – raspberries, strawberries, plums – and the apples seem to come just that bit too soon.
I have just contributed an apple recipe to a lovely new publication called The Apple Source Book by Sue Clifford and Angela King. It was for an autumn coleslaw, which uses some of my season's favourites – apples, cobnuts, red cabbage and beetroot. The book includes recipes from Rose Elliot, Delia Smith, Shaun Hill, Henrietta Green, Fergus Henderson and Simon Hopkinson among many others.
I didn't realise what a regional subject apple growing is. What you get in Kent, for example, will be entirely different to what's grown in Suffolk or Somerset. I think it's such a shame that in our supermarkets two of the most common varieties are Braeburn and Pink Lady. Both come all the way from New Zealand and are popular simply because they are easy to grow and sturdy enough to fly well. It's actually possible to eat an apple every day for six years and still not come across the same variety twice. The book also contains tips by Common Ground, an environmental charity, on where all these different varieties originate and how to identify them.
When picking apples, like most fruit, it's important to look for ones that feel heavy for their size. They should smell fresh, with a mild, winey aroma and should feel firm when pressed and be free of blemishes and bruises. All apples continue to ripen after picking and will often taste better two or even three weeks after they are picked. I think it's best to store them in the fridge once bought, as apples tend to overripen quickly when left at room temperature.
Salad of kohlrabi, apples trevisse, speck and cobnuts
For the dressing
1 egg yolk
1tsp Dijon mustard
1tbsp apple vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
75ml/3fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
2tsp cream or crème fraîche
For the salad
2 cox or russet apples
Juice of half a lemon
1 bulb of kohlrabi
6 leaves of radicchio, cut into fine ribbons
60g/2oz cobnuts or hazelnuts
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
8 thin slices of Parma ham or speck
1tbsp of finely chopped parsley
25ml/1fl oz olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
To make the dressing: put the yolk in a mixing bowl and add the mustard, honey, vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk together while very, very slowly pouring in the olive oil, until all the oil has been amalgamated. Stir in the crème fraîche and set aside.
For the salad, core the apples and slice into fine round discs. Squeeze over a little of the lemon juice to prevent browning. Peel the kohlrabi, cut into fine discs and squeeze over the rest of lemon juice. Wash and pat dry the radicchio.
Place the nuts on a roasting tray and place in the preheated oven until browned. Remove, cool, and then chop roughly.
To assemble: put the radicchio, fennel, kohlrabi and apple in a bowl, season, drizzle over the olive oil and toss lightly together, Place on serving plates. Arrange the ham on top, drizzle over the dressing, sprinkle over the nuts and parsley and serve.
Ketchup is traditionally made at this time of year with the end-of-season tomatoes and early apples. It is far nicer than shop-bought ketchup; it's much sweeter, sharper, spicier and is delicious with strong tangy cheddar cheese, cooked ham or homemade hamburgers.
Good old-fashioned tomato ketchup
Makes a generous jar
1tbsp olive oil
5 red onions, roughly chopped
2.5kg/6lb ripe tomatoes
400g/13oz caster sugar
500ml/17fl oz cider vinegar
2 star anise
3 fresh bay leaves
12 juniper berries
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
If you have a jam pot, use that, if not place a large heavy-based saucepan on a medium heat. Add the olive oil and when warm add the onions and sweat for five minutes or until soft and translucent. While the onions are sweating, roughly chop the apples and tomatoes. Add to the pot, and stir in the sugar and vinegar. Tie the spices and juniper berries in muslin if you can as this makes them much easier to remove once the ketchup is cooked. Add to the pan and stir well to combine. Turn the heat to low and cook gently for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally to ensure that the ketchup doesn't stick. The ketchup is ready when the sauce is cooked right down and all glossy and homogeneous. Add a really good pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Turn off the heat and allow to cool before spooning into a sterilised jar. It will keep for a few months either in the fridge or in a cool dark place.
I think of these baked apples as comfort food. We had baked apples as children; it was one of the few desserts my mother ever made. They are very simple to make and you can be loose with the quantities, adding a little more of this or that depending on what takes your fancy. Cox apples are not the best choice for baking because they split and burst slightly when cooked, but I love their shiny, rosy colour – just to look at them makes me smile.
4 cox apples (or golden delicious if you prefer as they hold their shape a lot better)
2tbsp Cognac or brandy
Zest of one orange
Zest of one lemon
Juice of half an orange
2tbsp of soft brown sugar
2tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Lots of thick Jersey cream or ice cream
Blackberries to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Using a sharp knife remove a small slice from the base of the apples so that they will sit in the baking tray without rolling over. Hollow out the centre of the apples, but make sure you don't go right through to the base. Gently warm the brandy. Place the currants, sultanas, raisins, orange and lemon zest and juice into a bowl and pour over the warm alcohol. Stir and leave for a few minutes to allow the warm alcohol to plump and soften the fruit. Next, spoon over the sugar and pour over the melted butter. Stir to combine well, then spoon the spiced fruit mixture into the apples.
Place on a baking tray and cook on the middle shelf for 20-25 minutes, or until the apples are soft to the touch and the filling is oozing and bubbling. Remove and allow to cool just slightly before serving with the cream and blackberries.
I wanted this to taste like fire and ice – the frozen sorbet and the hot eau de vie.
250g/8oz caster sugar
500ml/17fl oz water
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthwise
6 apples, I like cox or pippin
A small pinch of ground cinnamon
8 organic free-range egg whites
A pinch of sea salt
2tbsp apple eau de vie (fruit brandy)
Make sugar syrup by placing the sugar, water and vanilla pod in a heavy-based pan and stir a couple of times over a low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up a little and bring to a simmer.
Peel and core the apples, chop roughly and add to the syrup. Cook for five minutes or until the apples are tender. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once cooled, remove the apples with a slotted spoon and place in a food processor with two tablespoons of the syrup and a pinch of cinnamon. Purée until pale and smooth and set aside. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Fold into the apple purée until combined. Pour into an ice-cream maker and follow the instructions. Once the ice cream has begun to set pour the eau de vie on top.
The Forager by Wendy Fogarty
Petersham's food sourcer on the very best of British apples...
'The New Book of Apples' by Joan Morgan and Alison Richards (Ebury Press)
The UK's leading pomologist, Morgan, oversees the definitive guide to over 2,000 varieties complete with advice to help tree owners identify their apples.
National Apple Day, 21 October
Initiated by Common Ground in 1990, there are now hundreds of local events celebrating apples, orchards and local varieties. This year, Petersham will take part with displays and other appley activities. www.commonground.org.uk, www.petershamnurseries.com
Julian Temperley's Somerset Cider
Skye's baked apple recipe uses Julian's brandy, which he makes from fruit grown in his traditional cider orchards in Kingsbury Episcopi. He also makes aperitif and digestives such as eau de vie. Mail order: www.ciderbrandy.co.uk, tel: 01460 240 782
Park Fruit Farm Orchards, Frinton on Sea, Essex
Sells more than 40 varieties of apples grown in orchards planted in 1935. Also available via mail order: www.parkfruitfarm.co.uk. Tel 01255 674 621Reuse content