Next weekend sees the Audley End Apple Festival and as part of the celebrations I was challenged to come up with an apple recipe. Which is handy really as we have a couple of apple trees in our garden and generally speaking we don’t do a huge amount with them each year. A real shame and there is no excuse since the least we could do is juice them. Mr B was dispatched up a ladder last week to grab some before they fell off and became wasp fodder.
The Apple Festival at Audley is a real family festival, and as well as over 100 types of apples, it offers games, the chance for children to try their hand at being William Tell (and shoot an apple with a bow and arrow!), gardening tips, cookery displays, country crafting demonstrations, and lots of food and drink to try out, as well as a live band, an)d extensive grounds for children to burn of steam in! The festival is also a great chance to celebrate one of the nation’s oldest fruits.
I had no idea in fact that there was such a great history to apples in this country. How is this for a timeline?
Lots of thousands of years ago: Prehistoric crab apples grew across Europe, including in Britain.
AD 43-410: The Romans bring eating apples into style! They ate them raw, as well as cooked, sometimes with pork and savoury condiments, much as we would eat apple sauce with pork today
1200-1500: Medieval apples are cooked in pies and potages, often spiced for the rich, with old world spices such as aniseed, pepper and liquorice, although the poor still eat apples, drizzled with honey.
1500-1660: The Tudors now have a wide variety of apples, with many we know today arriving in the country, including the Reinette, the Pippin and the Nonpareil. We also ate Russets, which became a very British apple, neglected elsewhere due to its dull brown skin, despite its lovely flavour
1660-1840: The Georgian era gives us the Bramley, and also the Orange Pippin, and more creative ways of cooking with apples, A dish called black-caps was popular, and involved sprinkling lemon zest and juice and sugar on peeled, cored apples, and putting them under a grill or in an oven to caramelise. Apple fritters, pies, puddings, tarts and preserves were also widely eaten!
1840-1914: The Victorians give us the modern apple, with the average Victorian able to access more than 1500 apples for their culinary pleasure. Charles Dickens recorded a winter treat in the form of the Norfolk Biffin (the apple variety is the Norfolk Beefing), which were apples, slowly dried out in the oven until brown, shrivelled, sweet and lovely, and eaten as a street food snack. And apple pies and tarts, stuffed apples, apple ice cream, apple jelly, apple cheese and apple soup were just some of the ways Victorians tucked into the nations favourite fruit.
1914-present day: WW1 and WWll led to a dramatic decrease in UK apple growth, around 65% of Britain’s orchards were lost between 1950 and 2000. In most modern supermarkets, you would struggle to find more than 6 varieties of apple, most of these will come from Australia and New Zealand. The most popular apple snack is now the apple pie, with a sharp decrease in all over areas of apple based baking.
That last point being a great shame, and one I was challenged, in a small way, to change. So here goes.
I was asked to have a go at making Gateau de Pommes or Apple Cheese. The recipe I was given was deliberately vague (think technical challenge on Great British Bake Off) and used a lot of sugar so I had a quick Google and found one that used smaller amounts
- 3 cups of shredded apples (previously peeled and cored)
- 4 tbsps of caster sugar
- 3 tsp of lemon juice
- Add the shredded apple to a microwavable bowl
- Sprinkle on sugar and stir
- Cook on high for two minutes
- Remove and add lemon juice and stir again
- Return to microwave and cook for a further three minutes
- Stir and add to jam jar whilst still hot and seal tightly
et voila. You get something a bit like this:
A great way of preserving apples to eat over the coming months since there is only so much apple crumble you can eat in a week.