The Short of It or One Thing Leads to Another
I picked these beautiful Katy apples locally, specifically to make a chutney. They are an early-ish apple and therefore do not keep well. Their shape is long and conical: they’re handsome and are both sweet & sharp & crisp. The juice is used here in Somerset commercially in cider making. They are a medium sized apple, so good for prepping.
As I peeled the apple I thought it might be interesting to poach the peel, in just enough water to cover and see what happened. The result was a delicious juice, refreshing but not nearly as strong as apple juice from a juicer. It’s a really nice by product basically and could be made into a cordial. I froze some which I’ll use later to poach quince in when making fruit cheese and jelly.
In September I try and go over to West Bradley Orchards in Somerset, the home of Orchard Pig Cider to pick both apples and pears. This year the Jonagold were particularly good: very large apples which are very juicy and sweet with a sharpness and some floral notes. It is a brilliant place to try different varieties of apples, although I think it’s a bit like sampling perfumes – you can’t try too many. Last year I made an apple jam with Jonagold & local cider & bay leaf but this year I thought I’d start by looking at one of my favourite books Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber. Her recipe Austrian Lady made me think of David Walliams in a Viennese Pastry Shop plus its ingredients – apples, rum soaked raisins and nuts, sounded so delicious.
This time as the apple peel mounted up I thought I’d poach them again but this time add in some blackberries. And this time the juice went straight into ice cubes and then into a Gin & Tonic where it swaps some of the bitterness with a sweeter fruity-ness. The ice cubes are also really good added into a glass of Fever Few tonic.
When making the jam I subsituted walnuts for kentish cobnuts although when fresh English walnuts become available I will make the jam again. When made, the jam just called out for scones -so I made them, it’s a perfect combination, especially with a linden flower tea.
It also called out for ice-cream and the combination of apples and cobnuts reminded me of a Skye Gyngell recipe Apple Ice-cream with Toasted Cobnuts and Caramel sauce, from her book My Favourite Ingredients.
The apple ice cream is totally delicious especially if you add a good measure of Somerset Eau de Vie. Honestly, the cobnuts and the raisins in the jam work really well with the ice cream but the apple pieces and puree are one addition too many. What would work better I think, with the jam, would be a plain vanilla ice-cream. I heated 3 tablespoons of the jam with some water so it could be poured over the ice-cream.
I also made an Orchard Apple Fruit Cheese and a Yellow Pershore Plum with Katy Apple Jam and Cropper Plum with Katy Jam and most recently Lemon Marmalade with Jonagold and Bergamot zest which I had squirreled away in the chest freezer like it was gold dust! Please see Markets for details of when & where the preserves are for sale.
&The Long of It.
The first jar of jam I ever sold, over three years ago at Midsomer Norton Farmers Market, was Beauty of Bath Apple & Victoria Plum. The person who bought it was very taken by the fact I had used english apples and plums & that the varieties had been identified on the label. The apples were picked in a friends’ garden and they, having only recently moved there, had little idea which variety it was. Being a bit of a detective I set out to find out what it was and emailed Charlton Orchards near Taunton, with some photographs. They very quickly got back to me saying it was the early regional apple, Beauty of Bath and sadly one which is declining in popularity. In terms of prepping, as a small apple, it means more work but its wonderful pink juice, if you make jelly with it, or the fragrance and acidity it brings to a fruit cheese or a jam, make it well worth the effort. It’s also a very striking apple; its pink verges on the psychedelic, recalling the trippy haze of 60’s California. Hopper Fonda O’Leary. I love having them in the house, looking at them, holding & smelling them & picking them. This is the romantic phase of preserve making: going over to Chosen Hill Farm near Chew Valley lake which is set in very beautiful countryside: fantastic views, birds singing, often the sun shining- a dreamy time-when I can taste the fruit at leisure and come up with flavour combinations. Beauty & the Bucolic. But as Jeanette Winterson warns ” There is always another story. The stories we choose to tell shield the stories we don’t tell, and every word written is a net to catch the word that has escaped.” Behind the romance lies repetitve and menial work and long hours which can lead to illness & making costly mistakes. There is also the unpredictability of both the weather & fruit harvests and rising prices. There’s the arbitariness of markets: will the customers arrive and will they buy? The question of provenance is equally poetic and political and lately criminal with the horse meat scandal. But I wonder what lies beneath a desire to trace and to name and in a sense to belong, as in products being local ? Maybe it’s understandable to glamourise or fetishize, that is, to construct a beautiful tapestry for people to admire, which shields the less palatable realities and hides the complex drives and needs of its creators.
Apple Days will be taking place all over the country in October, so here’s a link to find your nearest Orchard Networks