Is there a fruit that symbolises this time of year more than the apple?
For me, apples go hand-in-hand with Autumn days; heavy fruit ready to fall from the tree in our garden, fighting the wasps for the juiciest ones, and of course cooking with our lovely harvest.
I have to confess though, my knowledge of the hundreds of types of apples is limited to say the least. I suppose we’re all too used to the handful of varieties on sale in supermarkets – all highly likely to have been grown in Australia and New Zealand. Such a shame when apples grow perfectly well in the UK and there are so many wonderful varieties to discover.
Growing your own apples is a fabulous way to discover varieties that you just can’t buy in the shops, an apple tree doesn’t have to take up much space and you can even train it to grow against a wall. And at this time of year it’s hard to beat picking your own apples and either eating them straight away or cooking with them.
English Heritage have worked with their team of gardeners to produce a great infographic about cooking with apples, to help you choose the best variety for your recipe.
They’ve also challenged us to come up with an apple recipe as part of their Apple Festival at Audley End in Essex. A challenge involving harvesting, cooking and eating – perfect!
The English Heritage team found that the shade of apple directly affects the best way to cook with it, so as we don’t know what variety our homegrown apples are we checked out the infographic to see if we could match them to a similar colour.
The closest match for our apples is Brownlee’s Russet, which is apparently perfect for crumble – well I can safely say that’s correct, we have lots of crumbles every year from these apples!
With crumble already a staple pudding in our house, we decided to try something a little different and make apple tarts – these are great to get the kids involved with as they’re really easy.
First we laid out some puff pastry (we used ready-made and rolled) and cut out circles.
Then we pricked the centre of each circle with a fork.
We washed our apples and cored them, then cut them into slices – definitely a job for the adults.
The kids arranged the slices in the centres of each pastry round, then brushed them with melted butter and sprinkled some sugar and honey over the top.
Then we popped the trays in the oven at 200 degrees C for about 15 minutes – we kept a close eye on them because they can burn easily. We brushed a warm apricot glaze over the tarts as soon as they came out of the oven – lots of adult supervision needed here as everything is very hot.
Then it was a waiting game until they cooled enough to eat them!
They were absolutely delicious and it was great to use our own apples to make something that the kids were able to pretty much make themselves.
Sam had another idea for our apples; he is learning about the Tudors at school this term and he wanted to know if they ate and cooked with apples too. After a bit of internet research we discovered that dried apple rings were a popular snack in Tudor times – so we found some instructions and had a go at making our own.
This isn’t a recipe as such; you just wash and core your apples, slice them very thinly (adult job) and thread them onto a piece of string. The pegs are to space the slices out so they dry quicker.
Then you hang the whole thing up out of the way for a few days – I’ve found a whole new use for our laundry rack!
Our slices aren’t quite dry yet but we’ll be dipping them in honey when they are – yum!
We’ve had loads of fun trying out new recipes with our homegrown apples. This is the perfect time of year to celebrate and enjoy one of our most ‘British’ fruits – which is why English Heritage host the Audley End Apple Festival in Autumn every year. The festival showcases over 100 types of apples and there are gardening tips, cookery displays, craft demos and lots of food and drink to try. It’s also very much a family event, with extensive grounds for children to burn of steam in and lots of games – including the chance for children to try their hand at being William Tell and shoot an apple with a bow and arrow! The festival takes place on 26th & 27th September, visit the festival website for more information.
So, have we inspired you to bake with apples this season, or visit the Audley End festival? I’d love to hear what you get up to in the comments.