It’s apple season once again, my favourite time of year. As usual I have spent the growing season trying desperately to keep on top of my plot and failing spectacularly. But at least I am a constant, defeated gardener, as predictable as the seasons.
It’s the apples that keep me from despair. When the courgette leaves finally succumb to the mildew that has been threatening and the bean poles collapse under the weight of the burgeoning pods, I look up from the chaos underfoot and there they are, rosy and red, as enchanting as ant festive baubles.
I have a fine collection of apple trees. One of the best and early croppers is a lost label variety from Woolworths which shows you how old it must be! It is about my height (5ft 2) and has a similar spread (I don’t!!) which makes it apple picking delightful and easy. The red flushed fruits have an almost soapy flavour which I love, they don’t store well so are usually picked to eat on the way to the raspberry patch, the cores tossed back into the plot as a way of lazy composting.
My Bramley is a Bramley seedling, grown from a cutting taken directly from the original tree in Nottingham to celebrate its centenary. It produces huge apples that store well. Next to it grows a small russet apple tree. This featured in my cider garden that was created for the RHS Tatton flowershow in 2008. My brief to the judges stated I was aiming to show how many varieties of apples could be grown in a small garden. The truth is, we spent most of our time researching the varieties of cider that could be made from a garden.
The Russet apples have a dull, burnished looking rough skin that isn’t to everyone’s taste, but bite through and it’s worth it. The flesh is crisp, white and flavoursome.
The other trees comprise of a Jonagold and a few more mystery apples. These I am considering training over arches like they do in the fantastic kitchen gardens at Tatton Park. Obviously my humble plot is nowhere near this size but a girl can dream…
Every autumn we dream of making cider but it never happens. A happy afternoon picking apples, chopping them and putting them through the apple press is thirsty work. Inevitably the rich, golden nectar proves too tempting and we share it out amongst ourselves and drink it greedily. It is delicious.
Our apples that do store well often find their way into tasty desserts and, although I love a crumble, I prefer much prefer a cake. This recipe combines apples, cinnamon and sponge to create a homely, comfort food perfect for when those evenings draw in.
Upside down apple cake Serves 6-8 4-5 apples (any) peeled, cored and sliced 6 oz/175g unsalted butter 6 oz/175g caster sugar 6 oz/175g self raising flour 3 eggs 1 tsp cinnamon cake tin
Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C /160 degrees C fan. Grease a cake tin with butter and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. Add a 1-2 cm layer of sliced apple to the bottom of the tin.. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the apple. In a bowl mix together the butter and sugar then add the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour to the mix and beat together. Spoon the mixture over the apples, spread evenly and bake in the oven for 50 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin. Irresistible served warm with custard or ice cream.
This is a pudding that I am sure Mary Berry would approve of, especially if it came with a tipple of local cider. Mmmm