Autumn is the time of harvest, and there is nothing more potent than apples as a sign of the move towards winter — especially in Europe. Tomatoes and pumpkins and squash are considered summer fruits which might overlap into autumn — but the apple harvest signifies that autumn is here and winter is approaching.
Thanks to my over zealous neighbors, I have had nigh on a hundred buckets of apples to deal with over the past few months.
First were these red — almost purple beauties. We have been unable to find what exact variety these are. We do know that they are classified as “Heirloom Portuguese” and that the trees they came from are over 50 years old.
Most of these we ate fresh — when fresh they are fairly sweet and crunchy — but they tend to soften quickly and when cooked pulp easily. We are looking to take a suitable branch to graft onto root-stock for next year as their color is amazing.
Mostly the apples I was gifted are called “Golden.” Mr P says these are the forerunners of the mass-produced Golden Delicious which can be found in supermarkets all over the world.
These are excellent eater and cookers both for desserts such as Apple Crumble, Apple Pie and Apple Charlotte as well as making Apple Jelly and herb jellies. A real treat with these is to simply saute them in butter and serve them with pork, black pig, or chicken as the French and Portuguese do. They also bake very well in the oven, just washed, cored and filled with sultanas and a little honey or brown sugar to taste.
I have been looking at the old family recipes for the puddings — there are many new modern twists on these desserts and puddings — but ones like grandma made still beat the lot of them.
We love this crunchy alternative to crumble — makes a very nice change pretty good for a recipe that is nearly a 100 years old.
There is a limit to how much apple you can eat — as much as you might love it. I have frozen batches of apple sauce, apple pie and crumble filling — enough to last us the year.
The last bastion of usage is to make apple and herb jellies. Apple is an excellent base fruit to combine with other fruits for jelly or jam as it is naturally high in pectin — the magic ingredient required to make jellies and jams set.
I love herb jellies — they can be added something special to meats, they can be used to glaze a meat or mixed into a marinade before cooking or served as the perfect condiment.
They do take some work and a lot of trial and error — especially when you are working without a sugar/jam thermometer. The fruit and herbs have to be boiled and then put through a very fine strainer — my mother’s was felt, some are muslin or stainless steel. Mine was an emergency buy — not sure what the material is however. It did the job, but like the sugar thermometer a proper strainer is on the wish list.
You leave the strainer overnight and then discard the pulp and just use the juice to make the jelly. I always add a little cider vinegar to the juice if I am cooking savory jellies . Next step is to add sugar. One liter of juice to 500 grams of sugar. Then comes the tricky bit — dissolving the sugar into the juice and then boiling until you reach setting point .
If you do not have a thermometer, you can use the plate test. Have a small cold plate beside you and place a small blob of the mixture on it and place in the fridge for a minute — if it forms a skin and starts to set, you are ready to remove it from the heat and to pour it into warm sterilized jars which should then be tightly sealed. If you find the mixture too runny you can always repeat the process again — as I had to with the first batch!
In the end, I made mint jelly for lamb, rosemary jelly for lamb and bay and thyme for general use. Tarragon is on the list for next year.
This was my last batch — or so I thought — yet another bucket of apples arrived the next day. After this year’s glut, I am seriously thinking that cider making might be another option especially if the apples are suitable — only one problem — I am not a cider drinker!