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!


  1. This is a magnificent article, Nicola! I can taste the apples with you. I am reminded of my great Aunt Sylvia in Ord, Nebraska — who lived to be 103 years old — and she would can everything and cook from scratch. You never went hungry visiting her. Her kitchen was the largest room in the house and, even 40 years ago, she had two gas stoves and ovens for cooking and baking!

    It’s great to have you back among us! Thanks for this lovely article. I had no idea what “Regulo mark 4” meant until I looked it up in the dictionary! SMILE!

    1. Your aunt sounds like my grandmother and to a great extent my mother who bot influenced me heavily – we are very much a waste not want not family – and yes it has been passed onto my daughters as well.

      My kitchen is not really big enough – but I will have the outdoor or garden kitchen up and running next year I hope – that is where I will do all my preserving – but that is for another post.

      I was gutted to be away for so long – I have some tales to tell about the whys and wherefores to come as well – just do not mention Sapo Pt in my hearing !

  2. Being fairly new to Washington state, I have started to take more notice of apples. I honestly had no idea there were so many varieties. Nor did I realize my daughter has turned into a bit of an apple snob… she is particular about the variety I buy. She snubbed her nose up at the Honey Crisp apples and pointed out they weren’t Fuji… but she ended up liking them. She has since been a little more open minded about trying new varieties.

    It’s a joy to see all the apples displayed in the markets. I used to associate pumpkins with fall, but now it is the apple.

    It is wonderful you have such talent to make all these delicious treats with your little gifts… I am sorely lacking in that area. But I enjoyed reading all about your preparations and the process. It is also useful to know which apples I may want to choose if I decide to do any baking. I do bake a pretty good apple bread, but I never paid much attention to the type of apple I was using. I usually choose Red Delicious though, and have pretty good results with that.

    Love your family cook book, what a treasure…

    1. I always had an association with apples and fall – because if you did not pick them they fell off the tree ! One storm or early frost and they literally drop en mass!

      When I was in the UK I always tried to buy the “old apples” and to support the farmers that continued to grow them to protect the traditions and the species. My eldest daughter was also lucky enough to stay with an estate owner in France who did the same – our common ground was heritage apples.

      When I came to trying to find out the name of the purple beauties it reminded me of just how many varieties there are – I was very pleased to find that there are now rare breed banks and farms for apples and all kinds of other “old fruits”

      I would love to try apple bread – I have heard that can be deliciously moist . I am very lucky to have grown up in a cooking household – sadly I sis not get the sewing, knitting gene from my grandmother or my mother – so I can feed but not clothe !

      1. How interesting that there is this preservation of “old fruits”, it certainly will make me see and appreciate my produce in a whole different way.

        i’m pretty resourceful, crafty and keep a tidy house. Not much of a seamstress though but I’m pretty sure my family would have liked me to have inherited that cooking gene. One day my son came home from school and i had been working on a painting most the day. “What’s for dinner?” he asked. I said I had forgotten about dinner and had been painting. “Well, I can’t eat a painting.” – Your lucky to have inherited that gene but most importantly the desire to put it to good use as well. I’m sure your family loves you for it.

        Have a great day.

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