“Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness” – John Keats
As the mists gently descended, bringing us into the gauzy winter months, the trees were abundantly laden with sweet swollen fruits. The Egremont Russet Apple, with it’s particular, dusky skin, was so burdened with spoils it tripped over itself and had to be propped up with a large wooden plinth.
The apple is a veritable symbol of the Autumn harvests. Perhaps one of the most magic moments in the year is when the apples begin to ripen; the perfumed air of orchards, thick and heady with fruit feel forever timeless, and there is the palpable anticipation of being able to pluck an orb from the tree and crunch it, crisp straight into your mouth.
There seems to be endless supplies of apples in the Autumn months; driving through villages there’s ‘take me I’m yours’ signs a-plenty, with overflowing boxes of neglected cookers underneath, and above, plenty more still to be picked, festooned upon heavily sighing trees.
My partner has just made the bold, (and somewhat questionable) decision to take on 180 bare root plants to graft our old trees onto in order to shift his cider making to a more serious scale. Not being a huge cider drinker, there are thankfully endless other ways I’ll be able to use them up.
Pressing your own apples for juice is a delicious way to make a dent in the supplies and enjoy this icon of Autumn. If you don’t fancy the rigmarole of pressing your own apples, there are many community juicing events where you can take your supplies and will be given a blend in return. Then once pressed, if you’re feeling brave, you could have your own go at transforming it into home brew, or for a less fermented tipple, warm it gently with mulling spices and top up with brandy for a delicious, wintery alternative to mulled wine.
Another favourite, and elegantly easy treat is the crispy, flaky, and charmingly rustic Apple Tart. My dear friend Christopher detests his birthday as much as he dislikes sweet things. However, I have observed him on a number of occasions, thoroughly enjoying an apple turnover. When interrogated as to why he had a penchant for this sweet treat, and this sweet treat only, he explained it was a thing steeped in nostalgia from a youthful moment spent in Paris. So for his birthday he’s getting my version of an apple turnover instead of cake. Just don’t tell him how easy it is to rustle up.
Hot Apple Brandy
- 1litre freshly pressed apple juice
- Brandy to taste
- Honey to taste
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Half a nutmeg, ground
- Half a vanilla pod
- 5 cloves
- 5 black peppercorns
- Zest of one orange
Heat gently on the stove. You can wrap the spices in a little muslin if you have some spare. Add the zest of the orange. Add honey to your preference of sweetness. When ready to drink, add Brandy to your taste. Serve generously.
For the puff pastry
- 250g flour*
- 225g chilled butter
- 150 ml water
(Or you can cheat and use a pre rolled sheet of puff pastry*.)
For the rest
- 3 apples
- Half a lemon
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Knob of butter
- Brown sugar
- One egg, whisked
- Jam (apricot or white currant are lovely)
If you’re up to the challenge to make the pastry from scratch, here is an excellent puff pastry recipe. If not, feel free to get a pre rolled version and you’ll have this desert whipped up in no time.
Pre heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan. Core three apples, and slice thinly. Place in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon (zest and all), a sprinkle of cinnamon, a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Meanwhile on a medium heat put 50g of butter in pan, stir to allow it to cook evenly. As soon as it begins to turn toasty brown and the nutty aroma wafts up- it’s done. Take it off the heat.
Place your apple slices just overlapping on your sheet of pastry, leaving an inch round the sides. Fold the pastry sides over, pressing down in the corners. Generously brush the brown butter over the apple slices and sprinkle with a little brown sugar.
Brush the pastry with a whisked egg, this will turn it shiny and golden in the oven for you. Cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the apples are tender. Bring it out of the oven and brush the apples lightly with jam to make them glow.
*NB I swap out plain flour for a gluten free flour blend and it works great.