Tuesday 25 October 2011

Apple Time: Eaters, Cookers and Storers

October is apple time and all over the UK Transitioners are engaged in co-operative fruit swaps, apple pressing and cider making, as well as rediscovering which local varieties flourish at different times. Norwich was once known as the city of orchards and famous for its apples and pears. Bee Springwood from Thorpe St Andrew where there are still remnants of these apple groves (originally for mistletoe), shares her tips for storing our favourite native fruit.

Back from Hereford county awash with apples, I’m making a note of how to store our own mixed harvest... Our beautiful unnamed very local cooker is usually ready at Equinox. The high winds saw a lot of windfalls, and small remaining crop. I need to learn how to graft the dear old tree, now ailing, onto new root stock. It is a Bramley cross of some sort: pale green-gold with thin skin, sweet as can be and instantly fluffy on cooking, it's getting too old to crop well. There has been enough to share with neighbours, make some batches of apple and blackberry crumbles, (no sugar in the fruit, just cloves, and add cinnamon and some soft brown sugar to the oat topping) and some chutneys. The chutney can be a good way of using up the last of the runner beans, baby courgettes, all the odds and ends you have to bring in before the frost gets them. Then we have a stored “drawerful” for the winter.

While I process and store the cookers for later, we keep up with the eaters. These come in a pleasant Mexican wave from late August to November, starting with a crisp sweet sharp yellow and red striped delight, on to the Cox, which have done abnormally well, Spartans, and finally the Golden Delicious in November when the apples are really GOLDEN and therefore delicious indeed, full of sweetness not dull green starch.

We store them all in our shed, wrapped in zig-zag folds of paper to keep separate, in an old Liden solid wood chest of drawers. This keeps them out of harm's way for the ingenious Houdini rats, (better at getting in than out!) and it's easy to pull out a drawer with each variety to bring some indoors each week. The scent of them coming in from outdoors in midwinter is so sweet. Every month I check each tray to remove the mouldy ones, but the harvest lasts through till Easter time, or the first serious warm spell this way. For the cookers it saves on freezer space and prep time.

I have also been learning (from the Elliots of Bikeways.com) how to properly press them to make delightful apple juice, but there’s not enough to warrant the effort this year. That would be brilliant for all the small ones I fail to thin out on our abundant eater trees. Next year may be time for a collective investment in a press for Norwich Farm Share maybe? Bee Springwood

Photos: golden delicious on the tree; drawers full of saved green cookers and red Cox eaters

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