It’s raining apples in my garden at present. There are so many hitting the ground and loads more ready to be picked. I can't keep up with the glut of fruit filling every container I can lay my hands on. So the question is what to do with them all.
This year, English Apples and Pears Ltd have announced, the commercial English apple harvest will reach 160,000 tonnes – the highest for 20 years. So even if you don’t have access to a tree, there should be plenty of good value apples in the shops. All in impeccable condition too. This year, the commercial English apple harvest will reach 160,000 tonnes. According to EAP, each of their apples is photographed more than 50 times to check for its size, shape, colour, blemishes and other irregularities (rejects go for juice), while simultaneously, an infrared system is used to check the inside of each apple, without penetrating the skin, to ensure there are no internal defects.
No such luck with my hand-picked haul, which required a fair amount of gouging out of insect holes and cutting away of bruising. But what the hell, this is free food and cannot go to waste, so who’s complaining? The real challenge is what to do with a seemingly unlimited supply of fruit. Here are some ideas, pinched from here and there, for making the apple-storm last.
- Apple juice to keep: Wash the apples, cut out any wormy bits and bruises and use an electric juicer to extract the juice. Or – if you have a huge amount – invest in an apple scratter (available from pressfruit.co.uk) to pulp the apples and then a press to extract the juice. Either way you’ll want to blend sweet and tart apples to get a good balance of flavour. Store the juice for up to three days in the fridge or freeze in thoroughly washed plastic milk bottles (it’ll be good for at least six months). If you want to store it at room temperature, then you’ll need to sterilise glass bottles, fill them with juice and then stand them in large pans of simmering (77C) water for at least 30 minutes to pasteurise them, before sealing.
- Apple crisps: Good for both eaters and cookers. Use a mandolin to slice apples thinly (they need to be of an even thinness to dry evenly, so only do it by hand if you have a razor sharp knife and a surgeon’s precision). There is no need to core them first, but flick out any pips. Spread the slices on a baking sheet lined with non-stick parchment, with none touching, sprinkle with ground cinnamon or cardamom if you like, and bake for about 20 minutes to an hour at 110C/230F/Gas ¼, turning the slices over halfway. Cool and store in an airtight container.
- Pickled apples: Best for eating apples. Put 100ml cider vinegar, 100ml water and 50g sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Add a good grinding of black pepper, ¼ tsp salt and 1 tsp mustard seed. Cut two small apples (Discovery, with their pink-flushed flesh, are very good) into matchsticks with a mandolin or slice thinly down the middle. Pile into a 500g/1lb jam jar and pour over the hot liquid. Use the same day or cover and store in the fridge for up to a month.
- Apple purée for freezer: Best for cooking apples. Peel and core apples. Pile into a pan and sprinkle with sugar. Cover with clingfilm and cook in the microwave on a high heat until soft and collapsing. Stir in sugar to taste, or freeze unsweetened. Eat with yogurt and brown sugar, or roast pork.
- Dried apple rings: Best for eating apples. Core your apples (no need to peel them unless you want to). Cut into slices, about 5mm/¼in thick, using a mandolin if you have one. If you want to keep the colour pale, dunk the slices in a bowl of water with the juice of a lemon, then drain and dry with a tea towel. Lay the slices on the oven rack (not touching each other) and dry at the lowest possible temperature for two hours or more until leathery – at 60C/140F/Gas 1, it’ll take a good eight hours.
- Apple leather: Take two mugfuls of apple purée (see above), puréeing it in the blender if not completely smooth. Stir in 2 tbsp sugar and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon if you like. Spread on a baking sheet lined with non-stick parchment, so it is about ½cm/¼in thick. Dry in the oven set at the lowest possible temperature, the warming oven of an aga or in a dehydrator set to 80C/175F/Gas 1 until set – it should feel tacky but not squidgy. Cut into strips and roll up. Store in an airtight container.
And the best of luck!