Apples are one of those fruits that are available all year around yet I often associated them with autumn (or fall if you are in the US!). Added to that is the fact that this week is Bramley Apple Pie Week so I thought for this month’s article we would celebrate apples and looks at the top things to do with apples.
How many apples?
Ask us to name a few species of apple and there are the famous ones we know – Bramley, Granny Smith and Pink Lady for example. But did you know there are actually over 7,500 species of apple out there? The apple tree originally came from Central Asia and is now cultivated around the world. Growing apples is a human activity that spans thousands of years and we have even sequenced the DNA of the fruit to better understand it and diseases that affect it.
Among these thousands of species are the ones we see in the supermarket and also a good number that are ideal for us to grow in our gardens. I have an apple tree myself although this year it hadn’t been too productive (read – no apples at all) and is being moved to a new location for next year. but when they do get their fruit going, there’s something very satisfying about picking an apple from your garden to eat or to add to a dish.
Top things to do with apples
There are probably hundreds or more recipes that offer ideas to use up your apples so picking some of the top things to do with apples is a bit of a lottery. So I’ve chosen what I hope is a range of traditional and modern styles of dishes to inspire you in your apple cookery.
My husband is one of those people who likes the accompaniments to go with every meal and for pork, that means apple sauce. While there are loads of nice store-bought sauces, you can also make your own.
Quarter four pounds of apples and simmer them with one cup of water, 3 tablespoons of sugar and a pinch of salt. After around 25-30 minutes, when they are soft, pop them into the blender. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter as you do and there you have applesauce.
For something a little different, you can add herbs to the process as you cook. Sage is a good idea for a pork meal or rosemary but you can add a sprig of any of your favourite herbs. You can also make spiced applesauce by replacing sugar with brown sugar and adding allspice and a cinnamon stick to the process – just before the cinnamon stick before blending.
Another staple of the apple world is apple chutney and a spiced version adds a little variety. Take 2 large apples, such as a Braeburn, and peel, core and dice them. add 1 red onion, chopped fine, 125 g sultanas, 80ml red wine vinegar, 40g dark brown soft sugar and ½ a tsp ground ginger, ¼ tsp cumin and a pinch of cayenne. Mix and season then pour into a jar and refrigerate. Leave for around 2-3 days before eating and store for no more than one week.
Apples are sweet so sweet dishes, cakes and obviously apple pie are top of many people’s list of favourite apple dishes. But there is more to apple than just the pie.
Bramley Brioche Bake
- 350g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- 60g caster sugar
- 6 slices brioche, cut into triangles
- 2 eggs
- 300ml double cream
- 300ml milk
- 150g raspberries
- 25g butter
- 2 tbsp. demerara sugar
Lay the sliced apples in the bottom of an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with sugar. Add the brioche slices. Take a bowl and mix the eggs, cream and milk together, beating it until blended then pour over the brioche. Leave to speak for around 20 minutes or cover and put in the refrigerator for around 12 hours. Dot butter over the mixture, scatter raspberries and sprinkle with more sugar then bake for around 30-45 minutes on 170 degrees until golden.
Spiced toffee apple cake
- 200g dates
- 200ml milk
- 250 g softened butter
- 280g self-raising flour
- 200g light soft brown sugar
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tbsp. mixed spice
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 small red apples
- Lemon juice
- Handful of toffees
Grease a 20x30cm baking tray with greaseproof paper. Put the dates and milk in a pan, simmer then cool. Mix the cooled dates in a blender then add to a mixing bowl. To this, add butter, flour, brown sugar, eggs, baking powder, spice and vanilla.
Prepare the apples, removing the core and slicing thinly. Put the cake mixture into the tray and arrange the apple slices over this, slightly overlapping. Bake for around 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Take the toffees with a splash of milk in a pan and melt. Once the toffees are runny, pour them over the cake, add a touch of icing sugar and serve. If you wanted to cheat, you could also use a good toffee sauce in place of making your own!
Classic apple pie
There are loads of recipes for apple pie but I liked this one as it is much how my Mum makes hers and is simple to master. Plus, you can always substitute the handmade pastry with a good quality pre-made version from the shops!
- 255g plain flour
- 140g hard margarine or butter
- 6 tbsp. cold water
- 3 large Bramley apples
- Sugar and caster sugar to taste
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Sieve the flour with a pinch of salt into a bowl then rub the margarine/butter into it until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add cold water to the mixture and use a knife and your hands to firm up the mixture. Split it into two and roll out one half to cover a 20cm baking tray. Trim it to fit the plate.
Stew the apples once they are chopped and leave to cool. Once cooled, lay them on the pastry and sprinkle with sugar to your taste. Roll out the second part of the pastry and lay it over the top. press down gently on the edges to seal it up and trim any excess. Flute the edges by pinching with your finger and thumb. Lastly, prick the pastry a little before putting the oven for around 20-30 minutes. Mum always sprinkles sugar on her pie before baking!
Who doesn’t love apple pie? But there is more to these fruits than just a cracking pie and all are as tasty in their own way
Main courses and salads
Apple tends to be thought about mostly as a sweet ingredient or perhaps in a salad but there are main courses that it works with. A great pairing is pork as well as with cheddar.
Mustard pork fillet with apple lentils
- 1kg pork loin fillet
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 350g Puy lentils
- 1 litre veg stock
- 1 lemon
- 1 apple
- 200g mayonnaise
- 1 garlic clove
Heat the oven to 200 degrees and rub the pork with oil, seasoning then heat in a hot frying pan. Move the pork to a baking sheet and brush with mustard, sprinkle half a sprig of tarragon then cook for 20 minutes. While that’s cooking, cook the lentils in the stock under tender, add the rest of the olive oil, half the lemon juice and the apple.
Make an herb aioli to serve by mixing lemon zest and juice, garlic and the rest of the tarragon with mayonnaise. Slice the pork thickly and serve alongside the lentils with a bowl of dip and some green beans.
Cauliflower, apple and blue cheese salad
- 5 tbsp. cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 3-4 apples, cored and sliced thinly
- 1 small cauliflower
- 200g Stilton or crumbly blue cheese
- Sunflower seeds or walnuts, toasted
- Alfalfa sprouts (optional)
Create the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, olive oil and honey with salt and pepper. Pour over the apple and then mix in the cauliflower and cheese. Scatter with mint and seeds then serve.
Sausages with apple mash
- 700g floury potatoes
- Your favourite sausages
- 25g butter
- 1 onion
- 2 tsp plain flour
- 250ml beef stock
- 2 apples
- 3tbsp milk
Cook the sausages as per the packet or just how you like them. Pop the onion and half the butter into a pan, sauté them for 15-20 minutes until soft then add the flour and gradually pour in the stock to make a sauce. Cook the apples in the rest of the butter until softened, around 5-10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and mash then add butter, milk and fold in the apple. Serve the sausages and mash then pour over the gravy.
Apple juice is always the obvious one for an apple based drink with cider its alcoholic cousin. There is also an apple flavoured spirit called Calvados that makes an an alternative to apple juice and with extra kick.
Apple is not on the most common list of smoothie ingredients but there are plenty of ways to incorporate it. A simply apple and banana smoothie is one example. Take a banana, ½ cup orange juice, 1 apple and ¼ milk of your choice. Blend it all up and serve.
While this recipe doesn’t use actual apples, it certainly has the apple-ness down perfectly. The Apple Martini takes 25ml pink lady apple juice, 50ml apple vodka and 20ml green apple flavoured Sourz or another apple liqueur. Mix them all in a cocktail shaker, strain into a margarita or martini glass and serve with a slice of apple.
What’s your favourite apple recipe? Or are you just a eat it and go apple fan?