Storm Ellen and Storm Francis played “hell” with our apple crop. We didn’t have a particularly good crop anyway but much of our meagre harvest ended up as windfalls in the grass underneath the apple trees in the orchard. Some like Beauty of Bath were already ripe, many other varieties were not but still the strong winds managed to shake them off their branches. I collected as many as I could to make windfall jelly.
These under-ripe fruit are perfect for apple jelly, don’t worry about the odd bruise or slug bite just cut them out. Wash the fruit but don’t bother to peel, save the stalks and seeds too, they all add to the end result.
To make the preserve... Just fill a large pot with the coarsely chopped fruit, cover with cold water. Add other flavours if you fancy, a few fistfuls of blackberries, sloes, rowan berries, damsons or haws. If you add a mixture, it can be called Hedgerow jelly. Alternatively, simply add mint, chillies or a pinch of traditional cloves. This is a brilliant all-purpose recipe – ‘a-catch-all’ to use up a couple of fistfuls of autumn fruit and berries. I can add some ripe elderberries, and in a few weeks bletted medlars to make a delicious apple and medlar jelly to accompany game or a boiled leg of mutton.
We have also found that the strong pectin, rich apple juice works brilliantly as a natural gelling agent in both strawberry and blackberry jam, both of which can be notoriously difficult to set. We plan to freeze it as an experiment to use in winter jams and jellies instead of jam sugar.
And who doesn’t love an apple tart? Every family has their favourite pastry. My recipe for a buttery ‘break all the rules’ shortcrust pastry was passed on to me by my Mum. It’s not just our favourite but has become many other people’s ‘go to’ recipe for a tart or pie crust.
Or how about an Autumn apple and blackberry pie, with cinnamon sugar or the aristocrat of apple tarts, the French classic, Tarte Tatin.
Apple Charlotte is an almost forgotten pudding. I find it’s best made with Cox’s Orange Pippin apples and slices of good white yeast bread, soaked in melted butter – No wonder, it’s so delicious. I make it just once a year, but the memory of the texture of the crisp buttery bread and the sweetness of the Cox’s Apple puree lingers for months on end. Or a simple recipe for apple fritters, another of my grandchildren’s favourites which they have nicknamed Scary Little Monsters because of the funny shapes the batter cooks into on the pan... sprinkle them with castor sugar and enjoy....