Pie, Sauce or Apple Snow?
When it comes to cooking apples, the shops offer us one choice and one choice only - Bramley's Seedling. Bramley travels well, stores well, has a nice, tart flavour and an attractive, shiny skin. It also cooks to a shapeless mush that requires a lot of sugar to make it palatable. Traditionally, which varieties were preferred for which dishes?
Pies and Tarts
The best pie apples are both sharp and firm, providing structure to hold up the pie crust and bite to contrast with the texture of the pastry. Lane's Prince Albert comes highly recommended by our gardeners. Keswick Codlin was once widely grown for summer apple pies as it ripens so early.
Cookery writer Nigel Slater waxes lyrical about Blenheim Orange for a classic, French tarte tatin. He spent a long time searching for the rare Normandy variety Bénédictin, only to discover Bénédictin and Blenheim Orange are one and the same apple. When it comes to open apple tarts, French chefs prefer Calville Blanc
'Good apple pies are a considerable part of
our domestic happiness.'
Lane's Prince Albert is top favourite again, along with Yorkshire Greening and Lady's Delight, whilst our local apple expert, Denis Smith, recommends mixing Bramley with Blenheim Orange for a very pleasant texture.
For real comfort food not much beats a perfectly baked apple, stuffed with dried fruit or left-over mincemeat and served with a dollop of clotted cream or creme frâiche. Our gardeners' favourites are
Apple Charlotte and Other Moulded Dishes
For Apple Charlotte and similar moulded dishes, Victorian chefs recommended dual-purpose apples like Blenheim Orange, Golden Reinette or Mère de Ménage, which make the necessary, stiff 'marmalade'.
Any of the codlins is fantastic for apple snow, as they quickly collapse into a froth, staying white, retaining their fresh flavour and needing little sugar. They're only available for a few weeks in late summer and early autumn though.
Dried Apple Rings
I used to love dried apple rings as a child. The traditional drying apple is Norfolk Beefing. Rods of them were slotted into cool ovens and then the rings, known as 'boffins', were packed in boxes as a Christmas delicacy.
Codlin types like Keswick Codlin were the Victorian favourite for making apple jelly in late summer, as they have a sharp flavour and are rich in pectin. The jelly can be flavoured with herbs such as sage for serving with pork or ham.
Dumelow's Seedling was once grown specially for making mincemeat.
Cox's Orange Pippin is sweet and honeyed.
Egremont Russet is rich and nutty.
D'Arcy Spice is aromatic, with a mince-pie flavour
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018