Apple inspiration: there's a bumper crop this year, here's what to do with them
There’s more to this fruit than crumble
Doctors beware, as this has been an excellent year for apples.
There has been a bumper harvest, just in time to celebrate Apple Day on October 21.
As expert John Hancox from Scottish Fruit Trees (www.scottishfruittrees.com) says: “The weather has been just right and many varieties have been sweeter than usual due to the hot sunny summer. In terms of my personal favourites of the old Scottish varieties, East Lothian Pippin and Oslin from Angus are very distinctive eating apples. Stobo Castle and White Melrose are excellent Borders varieties. My personal favourite, at least of the ones ripe now, is Ribston Pippin - similar to Cox but which grows much better in Scotland”.
Scott Smith is the head gardener at the National Trust for Scotland’s Pitmedden Garden & Museum of Farming Life in Ellon, Aberdeenshire (www.nts.org.uk).
“2022 has been a grand year for apples at Pitmedden Garden, thanks to a combination of a dry mild spring, plenty of bees, high pollination rates and our own work in the orchards over the summer,” he says. “As a result, we produced around 3000 tonnes of apples, including cookers, sweet eaters, tart eaters and dual use apples. With 156 varieties in our orchards, it’s hard to pick one or two that are especially beautiful this year, but my favourites have to include the Merton Worcester, which tastes almost like strawberries, and the Egremont Russet, which has a nuttier taste. And then there’s the brilliantly-named Peasgood Nonsuch cooker, some of which have weighed around 500 grams this year!”
Carol Sidey who manages Greener Kirkcaldy's gardening projects at Ravenscraig Walled Garden’s (www.greenerkirkcaldy.org.uk) orchard says it’s also been a bad year for pears, but great for plums and apples.
While it’s all Galas, Golden Delicious and Pink Ladies at the supermarket, independent grocers like Glasgow’s Roots Fruit and Flowers, Locavore in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Kirkintilloch or Findlay’s Grocers in Edinburgh stock some more unusual cultivars.
“There is increasing interest in Scottish cider making and that’s traditionally how people used up excess apples”, says Hancox.
If you don’t want to DIY, try Aeble (www.aeble.co.uk) in Anstruther. They have various Scottish brands, including Falkland Cider, made from organic apples grown on the Falkland Estate.
There are other ways to quaff the fruit. Alfonso Zapater, wine expert and manager of the Inverarity Morton bottleshop at Bonnie & Wild (St James Quarter, Edinburgh, www.bonnieandwildmarket.com), says; "I recommend Caorunn Gin, which is made in small batches at Balmenach Distillery in Speyside. It has a slightly spicy, full-bodied and invigorating flavour, with a clean and crisp finish. The best way to enjoy it is to pair it with a slice of red apple and serve with chilled tonic water over ice".
Edinburgh bar, The Cocktail Mafia (15 Charlotte Lane, Edinburgh, www.thecocktailmafia.co.uk) is launching an apple-heavy Pornstar Martini menu, available from the end of October. The Red Pornstar features the fruit, as well as Grey Goose Strawberry and Lemongrass Vodka, and so does The Green Pornstar, along with JJ Whitley Gin, Midori and prosecco.
At Edinburgh vegetarian restaurant, Hendersons (7-13 Barclay Place, www.hendersonrestaurant.com), they’ve used fruit from their back garden and “apple amnesty” donations from friends and family, and are serving their own freshly pressed juice. When it gets colder outside, they'll be warming it up with brown rum or with spices as an alcohol-free mulled wine.
Hazel Powell, co-owner of Baern (www.bowhousefife.com), has been even more inventive; “Our soft drink just now is a fig leaf and Stirling Castle apple iced tea”.
Spread apple with almond or peanut butter. It’s also ideal partnered with cheese, black pudding and, of course, pork. For sugar cravings, team it with cinnamon, cloves or tart berries.
As Hancox says, “Apples are high in pectin and good for jams and chutney”.
Gary Maclean, National Chef of Scotland, who runs the Creel Caught food stall at Bonnie & Wild, says, "I love adding things like honey and cinnamon to apple dishes. Some of my most trusted recipes are apple-based, such as tarte tatin using Braeburn apples or the most amazing apple sorbet using Granny Smiths, and let's not forget something we all grew up on, apple crumble" .
Joe Sykes of Bonnie & Wild’s gelateria shop Joelato, says:
"Our garden is overflowing with beautiful Bramley apples. We stew them into a compote, flavoured with cinnamon, star anise, orange zest and dark brown sugar. We'll serve this for breakfast with porridge or as a pudding with vanilla or brown butter gelato, and will be bringing some of these flavours together for some of our seasonal gelato in the next few weeks."
Powell says: “We’re lucky to have access to heritage varieties on the Balcaskie Estate, looked after by the ever knowledgeable groundskeeper Gavin. And some brilliant neighbours who bring windfall apples too. At the beginning of the season we used Beauty of Moray in a beetroot, apple and caraway soup and the George Cave for an apple custard and bay frangipane tart. We used Worcester Pearmain in our tarragon brioche and butter pudding. We keep all the skins and cores, dehydrate them and make them into an apple butter that we serve with our scones. Our larder is full of jars of pickled and fermented apples, curds and chutneys. At home, it’s breakfast compotes and chunks of apple thrown in with anything fatty roasted in the oven”.
Orchard (Hardie Grant, £22) is the newest recipe book to celebrate the apple, with an author, James Rich, who was brought up in cider country, Somerset. The recipes aren’t exclusively pomme-based, but there are seasonal dishes like apple, plum and walnut cobbler. Rich also wrote Apple (Hardie Grant, £22), published in 2019, which is for the core devotees.
In The British Cookbook (Phaidon, £39.95) by Glasgow-based Ben Mervis, there are recipes for apple Charlotte, Eve’s pudding and more.