Apples, apples, apples

Ah, apples!  

It's no wonder that apples have such a place in religion (Adam and Eve), our folklore (Snow White), our history (Newton's law of gravity) and our medicine (an apple a day) given their widespread cultivation, and extraordinary variety and fruitfulness.  They are extraordinary. 

Marvellous for the digestion, excellent on the vitamin front, fabulous fresh or cooked, apples are super-food. The skin is the place to start: it contains heaps of anti-oxidants (grate some, mix with some ground almonds and give your face a real skin-treat).  Apple skin also contains something called ursolic acid which reportedly keeps cholesterol and blood sugar under control – good for weight loss.

The flesh, meanwhile, never mind the health-benefits, is simply delicious - chomping on an apple straight from the tree is bliss, made into chutney, baked with sultanas and butter - any way of eating apples seem to be utter joy.  For us here on Apple Island it's a bumper harvest, so much so that we've been trying to give away cartloads but so many people here in Somerset have their own over-burdened trees that it's difficult.  A few years ago, we bought a scratter for chomping up apples, and a press for juicing.  So far we've pressed 70 litres now in the freezer and there's a lot more to come. Such riches will take us through the winter and into next summer with the daily pleasure of apple juice and the power of the sun that ripened the crop.

Years ago I discovered an amazing American recipe for Apple Butter – which hasn’t a morsel of fat in it.  Here goes – and believe me, it’s worth every bit of effort: 4kg cooking apples, 425ml cider, 20ml cider vinegar, 300grs brown sugar; 1 tbsp cinnamon, half a teaspoon each of cloves, nutmeg and ginger, and an occasional splash of water as needed. Peel and core the fruit, put in a large heavy bottomed pan with the cider and vinegar. Simmer – occasionally stirring – for an hour or two until the apples turn mushy and start to thicken. Add the sugar and spices and continue to cook for at least another 30 mins adding water if it starts to catch. Taste it – if it needs a touch more sugar, add and keep cooking. When you’re happy, spoon into those waiting sterile jars, put the lids on. You can then put the jars in a boiling water bath for 20 mins which will do wonders for the longevity of this deeply satisfying jam, so gorgeous on toast, or ice-cream or alongside roast pork – the list is endless. And extremely delicious.  

Happy apple-time!