This has been a fantastic year for apples, the annual crop depends on many things. It would certainly appear to be cyclical. The weather is a primary factor. A mild, frost free Spring is crucial. When the apple blossom lasts for 2-3 weeks the bees have the opportunity to work, the result is good pollination and a heavy set of apples.
Years ago we had 65 acres of apples here in Shanagarry with about 10 different varieties cropping from mid-August to early November.
Varieties like Beauty of Bath, Miller Seedling, George Cave, Norfolk Royal, Coxs Orange Pippin, Worcester Pearmain, Laxton Fortune, Laxton Superb, James Grieve, Lady Sudley
Gradually we were told that the consumer only wanted Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and one or two others. Supermarkets were not interested in apples with a shortlife or uneven size – everything had to be perfect and uniform, didn’t much matter about the taste.
Eventually, we pulled out our lovely old apple trees but Timmy couldn’t bear to lose them all even if they were commercially unviable, so we still have a small orchard of Worcester Pearmain, a few Cox’s Orange Pippin and Bramley Seedling for cooking.
In recent years I’ve bought several treasures from the Irish Seedsavers who have managed to rescue many old Irish varieties from the brink of extinction. Those of you who are interested can contact Anita Hayes at Irish Seedsavers, Capparoe, Scarrif, Co Clare, tel. 061-921866.
Meanwhile, the good news is that Musgrave-Supervalu-Centra recently announced that they will actively support and promote the Irish apple industry by selling Ireland’s first branded Irish apples throughout its 500 independent stores nationwide.
Úlla is the brand name to look out for, much of these apples are grown by David Keane at Cappoquin Fruit and Vogelaar Fruit Farm in Wexford.
The Irish apple industry has been struggling under pressure of competition from imported fruit, much of which has less flavour than our slowly ripened fruit. This new initiative is designed to support Irish growers so that we will at least be able to buy some Irish apples in Ireland – great to see supermarkets linking up with growers to promote local Irish produce – hope this will be the beginning of a whole new era.
Chocolate Apple Betty
Serves 4, with cream or vanilla ice-cream
2¼ lb (1kg) Bramley apples, peeled and cored
1½ oz approx. (30g) butter
For the crumb layer:
4½ oz (125g) soft white breadcrumbs
3½ oz (100g) light soft brown sugar
3½ oz (100g) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2½ oz (75g) butter, melted
3 heaped tablespoons golden syrup
Cut the apples into large chunks, put them in a pan and toss with the butter and a couple of tablespoons of water over a moderate heat. When the apples start to soften but are still keeping their shape, tip them into a 1.5 litre baking dish.
Mix the crumbs, sugar and chocolate and cover the apples loosely with the mixture. Melt the butter with the golden syrup in a small saucepan, then pour it over the crumbs, making certain to soak them all. Bake in an oven preheated to 190°C/375F/Gas 5 for thirty-five minutes, till the apple is soft and the crumbs are golden and crisp.
Irish Apple Cake
Serves 6 approx.
8 ozs (225g) flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
4 ozs (110g) butter
4½ ozs (125g) castor sugar
1 egg, preferably free-range
2-4 fl. ozs (50-120ml) milk, approx.
1-2 cooking apples – we use Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
2-3 cloves (optional)
Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs, add 3 ozs (85g) castor sugar, make a well in the centre and mix to a soft dough with the beaten egg and enough milk to form a soft dough. Divide in two. Put one half onto a greased ovenproof plate and pat out to cover. Peel, core and chop up the apples, place them on the dough and add 1½ ozs (45g) sugar, depending on the sweetness of the apples. Roll out the remaining pastry and fit on top, this is easier said than done as this ‘pastry’ is more like scone dough and as a result is very soft. Press the sides together, cut a slit through the lid, egg wash and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 40 minutes approx. or until cooked through and nicely browned. Dredge with castor sugar and serve warm with Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream.
Dutch Apple Cake
Another good apple pudding which we cook in a roasting tin. The recipe can be adapted for other fruit eg. apricots, peaches or plums.
Serves 10-12 approx.
2 large eggs, preferably free range
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar
4 ozs (110g) butter
¼ pint (150ml) creamy milk
6½ ozs (185g) plain white flour, preferably unbleached
3 teasp. baking powder
3-4 Bramley Seedling cooking apples
1 oz (30g) sugar
Roasting tin 8 x 12 inch (20.5 x 30.5cm)
or 10½ x 6½ inch (26.5 cm x 15 cm) Lasagne dish
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.
Grease and flour the roasting tin. Whisk the eggs and the castor sugar together until the mixture is thick and fluffy and the whisk leaves a figure of 8. Put the butter and milk into a saucepan, bring to the boil and whisk at once into the eggs and sugar. Sieve the flour and baking powder together and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps. Pour the mixture into the prepared roasting tin.
Peel and core the apples, cut into thin slices and arrange them over the batter. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/350F/regulo 4, for a further 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Cool in the tin, then cut into slices. Serve with softly whipped cream.