Last of the apples?

How sad am I?   Learning the authentic names of our “heritage” apples was rather thrilling!

Thanks to Chris Bird of Sparsholt Horticultural college (near Winchester), we learned that apple trees over 50 years old are deemed heritage.   Ours are remnants of a Victorian orchard that pre-dates the 1890s house by at least 20 years.

Many modern apple varieties are often self-fertile whereas older ones tend to fall into one of four different pollination groups.   With the help of bees and other insects, they will cross-pollinate with other trees in the adjacent group so the most popular trees were those in group 3: able to pollinate with both 2 and 4 which explains why many orchards were a mix of trees.

The College is undertaking a major research project (DNA and all) into such trees in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.   Rather than somewhat boring Golden Delicious, our yellow apples, each with one or two ridges from stalk to top, are much older Emneth Early culinary (cooking) apples.   The other cookers are more esoteric than the usual Bramley: Victorian Lord Grosvenor and Lord Derby varieties.   The Cox’s Orange Pippin was highly commended for great colour although our fruit was sadly subject to “bitter pit” due to not enough water or calcium!   We even sneaked in a couple given to us by French friends in Normandy: Ashmead’s Kernel and Lord Lambourne look-alikes.

He gave tips for pruning: cut out dead, disease, damaged and crossing/congested once the leaves have fallen from full-size trees.   You don’t need to worry about cavities but might prune to reduce the weight and risk of breaks.   Even fallen apple trees are able to regenerate as they send up new growth.

Seaweed is excellent nutrition for apple trees and is applied around the “drip-line” (below the outer edge of the branches as the root structure mirrors the tree shape) twice a year just after the leaves have dropped and just before they bud again.   Sticky bands are good for winter moth whereas pheromone traps sort out the male coddling moths.

Apples are best stored at about 3-5C, don’t need wrapping in paper and should be stalk down.   I need to revisit my mushroom trays in the shed and get them the other way up.

I learned lots about old, big apple trees but he had tips galore for those dwarf patio trees, espalier and more.

Meanwhile, I’m still getting the odd windfall and made this quick apple sponge:

50g butter.

1 tablespoon honey.

3 firm eating apples, cored and sliced.

3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced.

3 eggs.

same weight butter.

same weight honey or sugar.

same weight self-raising flour.

1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

 

Generously smear the sides and bottom of a 9-inch silicone mould with butter and add a tablespoon of honey.

Layer the eating apples around the base and top with any remaining pieces of the butter.

Layer with the cooking apple slices, retaining about eight slices.

Whisk the butter and honey until light and fluffy.

Whisk in each egg separately with a teaspoon of flour and then fold in the remaining flour and vanilla extract.

Pour the mix on the top of the apples, thumping the whole cake mould on the work surface a few times so the mix settles amongst some of the apple.

Decorate the top with the remaining slices of apple.

Place on a pre-heated tray at 180C, Gas 4 for 30 minutes.

Cover with a double layer of foil and cook for another 20 minutes.

Switch off the oven and let the cake continue to firm as it cools.

Turn-out upside-down on a plate once cool.

 

Free on-line Christmas pudding cooking demo – laugh as blind cook struggles to cover the puds:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/190904710127

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter warmer: tarragon chicken

Want something to cheer up a wet miserable morning?

Sign up for a free on-line cookery demonstration on Monday 11 October at 1030 at:

Eventbrite link:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/winter-warmer-baking-session-with-penny-for-visually-impaired-people-tickets-171094306677

 

You can cook along with us or just sit back and enjoy the fun.

This is a perfect dish to cook ahead: simple; one pan so not much washing up; freezes well; good for colder weather.

All you need is:

3 onions peeled and diced

5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 knob butter

10 (1kg) chicken thighs, skinned

1 large glass dry white wine

1 lemon, zest and juice.

2 chicken stock cubes

1 tablespoon fresh French tarragon leaves, chopped

3 heaped teaspoons cornflour

Salt and pepper to taste.

A large lidded pan that can be used on the stove top and in the oven – I use a cast-iron pan.

 

Next time in November, we will be making Christmas puddings.   If you get the chance, start soaking the raisins, currants and sultanas in some brandy, port or sherry.   Details to follow.

 

 

 

Last of the tomato glut

The joys of dealing with Government civil servants: they knew that I use a screen reader but still wanted to send me documents in large print!   I’d be more empathetic to their ignorance if they weren’t under a legal responsibility to make their services accessible.   If they don’t understand the basics as part of their professional skills base, what hope is there?

But, in case you too are befuddled by some of the adaptive technology speak, here’s a little crib:

Braille: used by some visually impaired people; often those who have had limited sight since an early age; learning Braille after about age 50 is difficult due to reduced fingertip sensitivity; many Braille users may also use other forms of IT accessibility; they may “print” Braille on special printers and may have electronic Braille readers.

Large print: some may require documents in different sizes (I used to use 36-point font in Bold; many will use other IT accessibility methods; many will adjust the size of an electronic document to print the appropriate size if they need a hard copy.

Screen magnification: various features enable the text, cursors and other features displayed on the screen to be enlarged; often this means that individuals cannot see the whole screen at one time (avoid material that is on the right); they may also print in large text.

Screen readers: people like me can only access documents independently that are provided electronically and formats other than Word may be inaccessible with their particular screen reader software; pdf documents are often inaccessible; tables ditto; images and logos are inaccessible; punctuation needs to be immaculate especially at the end of headings and in lists or all the words are read as a long sentence; documents don’t need to be in any different size font; Excel spreadsheets are highly risky; form completion can be impossible.

Hope that this little taster is useful –it doesn’t attempt to cover speech recognition and more.   Accessibility of electronic information varies between different software as some is free with such as Microsoft and Apple whereas other costly software is specifically created for disabled people.

Now for something much more fun and positive: immeasurably precious after months of nurturing, the last tomatoes are ripening and I wanted to make the best of those that had split or gone a little soft.   A pasta sauce was the answer:

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped.

4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped.

2 sticks celery, peeled and finely chopped.

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped.

10 pieces dried tomato, finely chopped.

tablespoon each of thyme, rosemary and tarragon leaves, chopped.

teaspoon ground black pepper.

3 tablespoons olive oil.

750-1000g ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped.

large pinch of salt.

tablespoon basil leaves, torn.

 

Sauté the onion, carrots, celery and herbs in the oil over a gentle heat for about an hour.

Add the tomatoes and salt and continue to gently cook,

Add the basil and any other fresh herbs to hand and continue to cook for about 30 minutes.

Serve with cooked pasta, topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese, chopped black olives or the garnish of your choice.

My Tips:

The key to this sauce is the slow cooking.   I used a heat diffuser over the lowest gas flame possible and let it splutter away for at least two hours.   With the lid on, the vegetables reduced to about a quarter of their size before the tomatoes were added.   It took no effort after the initial chopping other than to stir occasionally and check nothing was sticking.

Delicious, robust and full of fresh goodness that celebrates tomatoes.

 

The next on-line cooking demo is at 1030 on 11 October.  Please do join in.  The links are:

Eventbrite link:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/winter-warmer-baking-session-with-penny-for-visually-impaired-people-tickets-171094306677

Facebook Link:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1073961713195536

 

 

 

 

London Pride

Staggering: the value of vulgarly ostentatious cars littering the streets in the capital.   Totally alien for we country mice.

Here we are: moving sluggishly towards better environmental living while some are still strutting their stuff: ridiculous personalised number plates; boorishly huge cars; speed capacities that can never be legal on UK roads.   It probably seems a bit sexist to guess that most of the drivers/owners are men but who else needs to constantly primp and preen their alleged prowess with something as culturally obsolete as a big fast car?   Though there were some women who flaunted names on their plates.   Too many with too little self-confidence.

Amazing what was on show during 12 hours in London and on the road. Some of them seem an alien race.

Back in the simplicity of home, the preserving goes on: more dried plums, tomatoes and apples; more grape juice; experimental grape jelly; outstanding homemade Christmas mincemeat with our own apples and honey.

The high spot has been making Karen’s Mum’s marmalade cake with a jar of homemade from Liz and then, of course, changing it a bit.   This is a very unusual mix with water, not much butter and the marmalade.   On the other hand, I made the whole thing in a saucepan and cooked it in a silicone loaf mould so not much washing up!

 

250ml water

220g sultanas (previously soaked in some alcohol if possible)

50g butter

220g orange marmalade.

150g sugar

3 eggs, beaten until fluffy.

300g self-raising flour.

Pinch salt.

 

Put the water, sultanas, butter and marmalade into a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar and leave to cool.

Mix in the eggs and then fold in the flour and salt.

Place in a silicone loaf mould and cook in a preheated oven 180C, Gas 4 for 45 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 165C, Gas 3, cover with a double layer of foil and cook for up to a further 60 minutes.

Check that the cake has reached about 95C or a skewer comes out clean before removing from oven to cool and turn out.

 

This cake was still moist a week later and had a subtle orange flavour – the sultanas sank a bit but nothing’s perfect!