What’s so great about apples?
It’s October and I’ve just tasted the first satsuma of the year. As it was from Spain, hopefully shipped in (rather than flown) and bought in the Co-op, I felt as much pleasure from my ethical choice as the sweet-sour taste of this only just orange-shaded fruit. Later in the year these satsumas will be much sweeter, smell less “new” and start to be covered in a thicker pith.
This post is by Nicola Baird using ideas filched from her newest book, Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children.
But Granny Fiona watching my two girls and I doing our taste test – in our family every new and looked forward to taste of the year earns us a wish – wasn’t impressed and went into a long diatribe about how she only ate locally grown seasonal fruit, ie, apples.
And apples are in their glory at the moment. Last weekend we were invited to an apple press party. The idea is that you bring your apples and then use the host’s chunky, old-fashioned apple press to juice your own crop. It’s a lot more fun sharing the work with friends than doing this on your own…
Arriving late allowed Lola, 12, Nell, 9, and I to walk into a Country Living photo set – under a huge oak tree in the stable yard around a trestle table were arranged mums, dads and little children. The women looked glam and happy, the dads relaxed as they feasted on sausages and beer (as appropriate!) while everyone took a turn chopping and mincing apples or using the lever to push the juice out of the fruit. Did I mention that the sun was actually out or the jokes were about an apple tax?
As my apple tree was back in London I was sent off to pick a bucket of eaters from a big tree that I remember being planted in the 1970s. Back under the oak tree I cut them into quarters ready for the mincing/mashing/juicing stage. Just as my haul was about to be tipped in the apple press broke, but because it is a relatively simple style machine my brother was able to fix it in minutes and on the juicing went… a process which the poet Keats described in Ode to Autumn as “the slow oozings hours by hours”, except because we’re in the 21st century even old-fashioned presses seem quicker!
The dark apple juice lasts a week in the fridge, or you can put it in plastic bottles and freeze. Another way of making it last longer is to pasturise it – try heating it in a glass bottle up to 60F for a minute or two. Check Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for the exact approach.
While the adults got lost in juicing dreams – how about adding ginger or sloe or vodka? – the children wandered through the fields in their wellies exploring the overgrown hedge by the boundary ditch as if they were adventurers. This kept them busy all afternoon until the last of the summer wasps unfortunately managed to sting a four year old and everyone had to retreat into the kitchen to recover with Ben 10 chocolates.
Celebrate apple day
It’s easy to celebrate apple day on 21 October even if you don’t have an apple press. You could do it virtually with a visit here, or you can go to the National Fruit Collection in Kent (or just the website). You could go to a market (or a supermarket) and choose a few different English varieties and run a taste test with the kids.
Or try apple bobbing (very hard and wet even in a shallow washing up bowl), or an apple peeling contest. Try cooking and juicing, adding apples (for their pectin) to autumn jams (eg, damson, blackberry and quince), making apple cake or an apple compote for puddings/breakfast cereal toppings.
There may also be exciting events going on locally to you, including wassailing – drink something and spill something by your apple tree as a harvest thank you. Or try some cider (or perry from pears) or join a tour of an orchard.
These national days may be contrived but they give all of us a big hint about what to talk to our children about that day. It’s amazing how much children not just soak up, but also enjoy annual family rituals. If you haven’t yet given Apple Day a go, then go on and see what happens to your child’s interest in the humble apple.
As Rita, one of the brilliant mums quoted in Homemade Kids pointed out apple trees make great gifts: “Leo’s granny bought him an apple tree for his first birthday, and he loves the little apples. He’ll be able to watch it grow as he gets older.”
Do share any ideas you have about what’s so great about apples (or pears). Thanks.