Tuesday, 16 October 2012

My own apple day



It will be Apple Day this Saturday, October the 21st. There will be a nationwide celebration of orchards, with all manners of apple-y events from large fairs to little festivals at the farmer's market. Last year, I was tying apples to strings and coaxing kids to apple-bob, or crushing buckets of apples with whatever superhuman strength that a puny Asian girl has for the cider-pressing show. This year though, I've heard there's a bit less apple worshipping going on. The very wet spring has caused a very sad harvest, so in many places, Apple Day's been cancelled. But whether or not the apple festivities are going on in your area, we can all still celebrate. I've been fondling (apples) and digging up old photos, resulting in a tamarind applesauce recipe, and a long-overdue peek into Chegworth Valley.

Most Londoners probably know of Chegworth's famous juices, and their wonderful variety of lovely organic apples. They stock some of London's best restaurants, like St John's and Bea's of Bloomsbury, and have a dedicated following at the farmer's markets that they do. It's while working at the farmer's market that I became good friends with the owner Linda, and after a few months of prodding and wheedling for me to come visit her, I finally made my way down to Kent one hot sunny day in May with a friend in tow. I remember it was right after an intense bout of deadlines from school, so it felt almost as if I was being rescued from a horrible land as Linda whisked me away to the farm in her van.




It was spring then, so the apple trees were bare, but we trudged through the orchards anyway, Linda half-cursing at the stinging nettles that were not-very-gently tickling our legs, and half-gushing happily at the apple blossoms, expertly giving forecasts on the varieties of apples that were going to do well later this year. I've never come across apple trees before, and was a little surprised that they weren't very tall at all. I've always had a mental image of a rather big tree, big enough for a boy to sit under and get the idea of gravity knocked into his head by a falling fruit, but Linda explained that the trees are kept at a height that makes it not crazy impossible to pick.



We also walked up the slopes to where the salad leaves and soft fruits were being grown. Those were being grown in polytunnels, practically saunas what with the over-enthusiastic sun, but everybody at the farm cheerily went about their tasks with their shorts and sunscreen on. That was when the first of the strawberries were starting to appear, so I pretty much had the first pick of these luscious red jewels. Fresh off the branches, they were the sweetest, juiciest things ever, but I may be slightly biased with my parched throat and stupidly thick jeans and boots.




As an excuse to step away from the sweltering heat, we went to take a look at the last of the apples, kept in cold storage since their harvest last season. Chegworth apples aren't at all the smooth, uniform beauties that you find in a bag of apples from the supermarket; some are smaller than others and some have odd bulges, which I find just adorable. When they first started the farm, they found they had to comply to the supermarkets' ridiculous standards of shape and size, and that these people cared nothing at all about the actual taste of these apples, or what farming methods they used as long as they got their unnaturally perfect apples. They very stubbornly refused to give up on their farming ethos, determined to produce fruit with the best flavour, and to deal with people who were equally passionate about the quality of their produce i.e. people like the dear old lady who comes to the market, rain or shine, and tuts when her favourite early-season Discovery apples run out.

It was a beautiful day that ended with a pitcher of chilled Chegworth apple juice and newfound respect for these mad people and their mad passion and pride in what they do. As a tribute to Linda and Apple Day, I've got a special applesauce recipe to share.


TAMARIND APPLESAUCE
Ingredients
600g English apples*
1 tbsp tamarind pulp, soaked in warm water
1 stick of cinnamon
2 cloves
unrefined cane sugar, to taste

*I know most people go for the tart Bramley cooking apples, but I always like to use eating apples so you don't need to add much sugar at all. Here I used a mix of the very sweet, nutty Russet apple, and the king of traditional English apples, the Cox, for a bit more tart fragrance to complement the tamarind. 

Method
1. Peel, core and dice the apples.
2. Tip into a pot, together with the tamarind water and spices and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer on low heat for about 20 min or until the apples break down into a soft mush. Remove the spices and add sugar to taste.
3. You can puree it or strain it but I do it real rustic and just roughly mash up more with a fork for more texture. It's ready to serve hot or let cool, before storing into jars, great for gifts if you decide not to eat it all up yourself.



It's such a simple recipe that I feel quite embarassed to share, but it's so delicious and versatile I find it quite selfish not to enlighten people who actually fork out money to buy overpriced jars of applesauce. My good friend likes to use applesauce to replace oil and eggs in her fat-free baking, but for the fat-fearless, this is especially wonderful with homemade ice cream or a crispy roast pork belly ;) I don't like fusion for the sake of it, but here, the tamarind adds a delicious tart-sweetness that really complements the apples and the aromatic spices.

Here's to the imperfect English apples and their mad growers!

36 comments:

  1. Wow, I am so jealous, what a wonderful day out and beautiful photos too! I can't wait to try making apple sauce, it looks so delicious and is something I've been meaning to try for ages. Great recipe. It's such a shame the apple harvest is low this year. :(

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    1. Well, this was way back in spring, so can't speak the same for the weather now.. You definitely should try making applesauce, it's so simple and great with so many things, or even just as a sort of sweet sth after dinner (:

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  2. Simple recipes are the best! This is a great twist on classic applesauce, I want to try it. So sorry there will be no apple day :-( I sure wish we had one of those around here...

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    1. There is still apple day, but not in all places this year :( Well, you don't need apple day to celebrate apples, I'm sure you have a few apple recipes up your sleeve too! ;)

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  3. No, this is a lovely and really rather unusual recipe so thanks for sharing. Perfect with some pork belly!

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    1. Yes, I had it with some five spice crispy pork belly to echo the flavours, yum yum yum.

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  4. I love it, tamarind is such a wonderful flavour and I can see how well it would work with apples. Delicious as always xx

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    1. Aw thanks laura, yes the sweet-tartness reminds me of the flavour of cooked apples, so it worked really well as a subtle background to the spices (:

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  5. Interesting... apple with assam... I will try this out!

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    1. Ooh I like the sound of "assam applesauce", hah wish I thought of that earlier!

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  6. DEFINITELY going to give this a try. It looks, and sounds, amazing.

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    1. Aw thanks! Let me know how it goes x

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  7. Lovely! We are huge fans of apples in this home :)

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  8. I am normally not an apple fan but your post makes it all sounds yummy! :) love it.

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    1. I thought everybody likes apples!!!

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  9. As long it's food or fruit, I am definitely in love. Your day out looks so fun. And what a nice sunny day. Have a great time and stay in touch. Cheers, Jo

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    1. Thanks jo! It was a nice sunny day out, unfortunately that was way back in may, not so sunny now that it's oct:/

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  10. Interesting post Shu, love the pictures :)

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  11. A BEAUTIFULLY written and fabulous post, and I will be celebrating Apple Day this year, and there will be more apple recipes to share! Your apple sauce looks AMAZING Shuhan - such a wonderful colour and texture! HERE HERE! Here is to imperfect apples, I agree! Karen

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    1. Aw thanks so much karen! I'll be looking out for your apple recipes for sure!

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  12. Well thats the most sensible thing I ever heard, use eating apples so you don't have to add so much sugar! Great as always :)

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    1. Aw thanks! I kind of believe people use cooking apples because if they don't those apples won't be eaten at all. So if I get to pick, why not just go for the sweet eatign aples (:

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  13. Look like you had a fun day in apple orchard. Did not know there is a so called Apple day, thanks for sharing these beautiful photos.

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  14. I had no idea apple day was a thing---good to know =) I adore tamarind but have never used it in anything but pad thai. I will have to give this one a go!

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    1. You can use tamarind in all sorts of south east asian non-creamy curries, and it's also essential in my sambal chilli (:

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  15. indeed it's such a lovely day looking at your picturesque photos

    >> and was a little surprised that they weren't very tall at all
    while i know they aren't very tall, i'm surprised they were that short?! for a moment I thought i was looking at a vineyard LOLz perhaps they were pruned to remain low for ease of harvest?

    how i wish durian, rambutan, mango weren't tall either :P

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    1. That's what Linda said! Hah if they weren't tall, I can just imagine whose greedy hands will be full of durianm rambutans and mangos ;)

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  16. Apples. Yay! And tamarind is a lovely idea.

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  17. Aah, English apples! There's a specific apple which I've never seen in France... I haven't tasted it in many years, and it's not common at all... maybe you know of it? The skin is either green with patches of a rich, unblemished crimson, depending on which side has been facing the sun. The apple is crisp and the flesh is very white. The flavour... omg... seriously, you haven't lived until you've tried one of these apples, and goddamnit I want them, but I can't get them here. Only filthy golden delicious and a few other types which are just so BORING! Sometimes I miss England :(

    Lovely looking sauce too (before I go too much off at a tangent :p)

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    1. It's not a cox is it? Gosh I've been racking my brains for which apple that is but frankly, there are so many varieties of English apples I can't even begin to pretend I know them all! Haha you make golden delicious sound ..not very delicious. Maybe it's time you came to England for a visit again, or at least just to get your hands on some apples hehe.

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  18. Very nice pictures !! I like the apple sauce ;)

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  19. I missed our local apple day this year as I was busy and I was gutted! Your apple sauce is a fantastic idea, great way to use all those apples!

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    1. Apple days are so fun aren't they! I love watching kids apple bob, it's the cutest thing ever!

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  20. Shu Han, why do you tempt us with strawberries??? Seriously the photos are marvellous, they remind me of all the apple varieties from my childhood that I cannot find anywhere else... Your apple sauce sounds fabulous. It is also far from being simple! I have never seen tamarind and apple combination. I must absolutely test it one day.

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    1. Oops, didn't mean to. I hope you test this one day! It's amazing with pork!

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  21. Tamarind and apple is a combination I've never tried but looks and sounds absolutely delicious!

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