Get ready for apple season

Apples are probably one of the easiest tree fruits to grow and the most popular with gardeners. There are many different types of apples, but they broadly fall into 2 categories - dessert apples for eating and cookers, as the name suggests, for cooking! Some however are dual-purpose and are suitable for both uses.

Apple harvesting is upon us and they need to be picked and stored before the first frosts.  You can tell apples are ready for picking normally by taste or another indication is when there are a few lying on the ground around the tree.  When picking an apple, cup it in your hand and pull it with a gentle twist – it should come away easily from the tree with the stalk intact, if not then it’s not quite ready for picking just yet.

Why not invest in an apple picker to help access those hard to reach fruits?  Not only are they quicker to use but safer too and often cushioned to prevent the fruit bruising.  The juiciest fruits always seem to be in the hardest to reach areas!  There seem to be a good choice of apple pickers out there ranging from £10-£15.

Storing apples

Early apple varieties harvested between September and October don’t tend to store well and are best eaten within days after picking.  They can be kept in the fridge in freezer bags to prolong their freshness.  Late varieties harvested in November can last throughout the winter.  These should be wrapped individually in a sheet of newspaper and placed in a single layer in a tray. Check each apple before storing to ensure they are not bruised as they may rot and infect other fruits.  Check them periodically over the winter.

Dutch Apple Cake

Why not whip up our scrummy seasonal Dutch Apple Cake for enjoying with a cosy cuppa or a welcome change to the kids lunch box.  It’s simple to make and even more satisfying if you’re using your own grown apples!  Enjoy.

Ingredients (to make 12-16 squares)
2 eggs
175g caster sugar plus extra for sprinkling
½ tsp vanilla extract
85g butter
75ml milk
125g plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
Cream to serve

Method
1. Preheat oven to 200c/Gas mark 6.  Line the sides and base of a 20cm x 20cm square cake tin with parchment paper.
2. Using an electric whisk, whisk the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until the mixture is thick and mousse-like and the whisk leave a pattern in the mixture.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan with the milk, then pour onto the eggs, whisking all the time.  Sift in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps of flour.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.  
4. Arrange the apple slices over the batter.  They will sink to the bottom.  Sprinkle over a tablespoon of sugar and bake in the oven for ten minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180C/Gas 4 and bake for a further 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.
5. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.  Cut into squares and serve warm with cream.