Our kitchen has been the site of an enormous apple mountain over the last week or so – which is all very appropriate considering that October 21st was Apple Day, when communities up and down the country celebrate the humble apple.
We have but one apple tree of our own at the moment – a highly fruitful Downton Pippin In fact, I love this tree so much I have included it in several orchard planting projects in the last few years. And we are never short of a box or bag of stray apples looking for a good home at this time of year to add to our own harvest.
I do love a spot of chutney making and now is the perfect time to be making jewelled pots of deliciousness to squirrel away for the Winter. This year we have expanded our repertoire to include pumpkin and apple chutney, apple,blackberry and cinammon chutney as well as our usual family apple chutney recipe. And thanks to a chance remark and a recipe from my Twittermate Karen Thorne of Hopton House I’ve a few jars of delicious spiced apple butter to grace the pantry shelves as well.
There’s something therapeutic and wholesome about chopping seasonal fruit and veg, mixing it with spices and storing it up for the future. What’s more, it’s a great way to spend a few hours in the kitchen with children. It’s one of our October half term rituals along with Christmas cake making and pumpkin carving – inevitably. And it’s not lost on me that I can now share the love by distributing a whole lot of homemade, delicious Christmas gifts to teachers, friends and neighbours come December. Result!
Of course our Downton Pippin has absolutely no connection to a fictional Abbey of the same name (Sundays 9pm ITV). I must say I am a little bemused at the number of people who are convinced that there must be one. Nevertheless I feel I should indulge devotees and pay homage of sorts to Downton and Mrs Patmore by making a traditional Apple Charlotte with the few apples that remain. Here’s the ‘receipt’.
175g / 6oz butter
750g / 1 ½ lb apples (half Bramley and half Downton Pippins or similar)
2 egg yolks
half a loaf of good white bread
Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F.
Look out a deep cake tin or other baking tin of a 1 litre capacity.
Peel, core and slice the apples. Put in a pan with a knob of butter, a very little water and 2-4 tablespoons caster sugar, according to the sweetness of your apples. Cook gently until the juices run, then over a higher heat, until the apple is soft and can easily be beaten to a pulp. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Beat in the egg yolks off the heat and leave to cool while you prepare the tin.
Melt the butter.
Cut the bread into 1cm thick slices and remove the crusts. Dip the slices of bread into the melted butter briefly on each side and line the tin tightly with them so that there are no gaps. You can use some beaten egg white to brush over any joins to seal them if you like.
Pour the apple pulp into the lined tin and top with a last slice of bread, also dipped in butter. Cover the top with an ovenproof plate. Bake at 200C / 400F for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 190C / 375F, remove the plate and bake for another 40 minutes until golden.
Give it at least 10 minutes to cool slightly before serving, then slide a knife around the inside edge to release the pudding and invert it onto a serving plate.
Perfect for munching on Sunday evenings in front of the telebox, I’d say!