Valerie O’Connor deals with the apple glut this week— turning unwanted fruit into cider and cider vinegar.
Anybody lucky enough to have apple trees in their garden will most likely be staring at them right now and thinking, what am I going to do with all these apples?
Are you picking them and handing them out to people?
There is nothing like an Irish apple, and our perfect climate had led to a long history of apple growing and some wild and wonderful names like Bloody Butcher, Widow’s Friend and Ahearne Beauty. Who wouldn’t want to have these as a talking point?
Browsing books to find things to make from chutney to apple tarts, it’s hard to know what to do with this marvelous ‘glut’ from nature.
As kids, we had five apple trees in our garden, three cooking and two eaters, and it seemed that for years they weren’t apple trees at all, as they bore no fruit.
Then suddenly, they burst into life and were laden with the best, thick skinned red and crunchy fruits imaginable. While Mum baked apple tarts, we picked the eaters and Dad got us to wrap them up for storage.
If apples aren’t touching off each other they will keep for months in a dark place, anti-social fruits that they are.
To do this it’s best to use a large cardboard box with those cardboard layers for fruit, from a supermarket most likely, and the newspaper you read over the weekend, and all your lovely, plump and ripe apples.
Wrap each apple individually and lay in in a single layer, lay the cardboard over it — although this step can probably be skipped as they won’t be touching, anyway. Keep wrapping and layering the apples until you are done.
Close the boxes and keep them in the dark and at a steady temperature away from rodents and other opportunistic eaters. This should keep you in apples for the year.
Cider and Apple Cider Vinegar
“Apples naturally want to be cider” according to Julie Calder-Potts from Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny.
The recipe below is for homemade cider and it’s refreshing and only mildly alcoholic, though the longer you leave it the stronger and drier it gets.
Otherwise it is an invigorating and delicious drink from nature. If you have access to local apples, make the most of them with this easy ferment.
Apples are generally organic by default and can often be left to rot on the ground, so if anybody offers you apples, take them and make this, otherwise buy locally grown apples from your local market.
All you need is a juicer, a large 2 litre jar and some muslin. If you have lots and lots of apples then get some demi-johns or plastic five-litre bottles and make as much as you like.
2 dozen sweet apples, preferably unsprayed, washed
1 tsp sea salt
50ml/2 fl oz whey — whey can be made by straining some live yogurt, just tip it into some muslin and leave it strain overnight
1. Wash and sterilise a 2 litre jar and leave it to cool while you juice the apples
2. Pass them through a juicer, pausing to remove the pulp after every 10 apples or so, otherwise it will clog. Skim off the foam (use this for your sourdough making)
3. Pour the juice into your jar and add the salt and whey and give it a stir, cover with muslin and leave at room temperature for 3-4 days.
In winter it’s better to put this in the hot press or somewhere of about 20-22C . Right now the temperature is just fine for apple fermenting.
4. Remove from the hot press, (if using), and put the lid on the jar and keep it somewhere cool or in the fridge where it will store happily for months.
The longer you leave your cider at room temperature, the more it will ferment and the tarter the taste will become. It is deliciously sweet for the first week and then rapidly changes to a face-twisting tartness.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Which leads me to the next recipe — apple cider vinegar is credited with many health benefits and it’s said that a spoon-full every day will relieve arthritis, osteoporosis, soothe burns, help to cure a sore throat, chase away flu symptoms, ease sunburn and it is of course a great aid to digestion.
To bypass your cider, simply leave your muslin covered jar at room temperature for a couple of weeks extra. (You can also use ‘the mother’ from organic cider vinegar as a starter in your home brew).
How will you know when it’s ready? Your taste buds will tell you. You can now smugly bottle your own, home-made apple cider vinegar to give as a gift.
If you want to grow your own apples, Irish varieties are available from www.irishseedsavers.ie in East Clare. They are running a course in creating your own orchard on November 14th and December 12th.
For delicious organic ciders without or Orchard Syrup, check out Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny www.highbankorchards.com
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