|Harvest from one of our 12 trees|
We made every apple thing we could think of:
- Dried apple rings
- Apple sauce
- Apple ice cream
- Fruit leathers
- Apple jelly
- Apple wine
- Cider vinegar
- Apple cordial
- Apple crumble (or pie)
- Baked apples.
I forgot about apple butter, which is on the agenda for next year. Apart from the cider, everything turned out absolutely delicious. The cider is OK, but probably best mulled or turned into vinegar. Next year, wine or cordial only!
First off, I'd recommend the following equipment for speedy processing of apples:
- steam juicer
- electric dehydrator
- apple corer
- mandolin slicer.
|Rosehips and apple thinnings in the steam juicer|
I don't peel any of my apples - life's too short and there's all sorts of goodness in the skin. To separate the apples into juice and pulp, simply fill the steam juicer with your apples (zero processing needed) and steam for 90 to 120 minutes. Steaming times will depend on the apple type (one cooking variety took just 60 minutes to break down completely). Drain the juice (usually around one litre per fill) and reserve for further processing into jelly, wine, cider or cordial. Then mash through as much of the remaining pulp as possible. This results in a very fine apple sauce, which can form the base of fruit leather, ice cream or simply be bottled or frozen as apple sauce. Any few remaining bits left in the top of the steam juicer are gratefully received by chickens (if you have any) or can be composted.
|Apple ring central|
To make apple rings, core the apples and mandolin slice to about 4mm (just under a quarter inch) thick. To prevent discolouration, dip into water with a little citric acid or lemon juice before dehydrating. Lay out the apple rings on your dehydrator trays so that they're not touching and dry at around 60°C/140°F. Drying times will vary depending on the dehydrator and your atmospheric conditions (anything from 4 to 10 hours) - best to check every hour from about the 4 hour mark and remove the rings that are dry. They should be leathery, but not brittle, and not show any signs of moisture when cut. Let them cool for 5-10 minutes and immediately store in an airtight jar.
Apple sauceA very versatile and efficient way to store apples. You can either freeze it or bottle/can it (using the water bath method or heat the filled preserving jars in the oven at 170°C until bubbles start to form). Either use the puree from your steam juicer or core and mandolin slice 20-odd apples and cook on low heat with a little sugar, plus raisins or spices such as cinnamon or ginger, if desired. The sauce itself makes a lovely dessert, served on its own or with cream, creme fraiche or ice cream, or can be used as a pie filling at a later stage.
Ice creamFollow our recipe for strawberry ice cream, but substitute the strawberry puree with fine apple sauce (from the steam juicer) and a generous pinch of cinnamon. This is one of the most delicious ice creams ever and we don't know why this isn't a known flavour.
|Apple and quince fruit leather|
JellyA good way to use up some of the apple juice from the steamer. Apple is good in a jelly combined with rosehips, elderberry or infused with rose geranium.
WineFollow our recipe for hedge wine using the juice from the steam juicer. Try adding some rosehips, brambles, elderberries or blackcurrants to the apples in the steam juicer for a nice blend of flavours. These wines can also be used to make vinegar at a later stage (see below). In my opinion, apple wine is one of the best homebrews, delicious hot or cold.
|Small batch of cider|
VinegarTo make vinegar from cider or wine, you need to add some 'mother' culture to your alcohol to convert it to acetic acid. You could just leave the cap off your bottle, tie over a clean rag and hope for the best. However, for surer results and to speed up the process, add a cup of unpasteurised cider vinegar to your alcohol for your first batch, then tie over a clean rag and store it in the dark for at least a couple of months before straining it and feeding your resulting gloopy 'mother' with some more hedge wine or cider.
Hot fruit cordials are a real delight in the cold days of late autumn and winter. Again, it's nice to combine the apples with rosehips, elderberries or blackcurrants for this. Once you've extracted the juice, add sugar to taste (usually 100-200g per litre) and then bottle/can for long-term storage. I'd err on the side of too little sugar, since you can always add a spoonful of honey to your hot cordial when you're diluting it with hot water. Unfortunately, I only made five half-litre bottles of apple & rosehip and apple & elderberry cordial this year and we're already on the last bottle. Next year, there will be a lot more of these.
Apple crumble (or pie)
|Apple berry mix waiting to be crumbled|
Baked applesCore the apples, stuff with dried fruit and chopped-up nuts of your choice, bake until they split and are all soft inside. Sprinkle over sugar mixed with cinnamon and serve with custard or double cream.
That's all our apples used up! And we now have a good system in place for efficient processing next year.