As summer fades into autumn with misty mornings and soft light so the apple harvest begins.
From savoury dishes with pork to comforting crumbles and pies, juice and cider, the apple is a versatile and much-loved fruit.
Here in the Cotswolds we are fortunate to have many heritage varieties with names and flavours far removed from the all too often bland supermarket fare.
‘Arlingham Schoolboys’, ‘Tewkesbury Baron’, ‘Rose of Cirencester’ and ‘Ashmeads Kernel’ are just some of the apples that date back centuries.
Originally from Central Asia, around 7,500 different varieties of apple are grown across the world with China the main producer. Varieties are classed as eating or cookers while some are dual purpose.
Our love affair with the apple stretches back into antiquity. The fruit has religious and mythological significance in many cultures, featuring in Norse and Greek mythology and Christianity.
The vast range means there’s an apple to suit all tastes and every type of garden. Trees are grafted onto rootstocks to control their size and some can even be grown in a container.
Apples also make decorative garden features: use step-over apples to edge a path and fan-trained or espaliered trees against a wall or fence. Meanwhile, the soft pink and white blossom is the perfect herald of spring.
Plant them as bare-root trees from now to late winter while they are dormant. Choose varieties that will pollinate each other, or, if you have room for just one tree, pick one that’s self-fertile.
Make your choice carefully as an apple tree can live 100 years. With Apple Day on October 21, this month sees many events at orchards across the country. If you can, visit one and taste before you decide.
And for a change from apple pie, here’s one of my favourite recipes.
Mary Berry’s Apple Tarte Tatin
375g of good quality all butter puff pastry
175g granulated sugar
200g peeled and cored cooking apples.
2 tbsp caster sugar
4 large eating apples
plain flour for dusting
butter for greasing.
Oven: 220C/200C/gas 7.
Put the sugar and 6 tbsp of water into a stainless-steel pan and dissolve slowly, stirring all the time. When the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil and cook until pale golden. Pour into a 23cm deep cake tin with a fixed base. Leave to set.
Once the caramel is set, use the butter to grease the sides of the tin above the caramel.
Cut the cooking apples into 2cm dice and put into a pan with the caster sugar and 2tbsp of water. Cover and simmer for 10 mins until soft. Remove from the heat and mash with a fork into a purée. Leave to cool.
Peel, core and thinly slice the eating apples. Arrange in a layer over the caramel. Put the cooled purée on top in an even layer.
Roll out the pastry on a floured surface into a circle 2-3cm bigger than the tin. Place over the apples and tuck the excess pastry down around the apple.
Cut a small steam vent in the centre of the pastry, place on a baking tray to catch any drips and bake in the oven for 35-40 mins until the pastry is crisp.
Turn the tarte tatin out onto a plate and serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.