From J.K. Rowling who described September as “crisp and golden as an apple,” to the 17th-century English poet, Andrew Marvell who exclaimed: “What a wondrous life is this I lead! Ripe apples drop about my head,” many think of this season as a season for apples. Try these recipes to mark the occasion.
Apple Fritters in Ale Batter
“Frutours” or “fitours” were a great favorite on medieval menus. They usually appeared as part of the last course and were dusted with sugar. Sweet root vegetables such as parsnips, as well as almonds and edible flower, were also battered and fried. This recipes was researched by Sara Paston-Williams for the National Trust.
For the Batter
- 4oz plain flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- ¼ pint ale or still dry cider
- 2 egg whites
- Oil for deep-frying
- Caster sugar and ground cinnamon for sprinkling
Make the fritter batter first so that it has time to rest for at least 30 minutes before using.
- Sieve the flour and cinnamon together into a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour the oil into this, followed by the pale ale or cider.
- Gradually beat the liquids into the dry ingredients to make a smooth, creamy batter. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- When ready to cook, head the oil for deep frying to 375°F.
- Peel, core and slice the apples in ¼ inch thick rings and sprinkle with lemon juice and caster sugar.
- Whisk the eggs whites until stiff and fold them into the batter to make it extra light.
- Make the fritters in small batches of 3 or 4 at a time.
- Pat the apples slices with a kitchen paper to mop up any excess lemon juice, dip them into the batter using a skewer or kitchen tongs, then shake off any excess batter.
- Lower carefully into the hot fat and fry for about 4 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
- Drain well on kitchen paper and keep hot in a single uncovered layer in a cool oven until all are cooked.
- Serve piping hot, sprinkled with caster sugar and cinnamon
Many National Trust properties have apples growing both in walled gardens and in orchards. At this time of year, the apples are ripening and will soon be ready for harvesting. During this season, some of the properties make their own cider with the bounty. Try your hand at making cider using these instructions from the National Trust.
Ingredients and supplies
- A presser
- A siphon tube
- Bungs and air locks (rubber bungs are best, as the cork ones sometimes come apart upon removal) – as many as you have demijohns
- Sterilizing tablets
- Cotton wool (big, thick blocks are better than balls)
- Airtight lock bottles
- Prepare the bottles
Sterilize your demijohns with sterilizing tablets, using 1 per demi john, and then rinse afterwards.
- Wash the apples
Submerge them in a tub of water and rub them around—not too vigorously, as the yeast lives on the skin.
- Prepare and ‘scrat’ the apples
Cut and quarter the apples, and cut out any mould or rot, which can taint the juice. Don’t worry about getting rid of pips or stalks.Then, ‘scrat’ the apples – essentially, you’re trying to form a pulp from the chopped apples. You can use a ‘scratter’ to do this – a metal basket with a cog mechanism in the bottom, which crushes the fruit; or, try a more low-tech method such as mashing them in a bucket with a sturdy wooden club. Pulping the apples before pressing results in far more juice than simply trying to press the apple segments.
Put the pulp in the press and extract the juice into a clean trug or bucket.
- Start the fermenting process
Fill up the demijohns with juice and put wad of cotton wool in the top, to prevent dirt getting in but allowing for fermentation overflow. Place the demijohns somewhere warm (such as an airing cupboard, or next to a radiator) to kick start the fermentation process. Over the next 2-3 days you should see brown froth coming up over the neck of the demijohn – hence the cotton wool – before it recedes back. Once the liquid has calmed down, you can remove it from the warm place and put it somewhere out the way at room temperature – preferably somewhere that doesn’t have much temperature fluctuation. Remove the cotton wool, clean the neck of the demijohn, and top up with cold water until the liquid is 2-3cm from the neck. Then put in a sterilized bung and airlock, with the airlock being half filled with sterile water. Once the airlock is on tight, the bubbles will be furiously popping their way through.For the first week or two you’ll see very fast bubbling, and there may be an egg-y smell as it ferments – this is normal.
- Racking off
After a couple of weeks or so, when there is about an inch of sediment on the bottom, and the bubbles have slowed down, it’s time to ‘rack off’ the juice. Ensure the second demijohn and siphon tube have been sterilized. First, place the full demijohn at height (on a table, for example) and putting the one to be filled at a lower level (on a chair or on the floor). Add sugar syrup to the empty demijohn at the rate of 170g per gallon – melt the sugar first in a saucepan over a low heat with a splash bit of water until it is a syrup, then pour it in the empty demijohn before you siphon the juice in.Put the siphon tube in the first demijohn, without disturbing the sediment on the bottom. Suck the end of it to get the juice flowing and then quickly put it in the empty demijohn to begin filling (don’t try it at this stage – the flavor is not pleasant). Avoid siphoning the dregs at the bottom. Once you have siphoned your juice, top up your newly filled demijohn with cold water if necessary. Replace the airlock and bung (sterilize them between demijohns to avoid taint). Then, replace the demijohn in your chosen location of room temperature – the air lock should proceed to bubble again although more steadily this time. After a few more weeks – the higher the temperature, the faster it ferments – look for the sediment layer and the clearing of the juice. Once it goes a clear sparkling gold, you can bottle it.
- Bottle your cider
Sterilize all your bottles, and add spoonfuls of sugar to each (1 tsp for dry cider, 1.5 tsp for medium, 2 tsp for sweet). Use your sterilized siphon tube to rack the juice off from the demijohn into the bottles – again with the demijohn on the table and bottles at a lower height. You can taste is at this stage, but don’t worry if it doesn’t taste good – it’s not ready yet. Once bottled, keep them upright and put them somewhere cool (such as a garage or outhouse) to undergo a second, cooler fermentation over the winter months.
- Get ready to drink…
Try it during winter – the longer you leave it, the better it will be. National Trust rangers usually begin to drink their batches from April onwards; by that time, the cider will have a fizzy pop when you open the bottle and should pour out clear, gold and sparkling. When pouring, it’s best to leave the dregs in the bottle as they will cloud the glass. These ciders have come out at 8.2% – but each batch will differ, depending on how long you leave it before drinking.