Apple County Apple Country

They say that if a medieval Greek man wanted to propose marriage, all he had to do was to toss his Intended an apple. If she caught it, or even tried to catch it (let’s keep her options open as wide as possible here) she agreed to the union.  A powerful thing is the apple.  Can change a life forever.

I know I’ve written about apples before, but I just can’t help it this time.  Here I am in the middle of apple growing country right smack at harvest time, where there are veritable orchards of apples trundling down the narrow high-hedged lanes on their way to make Bulmers’ cider in Hereford. .

“But before Bulmers,” said new friend David, “every farm had its own orchard of cider apples.”  I had puffed my way to the top of his hill and was now sitting gratefully in the comfort of his kitchen.  David, the fourth of ten children, went out to work when he was very young and has worked on the land all his life .  “Before Bulmers”, he repeated, “each farm took their apples to the cider press.  Oh, that was a big day.  It took all day.  Near the press you have to have water to get the juices going.  This one was near a duck pond.  The horse would walk round, turning the huge stone that crushed the apples, and the juice would run into a trough to be caught and poured into their wooden barrels.  (That trough – it took some making because it was carved out of stone.)  They’d take the cider home and put it in the cellar, the coldest part of the house, where it would work [ferment]. All the bad was worked out in froth that would come out the top of the barrel as it was working.

drawing a picture of the barrel getting a tap

It made a little bubbling noise, nothing serious, and a little smell, nothing stinky though.  While it was working you couldn’t drink it – I don’t know what would happen to your insides if you did!  When it was working, all the bad was worked out too.  When it was ready to drink, they would turn the barrel on its end and bang in a tap.  The cider was a little foggy, not as clear as you get nowadays.” Farm workers would take a small gallon barrel to the fields. Lunch would be bread and cheese and cider.  That meant they could stay working on the land all day, “from morn til night” until their big meal in the evening.

And now here I sit surrounded by the gift of apples. I see them everywhere.  How can I resist the cardboard boxes and wooden crates along the wayside, begging to be taken home for free?  Or the loving gifts of apple juice left at our door from people’s own mini orchards?  Even the county symbol is an apple, for Heavens’ sake, and the very air is apple-scented.  There are tiny juicy Coxes, and voluptuously rounded Bramley cookers, shiny red eating apples with a blushing pink inside.   And when I think that these are only a few of the world’s 7500 varieties, just as lovely as the ones I now hold, I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden.  It was probably the apple itself.  A powerful thing is the apple.  It can change history forever.  .

Apple Griddlecakes (Pancakes)

These are usually eaten for breakfast, but they made a good participatory lunch the other day. Guests have to be willing to hover around your kitchen, with a hot drink.  The pancakes must be eaten as soon as they’re done, otherwise they go rubbery.  Waiting nearby for them to slide off the spatula means that you get them hot and fresh.    To make the meal more substantial, pop a tray of sausages into the oven, to cook by themselves as you see to the pancakes. There are a few tricks to making pancakes even more successful.

In a largish bowl, mix together 4 ozs (115 grams, 1 cup) white flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt.

In another small bowl, peel, core, and dice/chop 1 tart apple. In a third bowl mix 8 – 12 tablespoons milk (I started with 8 but needed two more),  2 tablespoons melted butter or oil, and 1 egg. Beat these together well.

Heat your frying pan, or griddle. As it is heating, put the chopped apples into the flour mixture, coating the pieces well.  Then dump all the liquid into the dry ingredients in one great gollup.  Stir gently just until mostly moistened.  Do NOT beat.  Lumps are fine. 

The griddle is hot when you shake water onto it and the droplets bounce off in little balls. You might want to add a little oil to your skillet.  Then spoon the mixture into three or four puddles.  When bubbles come up, turn and cook them for a minute or so longer on the other side.  Eat immediately with butter, maple syrup or honey or jam.  (Note: in our family the best pancakes usually come out at the end – gloriously perfect, just when everyone is too full to eat any more.)

2 sides to the pancake



Roman apple cake, ready for apple-givers. See February 2017 for recipe


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