Monday, 15 October 2012

Heaven and Earth

At this time of year we have a problem. Too many apples. We inherited an old orchard with the house we bought thirty years ago, and have been on a steep learning curve ever since.
Like everybody else of our acquaintance, we thought, if we thought about it at all, apples came in two types – eaters and cookers. And that all apples were used for desert. Gradually, we have learned that apples encapsulate a whole culture.
According to a little book published over twenty years ago, by Common Ground, “you could make an apple pie every day for 16 or more years and not use the same variety twice, eating your way from Stirling Castle to Exeter Cross in the company of the Reverend Wilks and Bess Pool.” What is more, apples are traditionally used for savoury dishes. Apple sauce is served with pork. Apples form an essential ingredient in the red cabbage dish which accompanies rich poultry such as duck and goose in Scandinavia.
“The German kitchen has some particularly good potato recipes,” we are told by cookery writer Elisabeth Luard in The Apple Source Book”, including delicious pancakes made with raw grated potatoes and served with apples or stewed fruit: and an excellent dish known as “Himmel und Erde” which mixes boiled potatoes with apples and crisp fried bacon. This mixture of fruit and vegetables, sweet and sour, is characteristic of northern country cooking – Holland, Belgium, Alsace, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Scandinavia all have similar mixtures.”

To make the Heaven and Earth dish, use firm but sweet apples like reinettes. This makes an excellent supper or light lunch dish.

2lb (1kg) potatoes
2lb (1kg) apples [such as King of the Pippins]
8oz (225g) slab bacon in ¼ inches (6mm) thick slices

You need a large saucepan and a small frying pan.
If the potatoes are new and small, you merely need to wash them. If they are old, peel them closely and quarter them. Put them to boil in plenty of salted water. Peel and cut the apples into chunks the size of the potato pieces. Add them to the potatoes after 10 minutes. Finish cooking both together. By the time the potatoes are cooked the apples will be soft but still holding their shape. Meanwhile, dice the bacon and fry it in its own fat. Drain the cooked apples and potatoes. Pile them into a hot dish and scatter the crisp bacon, with its cooking juices, over the top. Serve immediately.

Other recipes in the book include Grilled Sausages with sage fried apple rings, and Devonshire Rabbits. Vegetarian options include Orchard Toasted Cheese, and Leek and Cockpit Quiche. The book includes information about the growing, harvesting and storing of apples from a number of well-known chefs, gardeners and writers.
As far as I can tell, this book is no longer available, which is very sad. As things stand, people are so busy that they have ‘no time’ to use apples from local gardens – preferring to buy them from the supermarket, in the form of jars and packets of ready-made apple sauce mix – whilst the apples are left lying on the ground beneath the trees. Something is not quite right.

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