In Food in England by Dorothy Hartley there is a description of Apple Cheese as part of the Christmas dessert …
Apple Butter…in its stiffest form this was sometimes called Apple Cheese. Then it was almost candied, and turned out as a dessert dish, at Christmas, apple cheese was set at one end of the table, amber golden, and garnished with hazel nuts and whipped cream, and Damson cheese, ruby dark, garnished with white almonds, and with port wine poured over, at the other end of the table. It was made in all country houses at windfall time. The best was made of one type of apple, but mixed apples, of all sorts, with a quince or two, made a delectable apple butter.
It is an excellent use for windfalls. Here is the method:
Wash and roughly chop the apples without removing cores and skins. Add spices as you prefer – a few whole cloves, cinnamon sticks or cardamom seeds and cook gently to a soft pulp. Put this through a coarse sieve and weigh the pulp. Return to a large pan with an equal weight of sugar. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved then bring to the boil and continue to cook until the sticky pulp is caramel coloured and thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Pour into ramekins, cover with waxed paper and foil. Leave in a cool larder to mature until Christmas.
Apple Pie and Variations
I am not that fond of pastry, so a classic double crust fruit pie doesn’t usually do much for me, but I came to realise this has a lot to do with the British habit of making pastry, even for sweet dishes, with a mixture of lard and butter – or even worse the dreaded margarine. I was moved to ask for the following pastry recipe when my friend, Patti, served a delicious double crust apple pie. It transpired that the recipe had in turn been given to her by her friend Katie. So to the unknown Katie, thank you.
Katie’s Fruit Pie Pastry
8 oz SR Flour
8 oz Plain Flour
10 oz butter
4 oz caster sugar
Grated rind of an orange
2-3 egg yolks
Sift the flours together, add the sugar and grated orange rind then rub in the butter. This can all be done in a food processor. Add sufficient egg yolks to bind. Chill in the fridge for an hour.
This pastry is quite difficult to handle but don’t worry if it falls apart when rolling as it pieces back together again well also.
This quantity of pastry will comfortably line and top an 11-inch/28cm metal pie plate. Metal is vital for conducting the heat to cook the bottom pastry adequately, as it is not blind-baked. This size will take approximately 2lb/1kg of fruit filling, which I always pre-cook so that I can adjust the sweetness to taste and also ensure there is not so much liquid that it will make the pastry soggy.
Blackberry, Apple and Rose-scented Geranium Meringue Pie
Blackberry and apple are a classic combination but last year I learnt a tip from Darina Allen that takes this to a new level – the addition of a couple of rose-scented geranium leaves whilst you cook the apples, which are then removed before filling the pie. The colour taken on from the blackberries is echoed by the light rose-scent these leaves impart. I must confess that despite the vast improvement the above pastry makes to a double-crust fruit pie, I still prefer this topped with meringue. In this case it is best to pre-cook the bottom pastry for 15 minutes at a high heat (190˚C), then turn the heat down to 150˚C, add the cooked filling, top with meringue and bake for 45 minutes to give a meringue that is crisp on the outside but still soft within.
Now is a too late for picking blackberries, so unless you have some in the freezer, that particular combination will have to wait for next year but fear not – I have an equally delicious alternative. Apple and Raisin Meringue is a favourite I remember from my childhood. For 2lb of apple add 4 oz of raisins, the rind and juice of an orange and two tablespoons of spiced rum.
I make up and freeze both of these fillings in bulk with windfall cooking apples. Not only are they great for pies, but also make a special breakfast dish.
Fresh Bay Custard
Bay Leaves are usually associated with savoury dishes, but fresh, not dried, bay makes an unusual custard that transforms even the simplest apple dish such as baked apples.
Custard made with fresh eggs is much thinner than that made with dried eggs in the form of custard powder. If you prefer thicker custard add the cornflour to the eggs and sugar or use an additional egg yolk. Single cream or a mixture of double cream and milk can be substituted for the double cream for slightly less fat but of course less flavour!
Makes ½ pint
3 fresh bay leaves
½ pint of double cream
2 egg yolks
1 oz caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour (optional)
Heat the cream with the bay leaves to simmering point. Draw off the heat and leave, covered, to infuse for half an hour. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and, if using, the cornflour. Strain the cream onto the eggs and return to a clean pan. Heat gently, stirring all the time until the custard thickens slightly, you can take it just to simmering point without the eggs curdling, which the addition of cornflour will also help to avoid.
Dorset Apple Cake
Best served warm, ideally with the Bay Custard above, but can also be served cold.
1 lb dessert or dual purpose apples
4 oz self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 oz butter
3 oz caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
Grease and line a 7″-8″ deep cake tin. Peel, core and chop the apples into approximately ½” chunks. Cream the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy, then gradually beat in the eggs, alternating with sifted flour. Fold in the apples and turn the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake at 180C/Gas Mark 4 for 30-35 minutes until firm to the touch.
A Somerset Rarebit includes a ring of apple beneath the cheese. Heat a couple of tablespoons of cider and then stir in grated cheese until thick. Grate in the ends of apple left over from making the rings and a few drops of Worcester Sauce. Spread a thin layer of the cheese sauce on top of slices of toast, place an apple ring on top and then cover with the remaining cheese sauce. Place under a hot grill until bubbling and brown.