Apple Bonanza Autumn

A rare sight in my garden in October. I know these little guys are common elsewhere in the world but not in my patch….

In case you were wondering, the apple cider vinegar saga started in the latter part of this post has rumbled on gently for a month; from our heat wave in the early part of the month till the cooler wetter weather we are currently enjoying the house has been swamped with apples.

The fruit flies have been and gone, lured into the laundry room by the sweet smell of sugary apples, only one managed to fall in one morning – now the first batch is on the way to becoming vinegar slowly but surely. I have a second batch of apples bubbling away cheerily, a small sup of home made cider in the mornings definitely wakes you up!

We peer in most mornings and have a sniff to see how it’s changed and it’s coming along nicely.

Vinegar production, from what I understand from conversation and a little bit of reading, is a slow process and relies ultimately on acetobacter landing on the liquid to convert any alcohol to vinegar.

Like many of these fermentation projects the trick is to get the right bacteria in there at the right point in the process, so like sourdough starters, sometimes it’s good to have a little help from your friends.

I was given some acetobacter (it looks like a semi translucent bit of jelly) by Mitch and popped it into the brew and it is working beautifully. I asked a cider seller at the local market whether they had it, but he looked shifty and claimed that vinegar took five years to make and was less than helpful on the subject. Maybe some special aged balsamic variety takes that long and I have no doubt that vinegar matures and evolves over time too, but it would seem possible to get something serviceable within a few months.  For much more detail and delightful writing on this exciting process I recommend visiting Miskmask’s Vinegar Diaries now on Day 30. and also the guy who kickstarted us all making it, Carl Legge whose blog is looking very smart, all kitted out in its new theme.

My neighbours’ apple trees are still chucking them down and I still keep getting gifted more. It has been an outstanding season for apples here, the long mild autumn weather allowing fruit to ripen fully on the trees.

Over last weekend we finally dealt with the outstanding Concorde pears from our garden tree. We peeled and quartered them, left them in a bowl of salted water with citric acid while we puzzled over the mysteries of the screw top Kilner jars, and I think, hope, have successfully managed to bottle six big jars of garden pears in a vanilla sugar syrup. Brian took on the job of packing, saying it reminded him of Meccano. I think he did a great job!   We followed Pam Corbin as usual from her book Preserves and used an oven water bath method.

While slowly doing this I thought about the women who must have spent weeks preparing and bottling fruits not so many years ago. I grumble at peeling pears for an afternoon, I don’t know if I could do it for days and days at a time, but if needs must then one finds a way I suppose and the satisfaction from knowing you have preserved something you have grown yourself, even in relatively small quantities as a townie like me does, is immense.

I also made a lovely olive oil and apple cake – quite different in texture from the Ottolenghi cakes I made recently and much simpler in method, though it does take an age to prepare the fruit if you’re me, easily distracted.  This cake’s recipe was shared by Carla Tomasi on Facebook and is based on an Anna del Conti recipe so it has an excellent lineage. I hope I did it justice. Carla has kindly put the recipe on her new blog here.

It uses a huge quantity of fresh fruit and has a wonderful light pudding texture. I have put one in the freezer and distributed others to the neighbours who promptly give me more apples back in return. Hey ho. Apples everywhere.

NB I found some left over chopped apple from this cake in the fridge, I had doused them in lemon juice and they had kept well. I fried them in some bacon fat, Mr Misk Style, and slapped them with the bacon between two pieces of sourcream sandwich bread and a

dollop of home made tomato ketchup, again the recipe for that is in the Pam Corbin book and several people have blogged their versions. Please see the comments on this Tomato passata post if you want to follow this up.

31 thoughts on “Apple Bonanza Autumn

  1. hotlyspiced

    Wow! How impressive. I have never thought of making vinegar. We love apple cider vinegar and use it to make mint sauce for a roast leg of lamb plus many other things. But I buy mine from a store – not nearly as good as reaching for a jar of home made cider vinegar!

    1. Joanna Post author

      It’s a bit of a long drawn out process which is why it’s maybe not done so much, but it’s interesting to try and see what’s involved and you meet nice people along the way to chat to, just like making sourdough bread… :)

  2. ceciliag

    You have got so much going in the house at the moment. We are making pear cider this weekend, hopefully, otherwise i would be preserving baskets of pears too.. apples were no good here, so next year i will make the vinegar.. i am dying to try it out!.. c

    1. Joanna Post author

      Perry! I think that sounds delicious, you operate on a far bigger scale than me though. I am the Marie Antoinette of home fermentation :D

  3. Misk Cooks

    Thanks for the mention! :D I’ve had batch #1 and #2 sitting side-by-side under the same tented tea towel for about 2-weeks, and batch #2 has developed its own MOM. Sort of like cross-pollination or contamination or contagion or some other ‘con’ word. Anyway both batch are now with MOMs. I reckon that means adoption papers and ceremonies and a formal naming and launching like Mr Misk does for all his big blue ships.

    Darn my brain is wandering. It must be the Dire Straights CD I’m listening to…

    1. Joanna Post author

      My two lots are side by side but clothed in their own separate muslin hoodies. I have one lot still making cider so am waiting till the bubbles subside a bit more before I strain them out. The smells change every day. Fascinating :)

      1. Misk Cooks

        I’m not going to decant batch #1 until I find some proper bottles. I found a likely candidate at Lakeland, so might order those.

        1. Joanna Post author

          We had a couple of suitable bottles so have washed and oven heated and decanted, but like you I must find some more for later and the bigger batches :)

  4. heidi

    Your kitchen looks very productive!
    I’ve been baking and making- but nothing as earthy and elemental as vinegar- or even canning of pears. Apples do seem to be the mainstay of many a kitchen this season, though, as I have also made at least 3 versions of apple cakes. They are all so different yet taste so good!
    I’m still trying to come up with the plans for my gingerbread house. I wish I knew an architect who would draw them up for me. I have definite ideas-and can muddle through with the building, but hate to have to draw up my own plans.
    We are going through a wet and cold Autumn here, as well. Just think – next week it is November!?

    1. Joanna Post author

      It’s all an illusion, as I say I am the Marie Antoinnette of food blogging, but thank you. Canning the pears almost finished me off for good :D

      It just occured to me to google ‘gingerbread house designs’ and …. there appear to be loads of books on Amazon and free templates and what not out there… and a competition. As I can’t make gingerbread men without breaking their legs I can only admire from afar….. How about a gingerbread bakery? xxx

  5. Choclette

    Those bottled pears look amazing – your satisfaction rates should be 20 out of 10 for doing that. I get bored of peeling very quickly. Enough for a cake, I can cope with, but I need to go and peel a load of apples now (will make puree) before they go off and I’m not looking forward to it.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Peeling pears is more fun than apples for some reason, I think they are easier. Do you use a melon baller to take out the middles? My Swedish aunt taught me that trick :)

  6. teawithhazel

    all your apple/pear goings on remind me of appley dapply (

    your pears look stunning..i’ve recently eaten the last jar of the pears i bottled last was great to have them as a standby to serve as a simple sweet with an egg custard..and your cake’s texture looks really interesting and quite different to other apple cakes..i imagine it tasted as good as it looks..yum..:)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Appley Dapply is one of the Potter books I didn’t have, but I will have a peek at it next time I’m in a bookstore, thanks. I’m a Pigling Bland and Jemima Puddleduck fan though :)

      I’m really hoping the pears worked, never done anything quite like that before. The cake is yum, I think Carla is starting a blog soon, so if she posts the recipe on there I will link to it then. Brian complained that it looked like a big bit of cake but ate like a smaller one, in other words it was light and fluffy. Perfect!

  7. veryberryhandmade

    I’m a new-ish visitor to your blog – I’m finding it really interesting reading, as a fellow baking enthusiast. Those pears look fabulous, and I don’t even much like pears… I shall be back to read more about your cider vinegar adventures.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks so much for visiting me VeryBerry!

      just been reading your blog and admiring those slippers, ‘fussy cut,’ why do kids always get the best slippers :D . And I am going to make crumpets again, yours look perfect and I need to try again. Thanks!

  8. sallybr

    Joanna, I’ve been meaning to leave a comment ever since I got notification of this post by email and came over to read it – life is soooo busy it took me the whole day to finally do it.. (sigh)

    the apple cake is unreal, I cannot stop dreaming about a slice – I guess the recipe is some place in Facebook world?

    Of course, I am amazed at you making your own vinegar, how cool!

    wonderful post, as usual..

    (hope you are going to have a great weekend!)

    1. Joanna Post author

      You are a dear to come back and comment xx I know you are super busy. As I said above I think Carla is starting a blog any day now and her recipe will probably be on there. The vinegar project is a bit bonkers but interesting. I am glad I don’t have a microscope to see all the life in there, I would probably chuck it if I could see it ;)

      1. sallybr

        You made me laugh… I broke a flask with bacteria today, made a complete mess over my bench, and cannot get the smell off my mind… oh, well – some days are just hard, and this Friday was particularly tough. It’s not even Friday 13th, but it’s close to Halloween so maybe that explains it ;-)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I find it most productive when I put them in a bag and pass them on. The freezer is full, I tried drying some but they went a bit funny. I was just reading Christine’s post on drying apple rings and that looked quite splendid, but it’s not warm enough overnight to do that here. They are diminishing in numbers though, slowly but surely. And of course you can have cake, always xx

  9. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts

    That photo of fruit peelings made me gulp a little! I don’t know if I would have the patience – although I imagine if I could allow myself to relax in to it and not worry about time, it could be quite relaxing. The end result would pay off too :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      The preparation of the raw materials in most preserves is always underplayed in terms of the time involved I find. Though of course there may be speed peelers and choppers out there, I am not one of them :) I alternately relax into it, and grumble, and wander off and do something else and come back, butterfly. I have been known to stop making supper and decide to clean the fridge… I am very disorganized in real life, but that’s me :D

  10. C

    What a lovely lot of fruit and preserving going on in your kitchen at the moment Joanna. I bet it all smells absolutely delicious! I’m very impressed by the packing of those pears – they look all neat and orderly. I bet if I tried they’d be all a mess ;-)

    1. Joanna Post author

      C I will tell him what you said – That’s Brian’s work – neat and orderly :) I did one lot a few weeks ago which all bobbed up, he said I didn’t pack them properly, so he took over this time.

  11. Pingback: Dan Lepard’s Cider Vinegar Bread Muffins « Zeb Bakes

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