World Apple Day

Black Butter Ham

The history of Apple Day, held on the 21st of October, is relatively new, the first official celebration was in 1990 in Covent Garden, this event has grown and is now a fixture all over the UK. However, there have been fairs across the south-west cider growing regions for a much longer time. Apple Day is now a celebration of all the myriad varieties of apple, their cultivation, cooking with them and, of course, making cider. There is another tradition much older, as old as cider making itself invoking pagan gods in an ancient fertility ritual which is Wassailing, which takes place in the cider orchards on January 17th.

Black butter

Jersey and Guernsey have a proud apple growing tradition going back many centuries and in Jersey around a fifth of the islands, fertile growing land in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was occupied by orchards. Today both islands boast fine cider makers in La Robeline in Jersey and Roquette in Guernsey. But Jersey has another old, traditional product made from sharp, cider apples, ‘ black butter ’ or ‘ Le Nierre Buerre ’. Black butter is now made on Apple Day, with a great many islanders taking part in the production at the Jersey Nation Trust.

Black butter is made from cider apples, cider and sugar which is slowly cooked and reduced over a very long time, often all night with volunteers stirring all evening, with a special wooden paddle, to prevent the mix burning due to the high sugar content. The concentrate is then flavoured with a secret blend of spices, lemon, and liquorice. During the evening there is traditional singing, dancing, story-telling and perhaps drinking of a few glasses of cider.

The finished product is a sweet, dark, sticky spread which you can eat with a salty cheese or perhaps as an alternative to jam with a scone but my favourite is as a glaze on baked ham.

Black Butter Ham

Ask your butcher to source a traditionally prepared dry cure ham and to tie it for you. For more information on curing please visit A Cooks Compendium. A dry cure ham will shrink less during cooking and produce a better quality easier to cut joint of meat. Poaching the ham before finishing the joint in the oven also improves the carving quality and produce a flavoursome stock from which you can make traditional pea and ham soup.

A piece of boned and rolled dry cured Ham, around 1.5 kg – 2 kg is a nice joint

( ask your butcher to weigh it this is important for cooking times )

1 or 2 onions, peeled

2 carrots, peeled and halved

2 sticks of celery, washed

2 bay leaves

4 cloves

10 – 12 whole coriander seeds

6 – 8 black peppercorns

100 gr Jersey Black Butter

a large pan sufficient to submerge the ham

Place the ham in the pan and cover with cold water. Place on the cooker and bring to the boil. Carefully take to the sink and pour out the water and wash off any scum from the ham. This initial boiling will help reduce excess salt in the finished ham. Cover again with cold water and add the carrots, celery, coriander seeds and peppercorns. Pierce the bay leaves with the cloves, pin to the onions and add to the pan. Bring back to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and cover with lid. Cook for twenty minutes per pound of raw weight. Once the cooking time is finished turn off the heat and leave to go cold in the cooking liquor. This can be done the night before.

Preheat your oven to 400 F /200 C / Gas mark 6. Take out your ham from the cold stock which you can strain and reserve to make an excellent soup. Place on a baking tray and with a sharp knife remove the skin leaving a nice layer of fat. Score through the fat with the tip of your knife to leave small, squares or diamonds. Spread over the Black Butter and cook in the oven for thirty to forty minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

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Bramley Apple Week and the Perfect Apple Crumble

As we are in the middle of Bramley Apple Week, you knew that didn’t you, I wanted to give you a failsafe recipe for that most English of desserts the apple crumble, and you cannot make an apple crumble without a Bramley apple. In 1809 a Southwell* resident, Mary Ann Brailsford planted some apple pips one of which still bears fruit to this day. In 1846 her cottage and garden were sold to one Matthew Bramley and apart from shelling out the cash that is his total contribution. A local nurseryman admired the quality of the apples and asked to be allowed to take some grafts to develop more trees capable of producing the fruit. Matthew Bramley agreed to this on the condition that if the apples went on to any commercial success they would bear his name. The Bramley is now famous and cooks love it for its flavour and excellent cooking qualities. It remains one of the most widely grown British culinary apples.

bramleys

The crumble is a quick and easy pudding that can be adapted to suit the seasons and the different fruits available often partnering softer fruits with apples or pears and enhancing the flavour with the use of spices. Apple crumble is the most popular version of the dish and due to the keeping quality of apples traditionally a staple throughout long winters when very few fresh fruits were available. Apples such as Bramley’s would have been stored in a loft or attic to provide a valuable source of vitamin C from November to February. Today your apples are shipped into supermarkets from around the world to overcome seasonality.

However, if you want to go seasonal and reduce your carbon footprint here are a few ideas spring is when rhubarb comes into its own, I pre-bake mine with brown sugar, ginger orange juice, and zest to help keep the shape and prevent the crumble becoming soggy

During the summer there is an abundance of produce, tart gooseberries with plenty of sugar, cherries, or then raspberries, strawberries, and blackcurrants and that all liven up the last of the previous year’s apples when baked together. Spiced plums, pears, apples, and blackberries are the staples of autumn and on into winter.

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Crumbles are best enjoyed hot, with liberal dollops of custard, clotted cream or a scoop or two of ice cream. You can change the basic recipe for the crumble topping by mixing in oats or a sprinkling of chopped nuts and adding spices such as ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

* Now in passing most people will know Southwell for its pretty minster and horse racing track but now you dear reader know Southwell is the home of the English Bramley cooking apple. The town holds an annual festival each October to celebrate the Bramley.

My Apple Crumble

1kg Bramley Apples

3 tablespoons of Apple Juice or water

2 tablespoons Caster Sugar ( approximately )

Juice of half a Lemon

½ teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg

120 gr Self Raising Flour

100 gr Caster Sugar

75 gr Butter

Optional

40 gr Rolled Oats

40 gr Demerara Sugar

Preheat your oven to 200 C / 400 F/ Gas 6. Wash the apples, peel and cut them into quarters. Remove the cores and slice each piece of apple in two. Put the apple pieces into a medium sized, heavy bottomed pan with the apple and lemon juice and cook over a low heat for about five minutes, until the apples start to soften. I like the apples to start to break up leaving some bigger pieces for texture. Taste the apples for sweetness, sprinkle with sugar as required and carefully stir in. Add the nutmeg and gently stir again. Transfer the apple mixture to a shallow ovenproof dish.

In a bowl blend the flour and butter together by rubbing with the tips of your fingers until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs, alternatively you can pulse together in a food processor for a few seconds. Blend in the caster sugar thoroughly ( at this point stir in the oats and the brown sugar if required ) and then loosely sprinkle the mix over the cooked apples in the dish. Place the crumble in the oven to bake for thirty minutes or until crunchy and golden-brown on top.

Serve with custard, cream or ice cream.

Sausage, Apple and Thyme Hash

Sometimes you just want simple, full flavoured food. Something more than a snack but perhaps nothing as complicated as a full meal. Hash is a great and easy to prepare dish that can be made with beef, corned beef from a tin is great but flakes of your own cured salt beef is better, confit duck and pulled pork. Hash is a dish made from diced or chopped meat, potatoes, and flavourings such as onions, spices and herbs that are mixed together and then cooked. The name is thought to come from the French verb ‘ hacher ‘ meaning to chop. Corned beef hash became especially popular in Britain, during and after the second world war, when rationing limited the availability of fresh meat.

Sausage Hash

You can add just about anything you want to use up in your fridge and ramp up the heat with lots of pepper and chillies if you so choose. I like the sweetness in this recipe that you get from the onions and apples, a classic flavour combination with pork sausage and make sure there is a real good grind of black pepper for a little kick.

Sausage, Apple and Thyme Hash                                             serves 2

6 grilled, good quality Pork Sausages, from your local butcher

500 gr boiled Baby Potatoes, sliced

2 large Spanish Onions, peeled and finely sliced,

2 Red Peppers, de seeded and sliced

2 Crisp Green Eating Apples

2 fresh free range Eggs ( Duck Eggs if you can get them )

80 ml Vegetable Oil

50 gr Butter

½ teaspoon freshly picked Thyme leaves

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

A handful of curly Parsley, washed and finely chopped

Heat half of the oil and the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan until foaming. Add the onions and sauté for five to ten minutes, over a medium heat, until they start to soften but not colour. Add the potatoes, peppers, apples and thyme, stir and cook for ten more minutes until the potatoes are starting to colour. Place the sausage pieces in the pan and finish cooking, stirring occasionally. After ten more minutes, the sausages should be thoroughly heated through and the potatoes nicely golden brown. Season generously and keep warm. In a second frying pan, heat the remaining oil and fry the eggs. Stir in all most all the parsley into the hash, transfer into bowls and top with the eggs and remaining parsley.