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Autumn apples

Apples for Christmas

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JUSTIN RUSSELL picks his first apples of the season, and offers a cheery Christmas recipe using the fruit.


The first of my apples are ripe, just in time for the festivities. I know Christmas has associations with pears, plums and chestnuts, but for me, the apple is king and I’m looking forward to making a special dessert with fruit from my own trees. The earliest to ripen, as usual, is Anna. Bred on a kibbutz in Israel, it’s got a nice little association with Christmas and is perfect for baking, juicing, and snacking on while out pottering in the garden on Boxing Day. 

But what I’m really looking forward to this year is Ribston Pippin. This old variety from Yorkshire dates back to to the early 1700’s and is believed to be a parent of England’s most famous apple, Cox’s Orange Pippin. This lineage suggests that Ribston is a beautiful looking apple, but more importantly, a wonderful apple to eat. So in the interests of research I’m munching away on one as I write. The flavour is rich, aromatic, and complex – about as far removed from your standard supermarket Red Delicious as you can imagine.

One of my favourite appley treats at Christmas is baked apples stuffed with a boozy, buttery core. The recipe works best with a big, firm cooking apple – something like Granny Smith, Twenty Ounce or Rhode Island Greening is perfect – but any in season apple will do the job.

I work on a ratio of one big apple (or two smaller apples) per person, and I start by making my filling. For half a dozen apples, take about a cup of sultanas and 100g of brown sugar, and combine in a bowl with 200ml of good quality port, muscat, whisky, or even a strong, scrumpy-style cider. Allow the fruity mix to macerate for about an hour or until the dried fruit has soaked up some of the booze. Combine this mixture with around 100g of slightly softened butter.

Core your apples, place them on their ends in a ceramic baking dish, and stuff them with the filling. Roughly chop a handful of walnuts and place these on top of the filling as a cap. Then bake the fruit in a 180 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until the apples have softened, and are just on the point of collapse. Allow to cool for five minutes, then serve the apples with vanilla icecream, topped with the warm, buttery pan juices. Perfect for a late dessert on Christmas eve.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone, and see you all again in 2013 for another year of organic gardening goodness!