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Apple-Pressing Time Again

When Too Much Is Just Enough

This year has seen a bumper crop of apples on the trees in the garden and the orchard. The Bramley tree in particular has not only produced a large number of cooking apples, but most of them were huge—easily twice the size of a normal eating variety.

The problem has always been what to do with them.

I like apples, and that old adage about ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ may actually have some truth to it.

According to the latest scientific research, apples are chock full of Vitamin C and soluble fibre. They don’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels, and so are ideal for most diabetics. Studies have linked the consumption of apples with a lowered risk of heart disease, and they can even lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, halving your risk of having a stroke.

The antioxidants contained in apples may play a part in limiting the growth of cancer cells. Including apples, berries, and other flavonoid-rich foods in your diet helps reduce your chances of Alzheimer’s disease.

Apples are also rich in pectin, a type of starch, which helps to feed the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut, keeping your digestion in good shape and boosting your immune system, as well as encouraging your body to absorb calcium.

What’s not to like?

But what to do with ’em?
But cooking apples have always been a bit of a problem for me. Apart from making the occasional crumble, I don’t do much baking with them, and there are only so many bags of stewed apples you can store in a chest freezer.

Fortunately, a few years ago my local pub came up with a brilliant solution.

Around October time, they organise several pulping and pressing sessions for villagers to bring their cast-off apples. I took several bucketsful of the mutant cookers, which were so big they had to be chopped in half or they kept jamming the pulping machine.

The process
This piece of equipment looks like a cross between a wood chipper and an army mortar. You drop the apples into the top and mush oozes out of the bottom. (I know, I make it sound so tempting…)

The pulp is then transferred to the small press for the first run through. I suppose, if you were comparing it to olive oil, this would be the extra virgin stuff.

Then the pulp is transferred again to the big press, which manages to extract just about every last drop of moisture.

The proof of the pudding…
The resultant juice, just from the Bramley cooking apples with nothing else added, is not quite as sickly sweet as the apple juice I’m familiar with. It’s just sweet enough to be tasty and refreshing, brimming with flavour and containing no hidden extra ingredients—just apples. It’s also a little cloudy, and tends to have sediment in the bottom of the bottle, but if that bothers you, you could always strain the juice through a piece of muslin and then rebottle it.

The straight juice will keep in the fridge for about a week before it starts to ferment and the bottle bloats. I took four one-litre plastic bottles so I could freeze three and keep one out to enjoy.

Any excess apple juice left over goes into the pub’s own cider-making process, so everybody wins.

Of course, not all the apple trees in the garden produce fruit you’d want to eat. The crab apples have also been abundant this year. I have been collecting windfalls to take up to a friend with a local smallholding. She kept four piglets, who thoroughly enjoyed chasing the apples around their paddock and rooting about for them in the mud.

Meanwhile, I’ve just picked the last of the James Grieve eating apples, and a friend has given me some Katy apples—also eaters. Neither of these are varieties I’ve ever come across in a supermarket, but they taste wonderful and keep for ages in the salad drawer of the fridge.

As I said before—what’s not to like?

This week’s Word of the Week is malic, meaning pertaining to, or derived from, apples, or obtained from the juice of apples. From the French malique, from the Latin malum, meaning an apple or fruit in general, particularly if it’s exotic. Malic acid, which can be found in unripe apples, was discovered in 1785 by Swedish/German chemist, Carl Wilhelm Scheele.

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