It is that special time of year when there are apples everywhere, especially cooking apples. We have a large old Bramley tree in our garden and it is so tall that we just have to wait until the apples fall and then use them as soon as possible.
When I was a little girl apples were not available all year round - I know, what kind of crazy is that? Apples,like everything else, were seasonal, so most families would store as many as they could, for as long as they could. We had a cellar, and my father would set up old doors on trestle tables. My parents knew how long each variety would keep for, in the right conditions, and the apples would be set out in rows - not touching - in order of use. Cooking apples would be kept separate and any that were bruised were picked over and bruised bits cut out. We had pies and crumbles, made blackberry and apple jam, and any remaining would be bottled for later.
We had to check the stored apples regularly and any that were deteriorating were removed and used immediately - maybe stewed to eat with our morning porridge.One thing we never made - but I am certain that we would have done if we had known that you could - was fruit leather.
It is very simple to do - prep cooking apples by taking out the core and and removing any bruised or damaged bits. Apple leather is ideal for using up windfalls. Chop the apples, including the skin, and place in a large pan with a small amount of water, to prevent sticking.
Cook the apple until soft and then leave to cool - it needs to be put through a food processor/liquidiser, and if you do this when still very hot then it may splash out through the lid.Process until smooth and there are no big bits of peel left.If you don't have a processor then just push the pulp through a sieve, you probably won't be able to sieve all of it but do your best.
Now, I have a dehydrator, and because it is for work, I got the biggest I could find. It has nine oblong trays and I have never regretted buying it. The one I have is probably a bit over-sized for most homes but there are plenty of smaller ones to choose from. I spread the pulp onto silicon paper in a thick layer and then set the timer for about 8 hours. Follow the instructions with your own machine. You can also put the paper onto baking trays and place in the oven on the lowest possible setting. Leave over night and assess in the morning whether or not the leather is dry enough or needs a little longer. Funnily enough, it will be like leather! It will easily peel away from the paper and I then roll it up like a swiss roll, before slicing across ready for storing. I keep some in a clip top jar for the grand children when they visit.
The leather keeps indefinitely if kept dry and cool and is ideal for taking on walks, for climbers, campers and sailors - and very healthy for children. Do not be tempted to add sugar or honey as it is hydroscopic and will attract moisture. I love making the labels for the packets - 'ingredients: apples'.
That is the miracle of food preservation.
I shall be at The National Fruit Archive, Brogdale Hall, Faversham this Sunday. It is their annual Apple Day and there will be lots of fun activities for all ages. I shall be doing one of the talks in the kitchen so do come along and say hello if you are there.