Here in Somerset this time of year is marked by the apple harvest, particularly cider apples which grow in large orchards dotted around the county. It's always pleasant to see orchards, both big and small, as we drive locally, and I notice that there are sometimes little ones attached to houses which are not much bigger than a back garden.
About three weeks ago I harvested the apples from our own little tree, and was relieved to find that there weren't too many this year. Perhaps that sounds an odd thing to be pleased about, but I must admit that once I've cooked a lot of them and given some away I sometimes struggle to use them before they rot. Here are some of this year's haul. I don't know what variety they are, but they are definitely eating apples.
Last year was a very good year for apples - look how many we picked! The tree itself is only a couple of feet taller than me, so this was a record. I filled the freezer with lots of stewed and pureed apple, as well as apple buns, and apple cake.
My parents also have apple trees in their garden, as well as pears of which I am very fond. Here are their pears about five weeks ago with a lovely clematis climbing through them.
I think pears are very aesthetically pleasing, especially their shape and mellow colours, and I love them for their sweetness.
In the same family as apples and pears is the quince. It's an ancient fruit which appears in mythology and folklore, and is associated with love and fertility. I am fond of quinces, and would love to have a tree in our garden, but think we probably don't have the room for one, sadly. They are often available from farm shops and farmer's markets, and are yellowy with a fluffy down on their skins. I think they are rather lovely, and like to enjoy their highly perfumed aroma in a basket before I cook them.
Here are some quinces which I recently bought from Wells market. I let them sit in the kitchen for a week and enjoyed their scent before deciding to use them to make a crumble. I've called it Orchard Crumble because it also has some of our apples and a couple of pears in it too.
Quinces must be cooked, rather than eaten raw, and are quite hard to cut through. They resemble apples and pears when cut in half.
To make the crumble I chopped six apples and six quinces into small pieces and gently cooked them for 15 minutes in a very little water, then added two pears (as they are already quite soft) right at the end, as well as a little sugar to taste. Then I made the crumble topping. It's one I often use to top different fruits such as plums, rhubarb, peaches and bananas:
175g self-raising flour
I tsp cinnamon (ginger is nice with rhubarb or pears)
125g butter or margerine
125g brown sugar
4 tbsp rolled oats
I sifted the flour and cinnamon together and rubbed in the butter to make breadcrumbs, then stirred in the sugar and oats. I sprinkled it on top of the fruit in a heatproof dish, and baked it for 20 minutes at Gas Mark 6 (200 degrees C). This is how it looked when it was done. I like to add the oats because not only are they good for you, they make an interesting texture.
We ate it warm with some Greek yoghurt, and you can see that when it's cooked the quince turns a delicate pinkish colour. It was a success and was pronounced delicious, and I shall definitely make it again. Yum!
(P.S. Sue grows and uses quinces in lots of lovely recipes in her blog, The Quince Tree - it's well worth a look)