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Recipes For The Apple Harvest

apple
Apple scrap vinegar. Photo by Maude Farrugia

It’s apple season again! Apples eaten in season and fresh are definitely the best for flavour, crunch and vitality. If you have a healthy apple tree at home, you may well be wondering what to do with them all. Never fear, there are lots of ways to use up your apple harvest and preserve the excess.

With an endless choice of varieties that cover almost the entire alphabet, apples can be grown in every state, and are harvested from January to May depending on where you live. If stored carefully you can be eating fresh apples all year round.

Whether you’re lucky enough to have your own apple tree, can snaffle a few boxes of seconds from the markets or wild harvest the trees in your neighbourhood, the apple bonanza is upon us. Here are some ideas from several Australian apple growers to make the most of this year’s harvest.

APPLE SCRAP VINEGAR

Recipe by Maude Farrugia

Apple scrap vinegar turns a few simple ingredients into something far greater than the sum of its parts. Unlike apple cider vinegar, which is made of the high-value pure fermented juice from apples, apple scrap vinegar is made from little more than the waste from processing apples.

But don’t be put off by its scrappy name—it tastes remarkably similar to its more prestigious cider-derived cousin, and can be made in bucket loads when apple eating season is on! It’s also a great addition to homemade cleaning mixes, and has multiple culinary and medicinal uses.

Note: not all apples are made equal, and the flavours you get from different varieties will result in different flavoured vinegars. In general we use whatever we have to hand, however these common eating varieties are also well-known to create a decent cider blend: Yates, Granny Smith and Cox’s Orange Pippin.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. raw sugar
  • 1 tbsp. boiling water
  • 1 litre of soft water (rainwater or tap water that has been boiled and allowed to cool or been left uncovered for 24 hours)
  • 100 g organic apple scraps (peels and chopped cores—you can hoard these in a container in the fridge over a few days until you have enough to make vinegar)

Method

  1. Add raw sugar and boiling water to a large jar or jug that will hold a little over 1 litre. Stir until sugar dissolves.
  2. Add water, then apple scraps. Stir vigorously and cover loosely with muslin or calico.
  3. Repeat stirring 3–5 times per day until mixture begins to bubble of its own accord and smells a little alcoholic (usually takes a week or less).
  4. Strain out the apple scraps (they can be composted) and return to jar.
  5. Continue stirring 2–3 times a day (or less, it will just take longer to turn into vinegar).

Begin testing your brew every few days for vinegary-ness. It will start out tasting a lot like apple cider, and become more and more sour as the acid-making bacteria colonise it. Once it reaches a level of sourness and flavour you enjoy you can bottle it.

If you’ve bottled it a little ‘young’, the vinegar may still complete a secondary fermentation once bottled, so it’s wise to release the lid every so often to let off any gas that may have accumulated.

Photo by Maude Farrugia

Clockwise from top: Apple scrap vinegar; Blake’s cider; The apple press; Apples for making cider. Following

apples
Photo by Blake Harder
wine
Photo by Blake Harder
press
Photo by Tom Fitzgerald

APPLE CIDER

Recipe by Blake Harder, permaculture designer.

Ingredients

  • 30 kg of mixed apples, tart and sweet (roughly equates to 25 L of apple juice, depending on variety)
  • Raw sugar for secondary fermentation (1 tsp per 750 ml bottle)
  • 1 sachet of brewing yeast (optional)

Equipment

  • Mechanical crusher or a sturdy bucket and a clean, sharp spade/shovel or length of sturdy timber
  • Apple press (hydraulic, jack or worm-gear) or heavy-duty home juicer
  • 1 x 20–25 L brewing vessel, sterilised
  • Air lock
  • Hydrometer (optional)
  • Bottles and caps to suit volume (sterlised)
  • Capper
  • Teaspoon and funnel for spooning sugar into bottles
  • Siphon (some brewing vessels have a tap at the bottom which eliminates the need to siphon)

Method

1. Juicing apples and fill barrel

  • Juicing apples involves two stages: crushing and pressing. This process helps to achieve a clear juice with little sediment. Crush/bash/macerate the fruit either mechanically or by hand with a bucket and your choice of implement from the list above. You are aiming to release as much juice as possible, this means less work for your press/juicer and more juice for you. If processing by hand you may want to start with small batches (2-5kg).
  • Transfer the crushed apple (called the pomace) into your chosen press/juicer and press out the juice. If using a home juicer, you may want to filter the juice at this point. Pour into your brewing vessel, it should be close to full. Too much air may introduce unwanted bacteria which may make your brew ‘sick’. The leftover pomace (mostly apple skins, pulp and seeds) is a good addition to the compost or can be fed to most farm animals.
  • Using the hydrometer, measure and record the Specific Gravity (SG) of your juice. It should fall in the range of 1050–1075. The SG is the density of any liquid compared to water. The higher the reading, the denser the liquid, and therefore the more natural sugar present. The higher the sugar content, the drier your cider will taste.
  • If you don’t have a hydrometer, you know when your cider is ready to bottle once the airlock has stopped bubbling for at least a couple of days (keeping in mind that fermentation is affected by temperature, so some brews may stop if it gets too cold and start again when it warms up—I’ve never seen this with cider though).

2. Add yeast or go wild!

  • Pitch (sprinkle) the yeast on top of the juice. Avoid stirring as the yeast is more effective enmasse. The yeast will create a happy bubbling layer on top within a few days which also acts as a barrier against any unwanted bacteria. I have had good, consistent results using a champagne yeast (EC- 118). You may wish to be adventurous and try other yeast strains.
  • If you decide to go commercial yeast free, or wild, then you are simply relying on the bacteria present on the apples and in the air to do the fermenting. It is a slower process and gives a different (yet wildly pleasant) result every time.

Place the lid on your vessel; be sure it is airtight. Insert the air lock. Place your brew in a room that has a steady temperature (15–20 °C).

3. Wait and measure

  • Your brew should start fermenting anywhere between 24 hours and 7 days. The airlock should be cheerfully gurgling away. Don’t worry if it starts off frothing, it just means you have a very active brew. Check the SG after a week of constant stable bubbling, then again every couple of days until you begin to record the same measurement (1000–1010). Your brew is ready for bottling.

4. Bottle and wait

• Add sugar to clean bottles then pour in cider, cap and label. Place in a cool, dark room to complete the secondary fermentation (the fizzy bit) for at least two weeks. Alternatively, you could bottle your cider without additional sugar and drink it flat or mixed with soda water.

• Cider can be cellared. Those made with a commercial yeast have a shorter shelf-life than wild ferments. In my experience, wild fermented cider will mellow at around 12 months or more, whereas commercial yeast brews are best consumed within 12 months.

To calculate the alcohol content of your brew, the most common formula is: ABV = (OG – FG) x 131.251

• ABV = Alcohol By Volume

• OG = Original Gravity, the first Specific Gravity reading before fermentation (e.g. 1.060)

• FG = Final Gravity, the final Specific Gravity reading before bottling (e.g. 1.002)

As an example: ABV = (1.060 – 1.002) x 131.25

Therefore ABV = 7.61% (this value may increase slightly if you decide to do a secondary fermentation)

Cider can be as simple or as complex as you want. Good brewing is all about observing natural patterns.

APPLE ROLY POLY

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Apple roly poly. Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt

Recipe by Stan and Briony Robert from Fat Carrot Farm

This recipe comes from Briony’s great-grandmother and is a family favourite. It’s a basic scone dough filled with apple and served with a butterscotch sauce. A really great and simple dessert after a hard day’s work on the farm.

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1 cup self-raising flour (wholemeal/unbleached mix)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Approx. ½ cup of milk (maybe a bit less)

Filling:

  • 2 large apples (we use our Gravensteins early in the season, Bramleys in the middle and Sturmers late in the season)
  • 1 tbsp. raw sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon (freshly ground)

Sauce:

  • 375 ml water
  • 3 tbsp. raw sugar
  • 2 tbsp. golden syrup
  • 3 tbsp. butter

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ÅãC.
  2. Rub the butter into the flour.
  3. Mix in the milk, enough to make a light, sticky, scone dough.
  4. Roll the dough into a rough circle about 5–10 mm thick.
  5. Grate the apple onto one half of the dough circle, keeping clear of the edges.
  6. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the apple.
  7. Roll up the dough starting from the apple side, pinch the ends closed and place the roll into a snug-fitting baking dish.
  8. In a small saucepan, combine the sauce ingredients and bring to the boil.
  9. Pour over the roll and bake, uncovered, in the oven for 30–45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crispy. Serve warm with cream.

4 WAYS TO PRESERVE APPLES

Recipes by Emily Stokes

1. Dehydrating

Slice your apples across, as thin as you can. Don’t worry about peeling and coring unless you have an abundance of time on your hands. Lay your apple slices in your dehydrator or solar dryer and dry until crispy. Store in an airtight jar. They will keep in a cool cupboard for a few years and makes a tasty snack.

2. Freezing

Core and cut up apples and add them to a bowl with salt water or lemon juice. This will stop them from going brown as you are cutting. Once your apples are all cut, drain the bowl and place the apples in Ziploc bags to freeze. If your bags hold enough for a pie filling then winter desserts are very quick and easy.

3. Slow Cooker Applesauce

Wash, peel, core and slice apples, then add them to a slow cooker. Add a little water and cook on high for a few hours. Add some cinnamon and give the apples a good mix. Cook for another few hours, then let your applesauce cool. Store applesauce in the freezer or bottle it using your normal bottling method.

4. Cool Storage

If you have spare room in your fridge or a cool pantry or cellar, your apples will store well for up to six months. Apples can be stored in a plastic bag or wrapped in newspaper individually or just on their own (preferably in a single layer). They will store best if you check them and remove any fruit that is spoiling. Choose your best fruit for long-term storage.

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