"Rafe says 'This house always smells of apples'.
It is true; Great Place is set among orchards, and the summer seems to linger in the garrets, where the fruit is stored. At Austin Friars the gardens are raw, saplings bound to stakes. But this is an old house; it was a cottage once, but it was built up for his own use by Sir Henry Colet, father of the learned Dean of St Paul's. When Sir Henry died Lady Christian lived out her days here, and then by Sir Henry's will the house devolved to the Mercer's Guild. He holds it on a 50-year-sub-lease, which should see him out, and Gregory in. Gregory's children can grow up in the aroma of baking, of honey and sliced apples, raisins and cloves. He says 'Rafe, I must get Gregory married' 'I'll make a memorandum' Rafe says, and laughs."
Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel, 2012, p 137
I loved this book, and imagining Thomas Cromwell in a house in Stepney scented with apples gave me great pleasure. All that remains of those orchards are maps and place names, so we went to Kentish orchards instead and tasted all sorts. My friend was very impressed at how many apples I could fit into the two-bags-for-a-fiver on offer. The trick was to choose the smaller ones, and then eat them down to the stalk and the pips. It rained most of the day, so we were too damp and lazy to make a note of what we stuffed into our bags, but a vague memory and a quick squint at the national collection website confirmed that my favourite was the Zabergau Renette, the russety apple speckled with red at the centre top of the basket.
It's not all good news for apples however. I was utterly dismayed to hear on the news that 40% of the apples sold by our largest supermarket chain are wasted. Joanna's thoughtful post on "the power of free" suggests how we might avoid waste and make good. Clearly more places need to be filled with the aroma of baking, of honey and sliced apples, raisins and cloves. Or parsnip and apple soup, celery and apple salad, apple sauce, chutney. I'm thinking apple crumble tonight to go with supper, just for a start, or maybe an apple cake or two. I need a few more ideas though so...
I'm also thinking maybe it's time to spread a little urban making and baking love. A little while back food writer and allotment holder Jojo Tulloh came to our WI and I bought a copy of her book The Modern Peasant with the specific idea of sharing it. It's not a glossy modern baking book, but a more reflective exploration of how city dwellers can make the best of what's available locally, including growing our own, preserving and fermenting. You don't have to live in a city to enjoy the book. Some of the text might make you wince a little (did we need to know, Jojo, that you parked your bike in a mews etc?). But its heart is in the right place and the recipes are for everyone who might want a little food adventure.
Here's the deal. If you'd like your name to go into the basket to win a copy of the book, leave me a comment with your favourite apple recipe suggestions, with links if you can because we might want to make it. I'll leave the comments open until 30th October and publish the winner on Halloween.