It is now time to get all the apples safely stored away. The first of the autumn gales and the torrential rain in Devon this week serve as a reminder that autumn and winter are on their way and we need to get in the last of the harvest.
Devon is famous for its cider apple orchards. Like Somerset and Hereford and Worcester, it had been over the centuries one of the main centres for cider making. I saw a remarkable statistic this week that nowadays Great Britain accounts for fully forty per cent of global cider consumption! While the rest of the world drinks wine and beer, we have a liking for cider (of course, as well as the other tipples!)
But our small orchard is not filled with cider apple trees, apart from one or two multi-purpose varieties like “Tom Putt” which can be used for cider, eating or cooking. We have traditional apple varieties that are used for eating, cooking and juicing.
Each autumn we pick and separate the apples into three categories. The best, perfect fruit are kept for eating or cooking through the winter. They are stored in a cool cellar in shallow wooden trays and checked regularly to make sure that none are rotting. Some will be eaten during the winter and others like the wonderful, aromatic “Cornish Gillyflower” or the “Russet” kept for early spring when they will still be perfect to eat.
Less perfect and smaller fruit will be dealt with during October and November. Some will be made into delicious herb and chilli jellies and a wide variety of chutneys which will be sold in the butchers shop. Others will be crushed and put through a juice press to produce delicious refreshing apple juice. The left over crushed apple pulp, or “cheese” as it is sometimes referred to, is then fed to our Gloucester Old Spot pigs.
And as for the rest, ‘windfalls’, apples that have been attacked by wasps or damaged in other ways, these continue to be fed directly to the pigs through late summer and autumn, providing them with tasty nutritious food.
So, our small traditional orchard provides delicious fruit for all of us to enjoy from late summer through into winter. Little wonder that the apple harvest is so important.