Undeterred by an impluvious¹ Saturday, I ventured over to Fenton House for their apple event. The sunken garden has a 300 year old orchard, containing lichen crusted standard trees and thick trunked espaliers, indicating their vintage ages.
There are 28 varieties grown here, including 3 unknowns. As they cropped early this year, the apples presented for tasting had to be brought in from further afield (presumably not Tesco!) Having chomped my way across the 5 varieties sliced up for sampling, I decided my favourite was Blenheim Orange (formerly known as Kempster’s Pippin). It was described as “having a nutty, quite sweet taste, and a crumbly texture”. To me, it was akin to the widely available Braeburn: on the sharper side of sweet, and crunchy.
Egremont Russet was used in a juicing demonstration by Fenton House’s gardener Andrew, with the assistance of a boy who enthusiastically told us he was also called Andrew. The russets were chucked, whole, into the hopper, and pulverised by a rotating toothed drum. Then a kind of giant thumb-screw was applied which gradually increased pressure to the mashed up apples, squeezing juice out of a tap at the bottom of the tub. I’d remarked on how different the juice tasted compared to scoffing the apple itself. Apparently this is because when the entire fruit is used, bits like the pith that people don’t usually eat alters the flavour. I wasn’t too keen on Egremont Russet to munch but thought the juice tasted better.
Other appley things included cider (of course!) but I eschewed this in favour of gin. Not very appley, you may think, but this gin had apple juice mixed in along with saffron, cinnamon and a dash of sparkling water. Yum!
The day may have been a wash-out, causing a chill to creep in to the bones, and the fingertips to numb, (a shock to the system as summer had lingered right up to the day before) but it was worth braving the rain for this event.
¹ impluvious: a fabulous but sadly rare word meaning ‘wet with rain’.
Christopher Stocks, Forgotten Fruits: The stories behind Britain’s traditional fruit and vegetables (Windmill: 2009)