In my feature for last Sunday’s Daily Telegraph I wrote about why Bramley apples have – for hundreds of years now – been the Brit’s go-to cooking apple. But the feature also poses the question of whether we are actually using the Bramley these days as much as we used to. It seems not.
The 2012 crop was apparently a very poor one due to unfavourable weather peculiarities. That autumn the demand for fresh Bramleys was greater than supply and so shoppers did what shoppers do – we chose apple alternatives instead. So far so totally fine and understandable. The real problem started in the following years as supply bounced back but demand had moved on. Seems quite a few of us are sticking with those alternatives and not going back to the Bramley. Even just talking about this over the last week or so I keep finding people who say that yeah, they cook with whatever kind of apple is to hand. They don’t seek out a cooking one.
If that continues and producers can’t find supermarket or other sales outlets for their Bramleys they will simply stop growing them. There is already an upsurge in commrcial orchards ‘grubbing up’ their Bramley trees to make room for other, more profitable crops. And the natural consequence of that will be that we see fewer and fewer Bramleys in the shops or markets until they may disappear from the shelves all together. The cooking apple could well go the way of the cooking pear.
Does all that matter? Well, yes. Only partly for reasons of heritage and tradition. Mainly because the texture, acidity and flavour of a cooking variety brings very different things to a dish than its dessert cousin. I think it is a real shame I’ll never be able to roast a warden pear as the cookers were known. What an even bigger shame it will be if future generations aren’t able to enjoy a pork roast with the fluffiest, tastiest apple sauce that only a cooking apple can give.
Or, to try this mash of celeriac with bramley apple which is just brilliant alongside some winter game. It’s like mash with built-in apple sauce.
Celeriac & Bramley Apple Mash – Serves 6
1 celeriac (approx. 600g)
2 bay leaves
3 Bramley apples
half a whole nutmeg
1. Peel the potatoes, cut up and simmer until cooked through. Drain and set aside.
Peel the celeriac and cut into chunks. Put into a large saucepan with the bay leaves and pour the milk over. The celeriac needs to be immersed in liquid – top up with water if it isn’t. Simmer for 15 minutes until starting to become tender.
2. While the celeriac is cooking, peel and core the Bramley apples. Chop into chunks and then add them to the celeriac after its 15 minutes. Cook for another 10 minutes just until both are tender. Drain, remove the bay leaves, return the celeriac and apples to the pan and sit that over a low heat for barely a minute to dry them out.
3. Mash together the potatoes, celeriac and apple chunks with the butter until smooth. Season well and stir in a few gratings of fresh nutmeg.