It’s Harvest time
We at Orchard Origins have already picked and pressed our first batch of Apple Verjuice. We are keenly watching the the rest of our crop which will go into our apple juices.
Those of you with early season apple are probably already knee deep in baskets of the rosy sweet smelling bounty. Eaten straight from the tree and they’re delicious but if you have later varieties then they will need storing to develop the complex flavours that give them their superior (we think) flavours. Whatever you have, this is the time of year to really enjoy apples in all their regional glory.
Picking – cup the apple in the palm of your hand and gently lift and twist. If you have to tug at your apples they’re not ready to pick.
Storing – store in single layers in a well ventilated, cool, dark place. Sheds are ideal but makes sure they’re rodent free. If you’re uncertain, hanging a small number of apples in bags with holes for ventilation will solve the problem.
Tasting – keep at it, every week. You’re tasting to see if your variety has reached optimum sweetness. i.e. once all the starch has converted into sugar. Over time, this will become second nature as too much starch makes the apples feel a little powdery in your mouth with an absence of flavour. In the meantime, you could purchase some iodine, cut the apple in half and liberally pour over the flesh. If it turns black this indicates an absence of starch.
If you have more apples than you know what to do with and live in Herefordshire then why not get us to press your apples and bottle the juice. That way you can enjoy the flavours of your apples throughout the year. click here for more information on this service.
What better way to kick start July than sipping cocktails made with our delicious Apple Verjuice. The foragers Andy Hamilton and Liz Knight teamed up with The Botanist Gin to tickle our taste-buds at this enjoyable Wild Cocktail evening.
During the morning Andy and Liz led a walk of sixteen (including Orchard Origins Julia) eager to discover which wild plant they could safely forage. The Herefordshire hedgerows and verges were teeming with plants: Hogweed, Agrimony and Meadowsweet to name a few. Apparently, all good ingredients to add as botanicals to gin. The afternoon was dedicated to the art of gin making with Andy who led us sip by sip until we were all making our own blends.
The proof of the pudding came that evening as guests rolled up to a Wild Cocktails and Burger Night set on a picturesque farm nestled into the black mountains with views of Hatterall Hill and the Skirrid. Our Apple Verjuice starred in the Apple Rose cocktail, which went down extremely well.
We put a lot of love and attention into the production of our verjuice, managing the orchard in a wildlife friendly way, harvesting by hand and bottling with a team of dedicated volunteers.
Our friends at Marcher Apple Network have organised visit to a very large fruit tree nursery – fascinating place and not usually open to the public. If you can be in Herefordshire and fancy going along please see flier and contact Jilly directly. (we’ve been and it is an education)
Verjuice was certainly widely used across Europe by the Romans (and may have been used prior to this) and its use persisted as a cooking ingredient throughout the Middle Ages. Unripe grapes were thinned to increase quality and ripening, and with a waste-not-want-not culture they were pressed to produce a souring agent. Since the Romans introduced orchards as they travelled, we suspect that the same process would have been used to produce apple verjuice.
Using a select blend mix of apples from our very own orchard in Herefordshire, we have developed our own truly unique apple verjuice. Pleasingly sour, like lemon juice or vinegar, with a little sweetness to complement its intense fruitiness, the only thing it really compares to is tamarind.
We like to use it to add depth and sharpness to dressings, stews, condiments and soups, and an exciting substitute for sauces where white wine is called for (it is divine in a beurre blanc). It’s delicious in marinades for white meats and fish, gives a unique twist to cakes, and can really enliven cocktails and mocktails!
Go to our shop and list of stockists to find where to buy this and our other deliciously appley products.
Gala is now the biggest selling apple variety in the UK and over the next few years production is expected to increase by another 40 per cent. With its sweet flavour and attractive, sunset-red stripes, it is perhaps easy to see why it is so popular. Gala, like the equally ubiquitous Braeburn, is an apple of New Zealand origin. They both became popular in the 1990s due to their availability in the UK’s off-season. Trial orchards of these antipodean apples were planted and the effect has been a revival of the English apple industry with figures from 2011 showing 39 per cent apples sold here were grown here. This is good news for apple growers, but many people mourn the lack of traditional British apples on our supermarket shelves.
Raymond Blanc, the two michelin starred chef, believes that it is our addiciton to sugar that has led to the popularity of these New Zealand varieties. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph in 2014, he suggested that consumers confuse sweetness with flavour. In his view, the best tasting apples, such as the Cox’s Orange Pippin, have a complex flavour that combine a mix of sweet, sour, acid and bitter. So, this is our guide to a few apples that sadly aren’t available in our supermarkets but which we at Orchard Origins think are delicious. Continue reading
Juicing is a great way of processing plenty of apples and enjoying them long after the eating season is over. At our purpose-built juicing facility in Herefordshire we are able to produce apple juice to retail standards, so whether you want juice for your own consumption or intend to sell it on you can rest assured that our juicing and bottling service is of the highest quality. Continue reading
You may well be thinking that life is too short to spend time in the orchard thinning fruit. In our view, any time spent in an orchard is a bonus. There are, though, some good reasons to thin fruit particularly if your trees are heavy croppers. The main one is that the tree will produce better quality and size fruit – albeit fewer of them – but there are other benefits
- heavy crops can cause limb damage
- fruit will ripen more evenly as more light and air can penetrate the branches
- it may help reduce the spread of pests and diseases
- heavy cropping in young trees can set them back