Quince and Apple Crumble Cake

I have already written about my plethora of quince.  Before this year, to my shame, I had never cooked with them.  The flowering variety are a very unprepossessing fruit and do not look like they promise much.  However, I have been delighted with everything that I have made which left me with a dilemma.  What to do with my remaining fruit?  They have been sitting on my kitchen table for a week now perfuming the air with their fragrance, but the time had come to use them.  I thought about mixing them with apples for a compote as I am partial to fruit and yogurt at breakfast time.  But my freezer is stuffed to the gills.  I toyed with ideas of conjuring more alcoholic mixes with vodka or gin but could not quite persuade myself.  I was sorely tempted my recipe for Quinceade but in the end decided to go with a variation on my friend Joy’s recipe for Crumble Cake.

Ready for the oven

I combined the quinces with cooking apples and the resulting tart but tasty topping was perfectly offset by the icing sugar dusting.

I made one large 9″ round, which I rather foolishly was hoping would last over the weekend, and four mini loaf tin sized cakes that I intend to squirrel away in the freezer for Christmas hampers in due course.

It works well as a cake and is delicious as a pudding, either hot from the oven or cold, with cream or without.  One I will be adding to the To Be Done Again list.

Quince and Apple Crumble Cake

For the crumble topping:

  • 80g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g sugar

For the fruit

  • 400g quince, peeled, cored and diced
  • 400g cooking apples, peeled cored, and diced
  • 2 tbsps sugar

For the base

  • 100g butter
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt

Ensure all ingredients at room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 190c/Gas 5.  Grease and line a 9″ spring form tin or 4 mini loaf tins.  First prepare the topping.  Rub the butter into the flour and then stir in the sugar.  Set aside in a bowl until needed.  Next prepare the base.  Using an electric mixer, combine all base ingredients and mix for 2 mins until light and fluffy.  Finally prepare fruit and toss with sugar.  Spread base over bottom of tin/s.  Then add fruit, then sprinkle over topping.  Place in centre of oven and bake for about 1 hour (45 mins approx for mini tins @ 170c) until cooked through.  Cool completely in tin.

Cider House Rules – or making cider with minimal equipment and little knowledge

Today our house turned into a Cider House.  It has not, in the past, been known as my favourite beverage.  But I am quietly confident that I will love it from now.  At least, I will love the cider I have made.  I know this because I already do love it.  I have long been admiring the apples hanging from the tree in our garden.  I do not know what variety they are but they look lovely and their flavour is beautiful.

Unfortunately the texture leaves something to be desired.  Eating them is a little akin to chewing a feather pillow.  It has grieved me to leave them to rot but I have no freezer room, and what with the operation and all, have not really been up to organising something more imaginative.  However, the lovely John Wright, of River Cottage fame, came to my rescue with an article he wrote back in September that someone kindly retweeted on Twitter.  John uses a proper apple press but I don’t have such a thing so I did some more rummaging on the t’interweb and discussed the problem with the Captain, knowing he is a practical sort of chappie.  At the very moment I discovered this YouTube video, he burst into the room having reached the same conclusion.  A car jack would apparently solve all our problems.  Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not the end results are drinkable, but we are hopeful.

This is how we went about it: first of all, I washed the apples in the sink.

If anyone can identify them, I would love to know what variety they are.  Once washed, I roughly chopped them, removing any bad bits or grubs and smashed them up in batches using the pulse setting of my food processor.  Traditionally, this stage is done by crushing the apples in a bucket with a stick but that really would have been much too much like hard work.  John Wright suggested using a hand-held blender but mine really wasn’t up to the job so I decided a food processor was really only the next logical option.

We found that the finer the apples were chopped, the more juice they yielded, so my later batches became mushier than the above photo.  Whether this was down to the variety of apple or not is open to debate.

The general advice was once the apples were crushed, they needed to be wrapped in smallish quantities in muslin before pressing.  I found that 2-3 quantities from my processor were about the right amount for a muslin square from Tescos baby department.

While I was doing this, the Captain and the seventeen but very soon to be eighteen year old had been busy constructing the press.

True, it is an apple press that Heath Robinson would have been proud of but it cost us absolutely nothing to construct as all the varies bits of wood used were from the shed, apart from the main platform and that had started life as a cupboard aboard Wand’ring Bark.

So even our cider has a boaty link.  Best of all, and perhaps a little to our surprise, it actually worked!  There was great excitement when with only a little pressure, the juice began to flow.

The advice I had found about pressing all spoke of patient and not hurrying the process, and to press the 11 kilos we had, it took a couple of hours.  Using the food processor made it a lot easier and to have been smashing the apples by hand for that length of time would have been exhausting.

Once the juice had been extracted the remaining apple was dry, crumbly and really fit only for composting.

When we had pressed the lot, we had a respectable total of just under 6 litres.  We decanted the liquid into two demijohns and added 1 1/2 crushed campden tablets to keep the bugs at bay.  Cotton wool then bunged the necks until tomorrow when we will add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of brewers yeast.

The whole process involves a bit of siphoning and decanting and bottling but all in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the morning, cost very little and will hopefully produce something worth drinking.  We have left it too late to be ready for Christmas but late January should see us enjoying a glass.

Tunnels & Haws

It is just as well blogging is a written medium. Discussing haws orally leads to all sorts of embarrassing misunderstandings. Especially mentioning them in the same breath as tunnels, towpaths and canals it seems.

Today we will be travelling through the canal network’s longest tunnel. I am writing, of course, about the Standedge Tunnel. The Captain has barely slept for the excitement. Strangely, I am less moved by the prospect. His recitation of the facts is hardly helping. Apparently it is 3 1/4 miles long, 196m above sea level and 194m below the moors. It is therefore the longest, deepest, highest tunnel in England. It opened in 1811, took 17 years and 50 lives to build. So it is also old and possibly haunted. To go through today one needs a BW escort, a life jacket and a hard hat. So, all things considered, does my lack of excitement surprise you?

I shall console myself with thoughts of my most surprising jam yet: Haw, Apple and Elderberry Jelly. I was very dubious as I mashed the haws with the other fruit. They did not give off the best aroma. But the end result is magnificent. Try it, I dare you!

Haw, Apple & Elderberry Jelly

450g haws

450g apples, cut into chunks

450g elderberries

Water

Sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

Knob of butter

Combine all fruits in preserving pan and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer until soft, crushing with potato masher to extract juices. Pour mix into a scalded muslin bag and strain overnight. Measure juice. Allow 450g of sugar to every 600ml of juice. Return juice to pan with sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently, stirring until sugar dissolved. Add knob of butter and boil rapidly until setting point reached. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

Tunnels & Haws

It is just as well blogging is a written medium. Discussing haws orally leads to all sorts of embarrassing misunderstandings. Especially mentioning them in the same breath as tunnels, towpaths and canals it seems.

Today we will be travelling through the canal network’s longest tunnel. I am writing, of course, about the Standedge Tunnel. The Captain has barely slept for the excitement. Strangely, I am less moved by the prospect. His recitation of the facts is hardly helping. Apparently it is 3 1/4 miles long, 196m above sea level and 194m below the moors. It is therefore the longest, deepest, highest tunnel in England. It opened in 1811, took 17 years and 50 lives to build. So it is also old and possibly haunted. To go through today one needs a BW escort, a life jacket and a hard hat. So, all things considered, does my lack of excitement surprise you?

I shall console myself with thoughts of my most surprising jam yet: Haw, Apple and Elderberry Jelly. I was very dubious as I mashed the haws with the other fruit. They did not give off the best aroma. But the end result is magnificent. Try it, I dare you!

Haw, Apple & Elderberry Jelly

450g haws

450g apples, cut into chunks

450g elderberries

Water

Sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

Knob of butter

Combine all fruits in preserving pan and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer until soft, crushing with potato masher to extract juices. Pour mix into a scalded muslin bag and strain overnight. Measure juice. Allow 450g of sugar to every 600ml of juice. Return juice to pan with sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently, stirring until sugar dissolved. Add knob of butter and boil rapidly until setting point reached. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

Towpath Chutney

Today is one of those days to glory in the delights of boating.

I have taken up my customary position at the pointy end (see pic below!), am basking in the August sunshine, which is English summer day perfect (beautifully sunny with enough chill to need long sleeves), and admiring the Captain as he sweats his way up the Huddersfield Narrow locks. As I sip my freshly brewed coffee, I cannot help but reflect that whoever first decided to build a canal that crossed the Pennines must have been mad as a box of ferrets. But, by ‘eck, I’m glad tha did, lad! It’s simply stunning. Quite the loveliest canal we’ve travelled. Ok, so the locks leak, the pounds are shallow, the foraging has been woeful, but even so.

I’ve walked several miles of towpath setting locks, searching for edibles, admiring views but if truth be told I’m rather glad to have a day when all there is to do is to take it all in. When we get back home, I’ll upload some of the Captain’s photos and you’ll see what I mean.

There was one exciting foraging moment. While waiting to enter a lock, we found a small patch of bilberries on the opposite side from the towpath. Quite unreachable without a boat and only enough for the smallest of small snacklets. Hurrah for boaty foraging!

Yesterday was a serious galley day. Among other things I turned the apples, pears and damsons into a very pleasing chutney. We tried some today for lunch and while it will no doubt improve with keeping, it really was very good!

I adapted a recipe of Pam Corbin’s, but I’m sure she won’t mind ;) To be true to my version, you should gather your pears and damsons from the Calder & Hebble Canal while your apples should come from the New Junction Canal. Good luck with that!

Towpath Chutney

1kg damsons, quartered and stoned

750g pears, peeled, cored and diced

750g apples, peeled, cored and diced

500g onions, finely chopped (mix of red and white)

250g raisins

500g demerara sugar

600ml cider vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

For the spice bag:

50g fresh root ginger, bruised

2 tsp mustard seeds

2 tsp black peppercorns

Make your spice bag by tying up the spices into a 20cm square of muslin. Place in preserving pan with all the other ingredients and bring very slowly to the boil. Stir occasionally. Simmer uncovered for as long as possible until chutney thick – about 3 hours. Pour into warm sterilised jars and seal. Leave to mature for a couple of months if you can!

Scavenging and Apple & Rosehip Jam

Back onto ‘proper’ canals at last! We are now cruising the Calder & Hebble which is quite beautiful so far. I have missed the narrow waterways with their overhanging trees and abundant verges. They seem positively snug compared to the vast openness of the Trent, the Stainforth & Keadby and the Aire & Calder. Those canals offered slim pickings in the way of foraging. In fact, they were bleak, barren landscapes. But then, perhaps just as well. The Captain would not have thanked me if I had wanted to stop on some of those stretches. I suspect he would have refused.

Now that we are on the Calder & Hebble, I am once more finding masses. No matter that the 17 year old refuses to call it foraging. As soon as he realised I would not be using roadkill, he lost interest and now refers to it as scavenging. He also prods things suspiciously or asks to see the packets *sigh*

Anyway. Since getting back into the foraging groove, I’ve found pears, damsons, elderberries, haws, blackberries and rosehips. I was particularly delighted with the pears which are a little under ripe but that should make them all the better for bottling. I shouldn’t sell the previous canals short. I did manage to find some apples and rosehips while on the Aire & Calder. It seemed only right to deal with them first.

I simmered and mashed the rosehips yesterday (by hand this time, we remain inverterless), and set them to drip overnight. Today I turned them into Apple and Rosehip Jam. I added the cider to the water to cook the apples in because I had some to hand. However, it would work as well, maybe better, with just water.

Apple and Rosehip Jam

850g Rosehips

1l water

850g apples, peeled, cored and chopped

100ml cider + 100ml water

800g sugar

Juice of half a lemon

Bring rosehips in the water to the boil and simmer until soft. Mash using a potato masher in the pan. Strain through scalded muslin overnight. Cook apples in 100ml of water and 100ml of cider until soft. Add the rosehip juice, sugar and lemon juice and heat gently until sugar dissolved. Boil for about 15-20 mins till setting point reached. Pour into warm sterilised jars and seal.

Trent & Mersey Towpath Jam

Saturday night we moored at Armitage, just north of the toilet factory. I love that place. The way the toilet bowls are all lined up along the back fence. The way scintillating conversation vanishes down the pan as lavatorial puns abound and we hurry past with no time to loos. Sorry. Had to be done.

Flushed with success (ok, I’ll stop now) over my dewberry moment on Sunday, I was not expecting more. Indeed, I was happy with my lot. I would have been quite content to let the Dewberry Jelly drip overnight and jam it this morning. But this is August the hedgerows are teeming. During the course of the day I had the opportunity to effect my Standing on the Roof of your Narrowboat gathering method for some wild plums which were perfectly ripe.

We ate probably more than we should have done and the rest I set aside for jam and Rumtopf. Then there were the enormous rosehips of the Japanese Rose. If Carlsberg made rosehips, then they would definitely make them like this. Obviously I found dewberries and blackberries. But what most surprised was that the elderberries were beginning to ripen. I found enough inky black ones to throw into my jam.

I needed apples too but our Bramley apple tree had shaken its branches before we left home and I had gathered a bagful of windfalls to bring with me.  As jams go, it is very tasty.  Particularly as by making it two parts the boat was filled with the scent of rosehips, apples and plums one day, then blackberries and elderberries the next.  Divine.

Trent & Mersey Towpath Jam

225g Japanese Rosehips

450g Wild Plums

900g Windfall Apples / Crab Apples

300g Blackberries & Elderberries

450g Sugar

Wash fruit.  Put rosehips, plums and chopped apples (skins & cores) into a preserving pan.  Add water to cover (about 1.2 litres) and cook slowly until the fruit is tender.  Strain in a scalded jelly bag overnight.  Return strained liquid to pan with blackberries & elderberries.  Add sugar and heat gently stirring all the time until sugar has dissolved.  Bring to a fast boil and boil until setting point is reached – about 10 to 15 mins.  Pour into sterilised jars and seal.