It’s on the subject of the apple, more than any other fruit, that chefs and cooks often part company.
As one of the latter, and being born and bred in England, I am quite definitely a Bramley lover. Chefs, even English ones, are usually educated in French ways, and as the French never had Bramley apples, they’re not included in classic cuisine. But the Bramley is a star: it has an acidic, yet fragrant, apple flavour and it cooks to a fluffiness not required in French dishes but very much part of English cooking through the ages – as English as apple pie. That said, there are recipes that require firmer apples to keep their shape, and Cox’s and Granny Smiths are both excellent for this purpose.
There are many other varieties of home-grown apples, but in cooking I tend to mostly use these three. They are always widely available and their best season is from the end of August through to March. As the seasons go, I tend to cook with apples in the winter months and use other fruits that are more plentiful during the summer. When I first started cooking, seasons were so important and truly dictated the rhythm of cooking through the year, and, as I’ve said elsewhere, I still find this variation makes cooking more interesting.
When it comes to preparing apples for cooking, unless you’re going at the speed of lightning, you will need a bowl of lightly salted water, as this will prevent them from browning. First of all you need a small, sharp knife and a potato peeler. Cut each apple in half, then cut one half into quarters using the knife, taking out the core and pips. Now, using the peeler, pare off the skin (if the recipe requires it), then, depending on the recipe, slice or chop the apples and add them to the bowl of water as they are prepared.
Use them as quickly as possible, draining in a colander and drying them with a tea cloth first.
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