Apples of my eye

It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread: sliced apples, peeled and cored by a Chinese-made contraption that spits out a stark-naked apple slinky every seven seconds. These nifty gadgets are all over Trade Me, though I bought mine from the Environment Centre in Riverton, Southland. Best $27.50 I’ve ever spent.

An apple a day? We’re getting through a bag, sometimes two, of ‘Pink Lady’ each week. Next season, when our orchard starts bearing fruit, we’ll be spoiled for choice. I’ve planted the heirloom ‘Winter Banana’, ‘Granny Smith’, dwarf ‘Blush Babe’, ‘Oratia Beauty’, ‘Monty’s Surprise’ (it has the highest levels of cancer-fighting polyphenols in its peel), ‘Initial’, ‘Liberty’ and ‘Baujade’.

Apples are so adaptable. Apple sauce with roast pork, apple pies, crumble, cider and my Grandma Pat’s apple shortcake at Christmas. Grandma turns 93 next month. I rang her up to get her recipe. “A fair bit of butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and an egg,” she said.

First, stew sliced apples with a little water, lemon juice and sugar. The Edmonds Cookery Book recipe calls for three apples, but I use at least four. There’s nothing worse than an apple slice with a stingy smear of fruit in the middle. Next, rub 125g butter into 2 cups of sifted flour. Add 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 beaten egg, 3 tablespoons sugar and just enough milk
to make a firm dough. Divide dough in two. Roll out half to line a sponge roll tin. Strain apples, spread over evenly, then roll out remaining dough and, defying the laws of gravity, place it on top. “It’s a cow of a thing to do without breaking it,” advises Grandma. Prod with a fork before baking at 180C for 20 minutes. When cool, sprinkle with icing sugar and cut into even squares (to avoid squabbles).

Grandma actually prefers apple turnovers. So did my grandfather, Percy, who drowned in a ditch under an upturned tractor a decade before I was born. Grandma remarried and Granddad Evan wasn’t much fond of puff pastry. No wonder, because Grandma made it with mutton fat. It was free on the farm, whereas butter had to be bought. She invented her
own apple turnover recipe, spicing the fruit with cinnamon and nutmeg in a bid to disguise the flavour of the fat. “I never quite achieved it,” she confesses, half a century later, “but the shearers didn’t seem to mind”.

Self Sufficiently Lynda is published each week in Sunday magazine, in the Sunday Star-Times.

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