The apple is a firm favourite in the British fruit bowl, but peel back its humble exterior and you’ll realise that the apple has a huge part to play in our culture and the ecology around us. Set up in 1990 by the charity Common Ground, Apple Day was intended to be both a celebration of the fruit’s diversity and a demonstration of the variety of apples we are in danger of losing. The first Apple Day was held in the old Apple Market in London’s Covent Garden, bringing fruit back to the market after 16 years absence. The event brought together apple growers and nurseries; cider makers and juice pressers; illustrators and writers. Celebrated on the 21 October every year, the day encourages people to organise their own events to bring together families, schools and communities.
If you want to host your own event, the apples themselves must be the stars. We’ve picked out a few fun activities and recipes to help you find some inspiration to host your own event.
Here are three fun activities to celebrate Apple Day.
Printing with apples
To make the blocks, cut the apples in half in both directions, to get either a circle with a star or a classic apple profile with a stem. Add in a few crab apples to give yourselves different sizes to choose from. Use paint from ready-mixed sample pots, painting the surface of the apple with a brush, and pressing it firmly down on to a piece of card.
Longest peel competition
This game can be won twice over: by the person who cuts off the longest, unbroken peel and by the person who guesses the longest peel before they’re hung up. There’s a superstition that if a single woman tosses the peel over her left shoulder it will land in the shape of the first letter of her future husbands name.
This game, often associated with Halloween, dates back to Roman Britain. It was the Romans who introduced the apple to these islands. The tree represented the Pomona the goddess of fruitful abundance and fertility, and on her feast day they would bob for apples, with the first unmarried person to bite one becoming the next person who would be allowed to marry. Today it sorts the brave from the squeamish, especially if you tie arms behind the back to stop cheating.
Recipes to celebrate apple day
Apples can be used to make both sweet and savoury dishes and should of course, be accompanied by local pressed juice and cider. Many people have a favourite apple recipe that they’re willing to make and bring to share. If you want to keep it simple, a big cauldron full of Pumpkin and apple soup, followed by slices of Apple Cake (see recipe below) is a tasty way to please the crowds.
- 6 cooking or eating apples
- 1tbsp ground cinnamon
- 400g (plus 5tbsp) granulated sugar
- 345g plain flour
- 1tbsp baking powder
- 1tsp salt
- 240ml vegetable oil
- 4tbsp orange juice
- 21/2tsp vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 130g walnuts, chopped (optional)
- Icing sugar and dried apple rings to finish
Peel, core and chop apples into 1-2cm chunks. Toss with cinnamon and 5tbsp of granulated sugar, set side. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl whisk together the oil, orange juice, 400g granulated sugar, vanilla extract and eggs. Stir wet ingredients into dry ones. Stir in the walnuts if using.
Pour half the batter into a buttered 25cm cake tin. Spread half the apple chunks over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples in the tin, arrange remaining apples on top. Bake at 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4 for 1.5 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from tin. Dust with icing sugar and dried apple rings.
- 200g golden granulated sugar
- 1tsp white wine vinegar
- 125ml maple syrup
- 25g butter
- 6 small, sweet eating apples, washed
Dissolve the sugar in 100ml water over gentle heat. Add vinegar, maple syrup and butter. Boil for 5-10 minutes, until thickened to a caramel. Push a stick into each apple and dip it to coat with caramel (warm caramel if it begins to thicken too much). Allow to cool.
- 2 litres good-quality cider
- 1 apple (for decoration)
- 6 cloves (stud them into the decorative apple)
- 3-4 star anise
- ¼ a nutmeg, grated into the pan
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla pod, halved
- Juice and zest of 1 orange
- Juice of 2 clementines
- Juice and seeds of 1 pomegranate
- 4-5tbsp caster sugar
Pour cider into large pan on low heat for a few minutes. Add the apple and all spices, and juices, and turn up the heat. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer and leave to tick away for 5-8 minutes. If you are doing this on a fire, you can raise the pan a little further away from the heat to cool to a simmer.
Add more sugar to taste.
Pumpkin and Apple Soup
- 2 onions, peeled and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 500g pumpkin, skinned, seeded and cubed
- 2 baking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
- 570ml vegetables stock
- 300ml dry cider or apple juice
- 2 sprigs fresh sage
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onions and garlic, cook for 2 minutes, then add the pumpkin, chopped apples and sage. Cook for another 2 minutes, season well and add stock and cider or apple juice. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the ingredients are tender.
Liquidise and serve piping hot.
Apple, Leek and Stilton Tarts
- 350g plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 170g butter cubed
- 1 egg
- 2-3 tbsp cold water
- 1 medium leek trimmed
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 medium dessert apple, unpeeled, cored and cut into 8mm cubes
- 3 large eggs
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
- 225g Stilton trimmed of rind and crumbled
Rub the butter into the flour and salt until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg and using a knife stir in just enough cold water to bind the dough together. Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 minutes. Roll out, cut into discs, using a saucer as a template, and press into the pre-greased muffin tin. Leave to rest in a cool place for at least 1 hour. Bake blind at 170°C/Gas 3 for with baking beans for 20 minutes, then bake empty for 5-10 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool.
Cut the leeks into strips and wash, drain and cut again into 6mm x 15mm bits. Heat butter in a heavy skillet and add the leeks and apples. Cook over a medium heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes, then let cool. Lightly beat the eggs and add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Distribute the leeks and apples evenly between the tart shells. Sprinkle the crumbled Stilton between the apples and leeks. Pour the custard over the top. Bake at 150°C/300°F/Gas 2 until the custard just sets in the middle, about 30 minutes.
Events around apple day
This is a small selection of events. You can find many more on the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) website.
Llanerchaeron on Apple Day
Ancient fruit meets modern science
6 October, 11am-4pm. Nationaltrust.org.uk
Killerton Apple Festival
A chance to celebrate fruit trees and the harvest, enjoy cider and apple juice and raise awareness of the conservation of traditional orchards.
12 and13 October, 10am-5pm. Nationaltrust.org.uk
National Apple Festival
A display of hundreds apple varieties and ‘try before you buy’ of the seasonal fruit with over a hundred different varieties on offer to buy and take home.
19 and 20 October, 10am-4pm, £4. www.brogdalecollections.org