Not parsley sage rosemary and thyme but ancient and modern varieties of apples and pears. I was visiting my friend Vera en route for a parish outing, and there were the stalls set up right opposite her house (this is the thing about my friend Vera, she has such style – who else has ancient and modern fruit for sale, straight from the orchard, right across the street?) Vera has an apple tree in her own garden, and took one of her harvest of six apples over to the market to see if they could help her identify the fruit. They checked all the catalogues and couldn’t find it but are on the case. Come January, the man from Newburgh Orchard Group is going to contact her to take a graft … too technical for me but clearly they really care about their rare species.
Then lo and behold, wasn’t Newburgh Apple Fair featured on Landward last week. Dougie Vipond visited Newburgh Primary School where they showed him a thing or two about growing rare apples; then he teamed up with Nick Nairn to try and encourage the good citizens of Dundee to try different apples from those normally available in the supermarket. They made the toffee with a spot of cider vinegar, and used quartered apples instead of the whole, to give a nice chunky tasty mouthful. Dundee liked them very much and I decided to give them a go, last night, for Hallowe’en.
Well I’ve never made toffee before, although I remember my Mum regularly making treacle toffee in the winter, and toffee apples at Hallowe’en. Vera had lent me her mother’s sugar thermometer (is that what it’s called?) and my recipe said ‘boil for ten minutes or until it reaches 140 degrees ‘. Even after 15 minutes it hadn’t reached 140 but I lost my nerve and stopped at that point. Anyway it all went fine, the toffee apples were delicious, but there was one left over and this morning, the toffee has sort of slithered off the apple and onto the plate. Not to worry. I thought perhaps my pot was knackered for good with all that sticky stuff coating it, but I just soaked it overnight and this morning it’s brand new. And although it was a close thing, I haven’t lost any fillings from my teeth.
Verdict? I’ve done toffee apples now; I don’t need to do them again. But don’t let me stop you. Instead I’ll try and find those rare apple breeds that Dougie Vipond was talking about.