The Jam #5 Heavenly Apples

Heavenly autumn, heavenly apples, assuming you’ve swagged some of ours? They might not have grown in the Heavenly Mountains (Tian Shan in Chinese) - the snow-tipped ranges stretching from western China to the shores of the Caspian that bequeathed the fruit to the world - but they did come from the next best thing in modern day Britain at least: Brogdale.
 
For the uninitiated, Brodgale, near Faversham in Kent, has been home to the National Apple Collection since the orchard was moved there in the early 1950s from Wisley, in Surrey. In a neat twist of apple history, Brogdale is near Teynham, where, in 1533, Henry VIII’s fruiterer, Richard Harris, established what was probably England’s first large fruit collection. 
 
We’ve been helping to sell Brogdale’s crop since 2020, but we can’t do it without you. Each week, Sky, Kai and Monty the jamhound head down to Brogdale to load up our Land Rover with the pick of that week’s apple crop, which you can buy by clicking here. We can ship nationally or you can pop to the Jam Factory to pick it up on Fridays or Saturdays. Yes, it’s that simple.
 
Your reward is a mouthful of British social history best served sliced after dinner with a story or two about how Victorian social climbers, enriched by the Industrial Revolution, grew apples on their new country estates to compete with the landed aristocracy who, in turn, poured money into their land to stay ahead.
 
“Discerning Victorians of the 1890s discussed the flavour of their apples as passionately as they debated the finer points of wine….they had hundreds of varieties to choose from, most of which had been selected specifically for the dessert over the last 60 or 70 years,” writes Joan Morgan, who is probably the only person alive to have taste and annotated almost every one of the world’s apple varieties, and Alison Richards in The Book of Apples, a majestic homage to a glorious fruit.
 
Serving fruit for dessert was a mark of class, with vast platters doubling up as table decoration. Baked apple puddings were also popular; Britain was unique for the variety of its cookers, which today are dominated by the Bramley’s Seedling (much to Kai’s disgust; he’d like to see more variety). “Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness,” wrote Jane Austen to her sister Constance in 1815. 
But fashions change and apples fell out of favour - not to mention flavour, as commercial growers chased varieties that would withstand being sold at markets and, later, supermarkets. “The first half of the 20th century might have been the swan song of the English apple,” writes Morgan and Richards, were it not for three people: Edward Bunyard, JMS Potter, and Mortan Shand, who toiled to keep Britain's apple tradition alive by writing about the fruit, growing it and helping to log the different types.
 
Although Britain imports the vast bulk of its apples - the Braeburns, the Jazzes, the Fujis - we’re lucky to have Brogdale, where the National Apple Collection contains more than 2,000 varieties and includes almost every apple that has ever been esteemed anywhere in the world. For Kai, an apple should be “crisp but juicy: it needs some edge,” he thinks. Others prefer theirs softer to ease that first bite into the flesh. 
 
So far this season, which started in late August, we’ve had Ribston Pippins, Kidd’s Orange Reds and Cox’s Orange Pippins. The Ribston Pippin is a particular favourite: believed to have been raised in 1707 from pips brought from Rouen by Sir Henry Goodricke to Ribston Hall, near Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, it was the most highly esteemed Victorian dessert apple. We’ve been slicing it for pudding after snatching the last of the autumn warmth in the garden. How about you? Which ones do you like best? We’ll include a sticker telling you about each variety we pack into your bag. Do let us know. And please buy some!  
Meet the Designer: Elizabeth Friedländer 
 
We love German-born Elizbeth Friedländer for her vibrant pink and green geometric design that adorns our Raspberry Deluxe, Kai’s favourite jam, no less. Her sharp-edged pink flowers, from another Curwen Press pattern paper, screamed raspberries to us, as did that colour combo.
 
Friedländer, who fled Berlin in 1936, is fascinating but her name is less well known than her artwork, which featured on many mid-century titles from the likes of Penguin, Thames & Hudson, Italy’s Mondadori and Mills & Boons. She even invented her own font - Elizabeth - which was commissioned by the Frankfurt-based Bauer Type Foundry in 1928 and is still in use in digital form. 
What we’re eating
 
Raspberry Deluxe, of course! Kai likes his spread thickly over salted butter on sourdough fresh from the bakery. The taste takes him back to his childhood: his father grew raspberries and would use each summer’s crop to make jam.
 
As we’re talking apples this week, Kai’s family also had an Egremont Russet tree, which made wonderful jam. It’s a little bit sombre, but we still have a jar of Mr Knutson senior’s apple jam dating back to 2008, which was the last batch he made, which we can’t bring ourselves to eat. It’s nice to see it there, well preserved! 
  

After a stint in Milan, she wound up in London on a Domestic Service visa afforded to her by the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, who were helping people flee persecution, intending to make it to the US. Instead, she moved to Ireland in the early 1960s, living in Kinsale, in county Cork, where she died in 1984. Her archive, including a violin made in 1703 that had belonged to her mother, is kept in University College Cork. The instrument is loaned out each year to outstanding students at the Cork School of Music. 

 

Plus apples. Lots of apples. Apples in crumbles (see The Jam #4 for Sky’s crumble tips), apples in pies, apples sliced up with pears to go with a cheeseboard for supper. Try the different textures, see which variety goes best with which cheese - we like ALL the cheeses from Neal's Yard Dairy -  and see which one brings out different flavours.

Or how about pan-frying some sliced apples with some shredded red cabbage, chopped bacon and a few wedges of black pudding for an easy supper? Yum. How about some toffee apples? Everyone loves a toffee apple, once a year, at least. We like Simon Hopkinson for a bit of classical direction but be bold!

Go forth and create and please, do tell us what you’ve been making! 

 
Meanwhile, Kai and Sky are excited to be heading off to their family home in Ireland, where they'll be walking in the wind and rain, eating warm gingerbread with Spiced Apple Butter and hoping to cosy down with some good books. Their holiday reading list kicks off with John Le Carré's final novel Silverview before segueing to Dan Saladino's Eating to Extinction. Lubrication will be provided by Richard Godwin's The Spirits.
 
One last request: if you’ve enjoyed this newsletter, please forward it to your friends! And don’t forget to have a look at our webshop where you’ll find all our jams, chutneys, heritage fruit bags, books and MORE! Or - better still - come and visit us in Bermondsey any Saturday morning. You can stock up on cheese and much more from our Spa Terminus neighbours while you’re there.
 
Happy Jamming! 
 
Sky and Kai xx