Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Apple Day

One of my best days of each year is the day I harvest the bulk of our apples. We have about three dozen trees of about three dozen varieties almost all of which are never seen in the shops.  The early eaters are ready in August but I pick the bulk in late September. We slice and dry a variety that doesn't keep well and the resulting rings are stored in old sweet jars where they would keep for ever or until we eat them, whichever is the sooner.

Some we give away at the gate. It's suprising how reluctant people are to pick up free food. 

Those we want to keep, the best ones, we put in an old, non-working, freezer. It's a tall one with lots of deep drawers. None of that faffing about with wrapping each apple or making sure they don't touch, they just get piled in till the draw if full. Then shut the door tight and don't open it until apples are wanted. Maybe it's the increaed CO2 concentration or something like that in a sealed container that slows down rotting, but whatever, we have as many apples as we can eat through to Easter. And by then it's quite nice to eat something else for a while. A few turn mouldy, but no matter, we chuck them out to the great recycling system of compost.

Of course our trees produce far more apples that we can possibly eat. The bulk of our harvest goes to the local cider maker. By and by, in return, we get a bit of cider. It's a good system, every village should have one. I suppose once upon a time they did.

This afternoon, a van-load of apples delivered, I got chatting to the guy who makes the cider. His is a small part time business, with a production of a few tens of thousands of litres, mostly sold locally. Sales, of course, are drastically down this year with the local pubs closed, but he's cheerful enough. Cider keeps well, unlike draught beer.

He also makes apple juice, over 60,000 bottles per year. Or he did. But not any more. Brexit has put a stop to that rather lucrative side to his enterprise. For the juice making he used to get, very cheaply, the apples that were rejected by the company that graded and packed apples for the supermarkets. Perfectly good apples that were somehow deemed not to be quite the correct size, shape, colour or whatever to please the supermarkets' idea of what their customers want. Waste not want not, these apples are perfect for juicing.

What's Brexit got to do with it? Well, the company that does the grading and packing is big, international, and doesn't care where it operates from so long as the business environment is good there. That does not include post-Brexit UK, so they've upped sticks and moved to the Netherlands. All that grading and packing that used to happen in Lincolnshire now gets done near Rotterdam and the rejects stay there. I hope the Dutch make good use of them. There are consequences not just for our local apple juice maker. Those 60,000 bottles of juice no longer produced means cancellations of orders for 60,000 glass bottles, made in Leeds, 60,000 labels printed in Skegness, cardboard boxes from Louth and 60,000 plastic bottle tops made, I forget where. Repeat every year. Remind me, what was Brexit for?

Anyway, here's what I took down the road this afternoon.

My favourite is the Striped Beefing, a variety found as a chance seedling in 1794 by George Lindsey, nurseryman, in the garden of William Crowe of Lakenham Norwich. It's a cooking apple but mellows to an eater by the new year. They are big apples. Too big for supermarkets.

Just in case you were wondering wether it matters where the reject apples are turned into juice, after all the Netherland isn't far away and we can import it from there, just remember there will be an 18% tariff imposed on imported apple juice, thanks to Brexit, the disaster that keeps taking.


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