Apple Cheese, Sweet-Meats of the Season
I love the idea of a fruit preserve so thick and dense that to eat it you need to slice it, as though it were flesh. The best known of these types of preserved fruits is quince paste. We think of quince paste as a Spanish thing (membrillo), to be eaten with manchego cheese, and of course it is, but Britain has a long tradition of making fruit cheeses as well.
Quinces probably make the best and most aromatic fruit cheeses but in the past fruits like apples, damson and medlars were used. As a method for preserving fruit, fruit cheeses are perhaps not the most sophisticated, however, they produce a delicious sweet-meat that goes so well with sharp, salty cheese. Think a good strong farmhouse cheddar and digestive biscuits.
I made this apple cheese with Bramley apples, perhaps not the most interesting of apples flavourwise but they are cheap. According to The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened (1669) the best apples to use are aromatic varieties such as Cox’s orange pippins, or even better but more rare is the Worcester Pearmain. This variety has a beautiful red flush with a strawberry like scent. You can usually find these in October and November at specialist green grocers, and are totally worth the search.
Making the apple cheese was a lot easier than I imagined. I was expecting it to stick and burn but it was absolutely fine, as long as you keep an eye on it and stir frequently. As the apple cheese is cooked for so long I thought it might taste dark and jammy; but there was half the amount of sugar to apples so it just tastes intensely of apples, no surprise there then. You can add lemon peel and other spices if you want to experiment. Obvious delicious combinations like cinnamon and cloves.
This makes enough apple cheese for roughly 1lb jar.
1 kg apples (I used Bramley apples but any good British apple would be good)
Peel, core and slice the apples. You want to use half the amount of sugar to prepared apples. Say the apples weight 800g you will need 400g sugar.
Cook the apples and sugar over a low heat in a large heavy based pot. When the apples have softened and started to break up you can blend this mixture if you want it very smooth and beautiful. I was lazy and didn’t bother as the apples break up so much themselves. This mixture just gets boiled down for 30 – 40 minutes until it is dark and thick. Stir it constantly to make sure it doesn’t stick and burn. Use a long spoon as it spits a bit. Oh boy, do sugar burns hurt.
When it is very thick you can decant it into a jar. You can also pour it into a loaf tin so it sets into a nice shape that is easy to slice. I put mine into a jar because it is easier to store.