Bramley apples have been around for over 200 years and remain the first choice when a recipe calls for cooking or baking apples. In fact, each year in the UK we eat around 100 million fresh Bramley apples and 250 million that have been processed.
And with farmers in Sussex repeatedly harvesting excellent crops, there's never been a better time to enjoy what is often referred to as "the King of Cooking Apples". Sunshine and showers is the recipe for growing success - good weather in the spring at pollination time brings out their natural sugars, imparting a superb flavour, and of course a few good sprinklings of rain help to produce large fruit.
The story of the Bramley started with a chance planting 200 years ago, in 1809. A little girl called Mary Ann Brailsford took some pips from apples her mother was preparing and sowed them in her Nottinghamshire garden. It's not known what variety of apple the pips came from, but one germinated and began to grow into a tree. By the time the cottage (and garden) passed into the ownership of one Matthew Bramley, a local butcher, a tree had flourished and was bearing fruit – and it must have been pretty special, because before long cuttings were taken and the new species was named the Bramley.
The Bramley has a low sugar to acid ratio compared with other apples, which means its outstanding tangy flavour is retained after cooking. Once cooked, the texture is light and moist due to its higher water content. It is these unique properties that make the apple so beloved of professional chefs and home cooks alike.
I'm not a great lover of using fruit in savoury recipes, but I make an exception for the Bramley, which adds a fantastic bittersweet element to recipes such as Chicken Pesto Penne recipe.
And when it comes to desserts, one of my favourites is tarte tatin – the classic French caramelised "upside down" apple tart, which I make with Bramleys with an outer layer of crisp English Cox's to help it hold its shape. Served with a dollop of crème fraiche it's almost unbeatable. I say "almost" – because if I had to choose between that and traditional apple pie, spiked with freshly gathered blackberries and smothered in velvety custard – well, that might just win, by a pip.
Tags: Bramley Apples