St George, Devon 10 November 1997
Having survived both kids' birthdays last week, as well as the fireworks
of Bonfire Night (to celebrate Bella, of course), there is no point
in anymore denying the inevitable onset of autumn leading into winter.
Even though the weather is still bright, the days are short, it is already
dark by 5 pm, and the high pressure brings surprisingly cold temperatures.
Still, there are compensations: it is apple time in Devon, which means
not just the new season's crop of eating apples (our favourites remain
Cox's Orange Pippin, which combine so well that English character of
sweetness allied with sharp fruity acidity), but also Devon cider. If
you have never tasted real Devon "scrumpy", then you haven't lived.
The real stuff, produced from mixtures of local bittersharp and bittersweet
cider apples, is gloriously harsh and rasping, rich in acid and tannin
and definitely something of an acquired taste. We love it, er, no, not
actually to drink but to cook with in place of wine, its character adding
an unmistakable "taste of Devon".
past weekend, we visited our local Green Valley Cider in nearby Clyst
St George, and the children learned from cidermaker Chris how traditional
cider is made: the apples first milled to a pulp, then layered into
a "cheese", and simply pressed, the juice run off into barrels
and allowed to ferment naturally. Guy, his friend Tom, and Bella loved
holding cups under the streaming juice to taste it as it flowed direct
from the press (though Chris warned them not to drink too much or risk
spending the rest of the day on the toilet, a prospect the kids found
hilarious). Afterwards we purchased both fresh apple juice as well as
dry cider for cooking this local favourite: pork and apples in cider.
Pork and Apples in Cider
25 g/ 1
oz butter, preferably from Devon (we like Quicke's of Newton St Cyres'
whey butter best)
2 lb organic pork, trimmed and cut into cubes
ground black pepper
apples, cored and sliced
1/2 pt dry Devon cider (there is no substitute, but you could try an
equivalent mixture of dry white wine and fresh apple juice)
clotted cream (again, no substitute, though the richest thick double
cream will still give good results)
butter and oil in a large casserole. Sauté the onion with the
sage until soft and golden. Add the pork and brown. Season with salt
and plenty of black pepper. Add the sliced apples and pour on the cider.
Slowly bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours. Just
before serving, take a couple of spoonfuls of the gravy and mix with
the clotted cream to a smooth paste. Return to the casserole, stir in
well, and heat gently for a few minutes. Serve garnished with parsley.
or drinks suggestions: Though purists might drink "scrumpy"
with this dish, we suggest a neutral and not too fruity dry white wine
such as Javier Ochoa's Navarra Blanco, or fresh, not overly acidic white
Côtes du Rhône.