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The Ghost Of Apples Past

They were worth the tummy ache.

At least, they must have been, because we could never resist picking and eating the apples from our tree long before they were ready (and, in truth, they never got that sweet anyway). We would use them to play bob the apple at Hallowe’en and, later, they would be arrayed on makeshift tables in the shed and would keep us in stewed apple, apple tarts and glorious baked apples for the winter.

Neither, I might add, could we resist climbing our apple tree and, on occasion, swinging from its branches.

Swinging from the apple tree

My brother demonstrating the fine art of swinging from an apple tree

My brother Tom doesn’t swing from apple trees anymore (at least, I don’t think he does) and, while my parents long ago moved away from the site of that particular tree, there is another in its place.


One of the best things about October: the Ma's Howgate Wonder apples

As my mother’s Howgate Wonders don’t keep particularly well, most of them are stewed and frozen to make them last. At this time of year, though, when they’re not long off the tree, there is no better thing to do than bake them. And my Ma’s baked apples, tasting of times past and present, are, quite simply, the best.

Baked apples

The Ma's apples, baked

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Ma’s Baked Apples

These really are the simplest things in the world to make.

You just need apples, sugar, butter, cloves and either an apple corer or some other means of removing part of the apple core. I improvised with a corkscrew and a spoon handle to get the job done.

Coring the apple

No appler corer? Then may I suggest you improvise.

The only other thing that you need to be aware of is that the degree to which the apple flesh softens while baking will really depend on the type of apple you use. Bramleys, for example, will break down quite readily, while my Ma’s Howgate Wonders are much firmer, but they do bake divinely.

You’ll need, per person:
  • 1 cooking apple (large or small, depending on your appetite)
  • 2-3 tsp granulated sugar
  • small knob of butter (0.5-1 tsp)
  • 2 cloves
You’ll also need:
  • An apple corer or other implement to remove part of the apple core, plus one or more baking trays or ovenproof dishes, enough to accommodate your apples.
The Steps:
  • Preheat your oven to 180C
  • Cut a slit in the skin of each apple, right around the thickest part of the fruit (around its waist, you might say). This will head off any irregular bursting that might happen while the apple bakes.
  • Remove about 2/3rds of the apple core using an apple corer, leaving a base for the sugar to sit on. If you don’t have an apple corer (and I didn’t), you can use a corkscrew or perhaps a small vegetable knife to cut down through the core and, say, a narrow spoon handle to clear the contents.
  • Fill the now-empty core with sugar, top with a knob of butter and stick 2 cloves into the butter.
  • Sit the apples on a tray or ovenproof dish, pour a small amount of water (say 100-200ml) around them and bake, uncovered, until the skin has started to brown in spots and shrink back from the centre slit. The flesh will also have softened to some degree, though this will depend on both the size and type of the apple – mine take around 30 minutes or so for large-ish specimens.
  • Eat on their own or with the very classic accompaniment of warm custard.
The Variations:
  • Of course you can use whatever kind of sugar you like to fill the apple, while my Ma sometimes puts sweet mincemeat into the hollowed out core instead of sugar
The Results:
  • Baked apples for those that wants ’em


  1. Jinxie

    A corkscrew as apple corer? That is GENIUS! I have one of those sort of corkscrews, but I never use it to open wine (I find the classic “waiter’s friend” one to be more reliable); this way it can justify it’s continued existence in my jam-packed kitchen drawers.

  2. Daily Spud

    Hey there Jinxie – I have to say that I was quite pleased with the my slightly McGyveresque usage of the corkscrew – saved me buying yet another piece of kitchen kit!

  3. Reeni

    I have to agree! The corkscrew is a great idea that I’ll be using. And this is a simple but divine treat! I like the pic of your brother too – cute!

  4. Daily Spud

    Thanks Reeni! And very excited that you’re through to yet another round of PFB :)

  5. Sophie

    I love stuffed fruits like pears & apples. Your Mom’s recipe looks like a real winner,…yummie,…:)
    I loved the 1st picture,..hahahhaha!

  6. Tangled Noodle

    I resisted for the longest time before finally buying an apple corer because the last thing my kitchen needed was another small gadget. Why couldn’t I have waited until I read about your corkscrew improvisation? Well now, at least that corer will earn its keep with your Ma’s Baked Apples.

    I’ll miss the glorious Minnesota apple season, especially Honey Crisps, but I’m hopeful there’ll be apples to be had in Manila. If not, perhaps I’ll employ the corkscrew principle and improvise with something else. Hmm…

  7. Tangled Noodle

    And hanging upside down from an apple tree in your Sunday best – now that’s how it’s done!

  8. Daily Spud

    Sophie: I love stuffed fruits too and this one is a winner :)

    Tangled Noodle: That is indeed how it’s done :D And I’m glad to have given you a reason to use that apple corer, even if, for the foreseeable future, you’ll have to find something other than apples to core with it!

  9. 5 Star Foodie

    I never had an apple corer and always wanted to get one but now I see that I won’t ever need to – corkscrew it is! I love that picture of your brother!

  10. Daily Spud

    Hey Natasha, always glad to help! :)

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