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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
- Baked apples for those that wants ’em