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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Apples Ain't Apples

Originally uploaded to Flickr by *clairity*

'Australia smelt of apple. Ripe, green, crisp apples.
A smell so sharp and sweet it made my teeth tingle.'

Queenie visiting the Australian pavillion at the British Empire
Exhibition in the book 'Small Island' by Andrea Levy, 2004

I loved these sentences the first time I read them. For me childhood does smell of apples (and horses and freshly cut grass, dirt roads after the rain...). My mother always used to tell me that when she was pregnant with me she had strong cravings for apples. I'm not sure what kind of apples but there never seemed to be a shortage of Granny Smiths and Jonathans around the place.

I still love my Jonathans (although like many people I've been seduced by the delicious Pink Lady) so I was dismayed to read the other day that Jonnies are in danger of being phased out of production because they don't store well. I'd never really given much thought to natural things 'going out of production'. For some reason I've always been aware of new varieties coming through but not of old varieties disappearing.

Last week I stumbled across an article in the Epicure section of 'The Age' about the Santos Museum of Economic Botany at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. The museum first opened in 1888 and was set up as an educational institution designed to show people what could be grown in the new colony. After a long hiatus the Museum was recently restored and re-opened. One of its chief attractions is a collection of almost 350 19th century papier-mache apples and pears with names like Schwarzenbach's Summer Pearmain, Coulon's Reinette and Beauty of Borshop. Lovely aren't they? But as the journalist explained,'They sit in a musuem case, and like the dodo and the thylacine, these apples are long extinct...these models are now ghosts of flavours and aromas we will never taste or smell.' What a melancholy thought.

So if you love your apples do try out new varieties but don't forget your old favourites and if you're planting fruit trees maybe give the heritage varieties a go? In the meantime you might like to make this 'Caramelised Apple Upside Down Cake'. It's kind of a cross between a tea cake and a Tarte Tartin and can be served hot as a dessert or at room temperature with a cup of tea!

Caramelised Apple Upside Down Cake


1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
2-4 apples (depending on size)


1 1/4 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
80 grams butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
few drops of vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk


1. Preheat oven to 190C.

2. Peel and core apples then cut them into 8ths.

3. Melt butter in 20 cm round cake pan and spinkle with brown sugar. Arrange apple slices in a nice pattern on top of the butter and sugar making sure to cover the entire surface.

4. To make cake, cream butter and sugar together then add eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well.

5. Sift in flour and baking powder, alternating with milk. Mix to combine then pour mixture over apples .

6. Bake for 45 mins or until skewer comes out clean when tested.



  1. We still go scrumping for apples when we visit Andrews family farm, I love it. I'm not sure what varity they are though, side of the road apples maybe :)

  2. Did you see the program on ABC on Thurs night about apples?? The same program is on this Thurs, 9:30pm, something about plants, forget what it was called but it was very interesting, see if you can watch it on the internet or something.

  3. 'Scrumping' - what a great word Estelle! Thanks for letting me know about the ABC program Fourth Daughter I'll try and check it out. I went to Abbotsford Salvos today but couldn't find the fish plate. I did come home with a Scooby Doo glass and an Elmo writing pad though (I wasn't on my own!).

  4. what a lovely posting this is......the upside down cake sounds scrumptious ..... we should soon have lots of apples to experiment with new recipes. They are still a little bit small.

    I can relate to the horse smells...for me it's the leather of the tack room in the stables.....mmmm....

  5. UM. Yum! Hmm... How many Weight Watchers points, I wonder... maybe 4 per slice. Totally worth replacing lunch with cake, right?! x

  6. Totally. I've always worked on the premise that as long as I don't eat things like this everyday I'll be OK. As I get older though I'm not so sure my body agrees!

  7. i like how you tell stories !
    and the recipe sounds delicious !!!
    I love all apple desserts (love apples too) even though i had to downsize when i was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance.
    i could probably adapt this one with GF flour...

  8. I adore Jonnie apples - they were my very favourite kind of apple to discover in my lunchbox when I was a kid. But I have great difficulty in finding them anywhere these days which is such a shame as I would definately buy them if I could!