Historical Recipes: Apples in Blackberry Mead

We begin our weekly historical recipes with this delicious Iron Age favourite, ‘Apples in Blackberry Mead’. Brought to you by Caroline Nicolay, archaeology educator & Iron Age specialist at Pario Gallico.

Ingredients:

– 6 to 8 medium, firm, sweet / eating apples
(NOT cooking apples! They don’t hold themselves enough to cook in liquid)

– 2 good handfuls of blackberries / brambles

– 2 good tbsp honey, plus some to serve (local is best)

– 1 small glass of mead, about 1/4 pint
(at least a double if you want to use less)

– water

Optional, to serve:

– double cream, whipped with a dash of honey or simply poured on top

– poppy seeds (find from Oakbank crannog)

– 1 handful of crushed hazelnuts
(foraged on this nice walk, find from the crannog too)

… honey oat cakes, shortbreads, toasted brioche… as you like!

Recipe:

Peel the apples, leaving them whole.

If your garden apples need to be cored, or if parts of the flesh aren’t nice, you can peel, core and halve them, or chop them into pieces. The taste will be the same but the apples will not have this striking ”red and white” effect when you eat them.

Put the blackberries in a pot (or pan!) and crush them gently with a wooden spoon.

Add a glass of water, the mead, the honey and bring to a light simmer.

Add the whole apples and/or the pieces. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 – 20 minutes (more if your apples are still pale and/or firm when pricked with a knife after that).

You will need to gently turn the apples with a wooden spoon to make sure they cook and get coloured evenly. If the apples seem to soften quickly, stop the cooking.

Once cooked, take the pot or pan off the heat and leave it to cool for a few minutes. Fish out the cooked, now red, apples gently, making sure they are still in one piece.

Serve whole, warm, with a spoonful of honey covering the apples. Some cream can be poured over or on the side, sprinkle with poppy seeds and/or crushed hazelnuts. Enjoy watching your guests discovering the white inside of the apples!

You can use he mead-honey-fruit juices still in the pan too, don’t throw it away! It can be drunk when added to mead or red wine (as it is pretty sweet), it can form the base of hot liquid to make a jelly (measure one pint of juices, heat it up, add a sachet of jelly-powder or some gelatine powder, dissolve and leave to set) … or you can boil and reduce it by 1/4 or 1/2 t to turn it into a sweet syrup: this can coat the apples, be added to other desserts, be used as a squash in hot or cold water, poured on pancakes, etc.

Enjoy!

Aarchaeology educator and Iron Age specialist, living historian and experimental archaeologist, Caroline Nicolay, Director at Pario Gallico. Caroline will be back at the festival this year demonstrating Iron Age cookery and how to make ancient paints, among other things.

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