Hugh's Bramley Apple Compote
I love a Bramley compote. Silky and translucent, golden green, tart and unbelievably appley. And so many ways to enjoy it, from old school pies, turnovers, crumbles and apple sauce, to brilliant zesty breakfasts. And when I make it from my own windfall apples from my Bramley seedling tree, it’s even more satisfying. But one thing that shouldn’t be old school is the amount of sugar you add. Some recipes say up to 250g of sugar for a kilo of apples (weighed after peeling and slicing). That’s way too much. 100g – ie 10 per cent – is perfect. The result is pleasingly tart and sherbety and plenty sweet enough. You can even dial it down from there if you are serving it with a slightly sweetened crumble, custard or biscuit. Below is how I make mine.
Juice a lemon and an orange into a large bowl – no pips! This juice stops the apple browning before it’s cooked and helps keep a lovely golden colour. It also means you probably don’t need to add any water to the compote.
Take at least 1.5 kilos for a decent batch. Double that or more if you have a big pan and some stamina. Peel the apples (you can use a potato peeler but I prefer a little paring knife) and quarter. Whittle out the core and pips from each quarter. Slice each quarter thinly (6 or more slices) straight into the bowl. Toss the apple pieces in the juice as you go.
When all the apples are peeled and sliced, weigh them. There’s about 20 per cent wastage from the peel and cores. I don’t have a magic recipe for it, but you can add some of it to white vinegar or cider vinegar, along with the lemon and orange peel, to make a great all-round domestic cleaning liquid (keep in a large kilner type jar and strain the peel out after a week).
Back to the apples. Weigh the flesh and add 10 per cent golden granulated sugar, or light brown if you prefer. Pile all into a large saucepan. It’s okay if it’s full as it will settle down as it cooks.
Place over a medium/low heat and if there is no juice at all left (it can be absorbed by the apples) add just a splash. The apples will start to release their juice pretty quickly, and you can encourage this with regular stirring. As the apple starts to bubble it will break down into a compote. You can keep cooking until it’s a total puree, or (my preference) stop when there’s still a few opaque broken pieces for texture. You can stir in a good pinch of cinnamon or mixed spice if that appeals. But I prefer clear, crystal appliness, enhanced by that touch of citrus.
Remove from the heat. Don’t leave too long in the pan though, and transfer when fairly cool to a non-metallic container. This compote keeps in the fridge for 2 weeks, and also freezes brilliantly.
PIE - with pastry either “top only” or top-and-bottom. Really pretty much any pastry will work – shortcrust, puff or flakey/rough puff, home-made or shop bought. No need to sweeten the pastry but you can dust very lightly with caster sugar when it comes out of the oven.
CRUMBLE – top with your favourite crumble recipe (here's mine - https://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/hughs-crumble) and bake, or sprinkle pre-made crumble onto hot or cold compote.
FUMBLE (a cross between a fool and a crumble – obviously!) - Pre-make an “independent” crumble, like my chestnut crumble here - https://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/hughs-crumble. Use thick whole milk yoghurt, or half yoghurt blended with whipped cream. Layer cold compote and yog/cream in a glass, and top generously with the crumble.
BREAKFAST - with yoghurt and granola or muesli. On drop scones or pancakes. Cold compote with hot porridge is also ace.
150g golden granulated sugar
1.5 kg Bramley apples