Orange has been growing apples since 1838. Our beautiful region is prefect for horticulture and the hills that roll out before Mount Canobolas are still like a patchwork quilt of fruit trees, though most are now covered with hail-netting, rolled out each spring and retracted before winter to avoid snow damage. These orchards grow cherries and stone-fruit but mostly apples, and right now they are in full swing.
For the past ten years Tim and I have been market neighbours with one of Orange’s bigger orchardists, the Pearce family of Mirrabooka Farms. On the first Saturday of every month we set up our Mandagery Creek Venison stall next door to Prue and Ian Pearce and reckon they are some of the nicest people we’ve met in our time at the markets and in Orange. The whole family was so busy the day we visited, that I didn’t think it would be cool to ask them to stop working and pose for photos! So for now we’ll have to content ourselves with this little snap of Ian; he’s the handsome fellow in the bottom left of the collage opening this post.
Ever cheerful, professional and helpful (we are always running out of change), they’ve been the best of neighbours. So it was really great to visit their orchard this week and watch their beautiful apples being picked.
Prue and Ian run their orchards Mirrabooka and Stoneleigh with Ian’s brother Ross, father Rob and their families. The Pearce’s combined orchards cover 163 acres of land just east of Orange and every year for three generations they have picked huge quantities of apples, including Pink Ladies, Red Delicious, Jonathons and Granny Smiths.
Prue says the family’s favourite way to eat their apples is freshly picked from the tree. But in winter, Prue says, “we love stewed Granny Smith apples with vanilla ice cream or crumble”.
When we visited the Pearce family, their Granny’s weren’t ready to harvest, so we took home a box of perfectly ripe Gala and Red Delicious apples and stewed most of them. Ever since, we’ve had them in crumbles, on ice cream and over yogurt for breakfast. And they’ve been fantastic.
The Orange Apples group, of which the Pearce family are a proud part, is represented by a great website full of grower profiles, history and fantastic recipes (all contributed by local chefs). But for my part, when fresh apples are in the kitchen, I am always drawn to the below recipe for Danish Apple Cake. It’s homely, easy, comforting and pretty perfect with a cup of strong Earl Grey Tea.
Gran’s Danish Apple Cake
I feel very lucky to have inherited my Grandmother Helen’s box of recipes and often turn to it for this one.
110g softened butter
100g caster sugar
220g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sultanas
2 dessertspoons of demerara sugar
2 cooking apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Preheat oven to 180C and prepare a 20cm cake tin (grease sides and line with baking paper). Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and beat again, scraping mixture from down the sides. Once well incorporated, fold through the flour, baking powder and salt.
Spoon half of the cake mixture into the cake tin, top with the sultanas, sugar, apples and sprinkle with the ginger. Press the remaining cake mixture over the top of the apples and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
Prue’s Stewed Apples
Farmers markets around the country should be full of beautiful fresh apples right now and the best thing about buying apples from a market is you know they will have been recently picked and picked when properly ripe. So if in Sydney next month, please come down to the next Pyrmont Growers Market on April 6, say hello to Ian and Prue and pop next door for some fantastic venison!