Apples are the nation’s most wasted fruit, with 800,000 whole apples thrown away in UK homes daily. With apple season upon us, a vast amount of seasonal crops will inevitably end up on the ground to rot – not the finest fate for any foodstuff, especially amid a national food shortage and cost of living crisis.
You’ve heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” although this isn’t completely true, apples are universally-regarded as being superb when it comes to health. Not only are they delicious and packed with vitamins, fibre and antioxidants, but they can also help with lowering cholesterol and could help prevent obesity and other inflammatory disorders thanks to the Pectin in them, and according to the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition, the quercetin in them could with protecting against heart disease.
Elliot Allison of London’s first urban cidery, Hawkes, is someone who knows more than a thing or two about apples and understands the importance of being part of a circular economy. This autumn, the cidery has diverted over 13 tonnes (or more than a double-decker bus load) of apples from going to waste thanks to its annual Apple Donor drive.
He told us, “Apples and apple orchards are so inherent to Britain, so it’s shocking and troubling to know how many apples are squandered daily.
“Working with surplus, wonky or discarded apples every day to make real-apple, planet-friendly cider, I’ve developed a very particular relationship with this extremely versatile fruit. I’m continually investigating how to make use of every part of the apple to take full advantage of my inherited stock.
“Of course, the second-best thing to do with an apple is to eat it (the first, naturally, is to turn it into delicious cider), but when the crop is abundant, let’s face it, there are only so many apple pies we can consume.
“From homemade beauty treatments to Halloween décor or seasonal home fragrance, there are so many ways we can enjoy apples, including making use of those unappetising apple cores that normally just get tossed in the food bin.”
Below, Elliot has shared with us ten ways to prevent otherwise ‘waste’ apples from ending up on the compost heap or rotting in the bottom of your food bin this autumn-winter…
Apple Peel Crisps
What goes better with a pint of cider than a packet of crisps? Well, maybe this ingenious creation using apple peel! Peel eight large, washed apples, coat the peels in olive oil and Italian herbs and stick them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Whack the tray in a preheated oven, around 150°C (Gas Mark 2), for about 30 minutes, tossing the peels halfway through cooking. Substitute the oil and herbs for butter and cinnamon sugar for those with a sweet tooth. If you can’t decide, this recipe serves four, so why not try half of each?
Since you peeled a load of apples to make apple peel crisps, we need to do something with the leftovers. I’ve always enjoyed apple chutney for its tang, and I love how much the flavours of each ingredient develop as they simmer on the stove. Bring a mixture of peeled and diced apples with light muscovado sugar, raisins, chopped onions, mustard seeds, ground ginger, apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt to a boil, then simmer until thick, stirring frequently. Enjoy the chutney with cheese or meat. It can last for about a year, so it’s a great gift to give friends and loved ones at Christmas!
Shrunken Apple Heads
Forget pumpkins – apples are the new foodstuff to make scary faces out of! Peel some Granny Smith apples leaving some skin around the stem at the top and bottom of the core, and soak them in a mixture of lemon juice and salt for 20 minutes. Then, carve some spooky faces into the flesh with a paring knife and resubmerge in the mixture for another 20 minutes. Hang them dry; the apples will have shrunk after a few days. They’ll continue to shrink over time, getting scarier and spookier as they do so!
Apple and Cucumber Face Mask
Making your own cosmetics from natural ingredients is cheaper, more sustainable, and far purer than any off-the-shelf products. Now I’m not some rich celebrity-turned-wellness guru about to shame anyone for not making their own conditioner, but staying in and making these apple and cucumber face masks can certainly make for a fun evening!
Extract the juice from a grated cucumber and mix in a bowl of grated apples. Apply the mixture to your face, leave it on for about 20 minutes, and then wash it off. So simple and so rejuvenating! High in moisture, vitamin C, copper, and collagen, apples have a whole host of benefits for the skin.
Festive Room Spray
Chop up a couple of apples and simmer them in a saucepan of water with some aromatic spices of your choice, such as vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg. The longer you let the ingredients steep, the stronger the infusion’s aroma. Once you think it’s about right, strain the infused water into a spray bottle and keep it in a cool, dry place. If the air is getting a bit stale or you just want a festive scent in the room, your homemade apple room spray is the perfect pick-me-up.
Given that all the ingredients are edible, you could also enjoy a cup as a hot beverage – which helps boost the immune system, protect vision and improve gut health – whilst waiting for the rest of the batch to cool.
A Varied Birdfeed
If you’re a keen birdwatcher, then you might like to reinvigorate your garden visitors’ snack bar by giving them your unwanted apple cores. Just make sure to remove the seeds, as apple pips contain small levels of cyanide that are harmful to birds, animals, and even humans if we ingest too many! If you don’t get many birds in your garden, then don’t worry; the apple cores will just turn to compost, making the soil in your garden more fertile.
Since its biblical connotation of sin and temptation in the garden of Eden, the apple has been a recurring symbol in art and literary history. Arrange some apples in a basket to paint a Cézannian still life or throw a load on the floor to recreate Kiki Smith’s Red Apples (1999) – Anything goes as art these days!
Alternatively, you could throw together the most low-effort modern art-themed Halloween costume in the world by donning a cheap tuxedo and holding a Granny Smith in front of your face to recreate René Magritte’s The Son of Man (1964). People will get the reference if you show them a picture.
Infused Apple Vodka (Only for grown-ups)
Cut two apples in half, core them, then cut them into slices and put them in a jar. Pour a flavourless vodka (or gin) of your choice over the apples, cover them with a lid and shake vigorously. Leave to infuse for about a week, shaking the jar at least once per day. After the week is up, strain the contents into a large bowl, then decant them into a bottle. Do with your concoction what you will, and remember to delete any photos you uploaded to Facebook the following morning!
Hungarian Apple Soup
If there’s one thing the lockdown encouraged us to do, it was to make lots and lots of soup. And put all sorts of strange ingredients into said soup. Sauté a peeled and chopped Granny Smith, finely chopped onion, peeled and diced Yukon Gold potato, and thinly sliced celery in rapeseed oil for about five minutes. Then, stir in some salt, sage, Hungarian paprika and pepper for 30 seconds.
Add 400ml of chicken stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the potato is tender. Whizz it in a blender with three tablespoons of soured cream until smooth. It serves two and is perfect for a winter lunch with some toasted sourdough bread.
Here’s another decadent way to use up unwanted apple cores. Boil apple peels and cores in water and let the water reduce to ensure stronger, more concentrated flavours. Strain the apple-infused water and see how much is left. Then, add an equal amount of brown sugar to the water and simmer until completely dissolved into a syrupy consistency. This will keep for up to a month in an airtight jar and is perfect for adding to your morning coffee or drizzling over freshly baked sponge cake pancakes.
For anyone that lacks the time or inclination to engage in any of the above apple rescue activities, gather your or your neighbour’s or your parent’s apples and take them down to a local cidery to be put to good use!
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