Saturday, September 23, 2006

Why I almost Wet My knickers at the Farmer's Market Today...

cooking apples. Yes, you hear it right, COOKING APPLES!!!
If I was American I would have squealed "Oh My God".

But I am not American, as most of you know, I am English. And as an English person who has been met with blank stares whenever I have mentioned a cooking apple to anyone West of Cornwall over the past six years, I can't begin to tell you how much today's discovery excited me. I was beaming. I was excited. I was overjoyed. And the girls at The Apple Farm stall who served me were overjoyed too. They were laughing and smiling at all the English people they had witnessed, getting all woozy at the sight of Bramley's cooking apples which, apparently, have been proven as the best apples for cooking, full-stop.

And apparently, The Apple Farm are the only seller of this apple in these here parts. But here is the rub. This is the last of them. No more til next year. Those you can see in the box were all that were left after I'd been at them. Then the guy behind me in the line who clearly overheard me having what he must have thought was an orgasm, looked like he was sweeping the remainder of the box clean. I don't know what to say. I wish I could share my joy with more of you, but I am afraid I simply don't have the space for the whole of the Bay Area to join me for dinner next Wednesday night when I will be serving these apples. Cooked, of course.

The next best thing I can do for you is to put these apples on your radar. Consider yourself warned a year in advance. Next time you see that The Apple Farm have Bramley Cooking Apples in stock, just buy them without even stopping to think about it. These apples are high in acid. They are sharp. They will keep their nice apple flavour when they are cooked. You'll be able to make the best apple pie you've never yet had...

PS - Californian Bramleys are much prettier, less knobbly, smaller and with more tender skins than their huge, ugly, bitter-skinned British Counterparts.

PPS - Check out my mum's response to this post.

| 2004: Probably the most pathetic post I ever published on this blog. Awful photography. Boring subject matter. Broken links. I can't believe my blog used to be that way. Ack!
| 2005: Back home from Fiji.

| | | |
Why I almost Wet My knickers at the Farmer's Market Today...


  • At 23/9/06 14:22, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow! I'm suprised that Bramley's arent more available in the USA! Strange how we English take English basics for granted! What are you going to do with your apples .... I love them baked with honeyed fruits in the middle when the core has been extracted!


  • At 23/9/06 15:20, Blogger Catherine said…


    Are you going to make little apple pies with those?

    I can't believe I missed them.

  • At 23/9/06 16:00, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Well, I am American, so Oh My God! Can't wait.

  • At 23/9/06 16:08, Blogger Jocelyn:McAuliflower said…

    Awwww... I used to chomp on these as a kid! Family thought it was weird, but they were oddly satisfying. I'd pick them off a tree on my way to the bus stop.

  • At 23/9/06 17:11, Blogger Kalyn Denny said…

    Hmm, most interesting. Apples are one of the main crops grown in Utah, but I've never heard of cooking apples.

  • At 23/9/06 19:29, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mmm, I've come to love Bramley apple pies! They have everything in SF, don't they??

  • At 23/9/06 20:16, Blogger Ulla said…

    thanks for visiting my blog! i love apples!

  • At 23/9/06 20:56, Blogger xtinehlee said…

    well now I know to keep my eyes peeled for these!

  • At 23/9/06 22:48, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam we have all sorts of good things up here. Come see.

  • At 24/9/06 01:28, Blogger Beccy said…

    Enjoy them Sam. Dillon made a apple crumble last week, it was delish!

  • At 24/9/06 02:58, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam I won't make you jealous by telling you I have a huge crate of bramleys in my kitchen. Uncle David and I got them last week, picked ourselves and all free.

  • At 24/9/06 04:06, Blogger shuna fish lydon said…

    Will I be lucky enough to taste the best apple pie in the world when i return from your home country?

    On Friday I picked up some gorgeouse English apples for eating at Neal's Yard-- Eustice. have you heard of them? I am savoring them for breakfast every day and am thinking of ways to get them in the suitcase...

    I think we will need to have a day soon to taste foods from near and far.

  • At 24/9/06 07:22, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Bramleys are great and are actually quite easy to grow in the middle atlantic region where I live. Having an English Mum, I knew enough to plant one when I had a garden some years ago. (I also had a Cox's and a Westfield-Seek-No-Further-the last a great dessert apple)

    The trees, on semi-dwarf rootstock, started producing in only a couple of years-I really recommend growing your own-doesn't take all that much space-big garden not needed. I didn't spray, so the only downside was keeping the windfalls picked up, because of the bees. Every apple tastes better right off the tree, too.

    Wish I still had a garden. By the way, the north american Northern Spy is an outstanding pie apple, too. Around here that is a short season, late season apple-mid October. You can only get them at farmers' markets, of course.

  • At 24/9/06 07:29, Blogger Erielle said…

    If I were to make a list of the top 10 best blog post titles ever, that one would make the cut!
    Thanks for the laugh.

  • At 24/9/06 12:18, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam -- Why does everyone assume you will be making pies??? Why not baked apples or sliced apples baked with onions and sage or or or?? You were lucky to score the Bramleys.

    Have you ever been to The Apple Farm? It's a wonderful place. Even though your faves are gone there may be other antique varieties as well as cider (hard and sweet) and apple cider syrup. It's o-n-l-y three hours away and Route 128 in the autumn is idyllic.

  • At 24/9/06 12:23, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've just been to the Farmers' Market too (yesterday), but obviously mine was in England.

    I came back with a large bag of mixed goodies (which I wrote about on my blog).

    I'd encourage anyone to support their farmers markets, to keep in touch with the people growing and making their food.

  • At 24/9/06 15:06, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The Apple Farm also sells Cox Orange Pippin, another English variety (I believe) of cooking apple, but I'm not sure if they're ready yet. They're quite popular with some of the local restaurants and the AF has a much bigger supply of them than the Bramley's. (Next year, I know of a little restaurant that might be interested in getting its hands on some Bramley's :)

  • At 24/9/06 17:42, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You are so cute. Your enthusiasm practically jumped off the page! Thanks for the tip - I'll keep my eyes open for them at the Greenmarket here, but I'm not sure I've ever actually seen them before...

  • At 24/9/06 18:33, Blogger Rachael Narins said…

    I saute apples in olive oil with parsnips, carrots, onion and just some S&P. Add some water, cover, simmer until soft-ish. Beyond compare.

    I actually made that last night...its a bit beige for a photo, but tastes divine...

  • At 25/9/06 04:36, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was in Chicago a few weeks ago visiting P's parents, and my Irish mother-in-law was SO disappointed because she had planned to buy (as every year) Bramley's apples, but they were still not ready. So I never got to taste the nice apple dessert she had planned to make!

  • At 25/9/06 05:46, Blogger christine said…

    Ohh I remember those from when I lived in London. I just never knew they were "cooking apples". Are they anything like Fiji apples? that's what I use for baking.

  • At 25/9/06 06:32, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    Too cute Sam...that was a fun Monday read

  • At 25/9/06 10:47, Blogger Nicola Pulling said…

    I gasped...I salivated...I relived my aunt's apple pie (in Essex)...thanks for finding them. I can't believe here in canada I can't find the unique, the one, the only Bramley apple. We were talking about them reverently at dinner just the other night. There is nothing like it.

    Good work.

  • At 25/9/06 13:25, Blogger radian said…

    I grew up in Massachusetts and never knew that other people in the US hadn't heard of cooking apples until I read your post just now.

    My mother sends me packages of apples and cider donuts by mail during the fall and early winter.

    We're just getting the first apples of the season. I've been sharing them with my coworkers who are shocked that there ARE good apples in the US. The coworkers are from China and Korea, and apparently thought that all American apples are waxed granny smiths and mealy red delicious.

    As a kid we'd drive up into the hills and go apple picking, then go home and bake pies and make apple sauce. I used to fight my sister over who would get to use the food mill.


  • At 25/9/06 14:51, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hey sam - been reading you quietly for a while now - as another english girl overseas enjoying your references to those long lost brit things only to be savored when I visit these days - but this was enough to jolt me out of shyness to say you lucky #$&(*&!

    i have missed these and jersey royals the most, but now I know when I need to head down the embarcadero to make my husband a happy applie-pie man!

    keep on blogging!

    p.s. working with a guy from south africa right now who used "cods wallop" to describe something last week - I laughed 'til I cried because I hadn't heard it in so long!

  • At 26/9/06 04:42, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What wonderful photo--it made me instantly nostalgic, since the smell of apple pies baking on a cool autumn afternoon is one of my fondest youthful memories. It's discouraging how few varieties of apples are available in American supermarkets--usually the same four or five commercial varieties, with the Granny Smith the only one approaching the proper tartness for good baking, and it can't compare to what we used to call "mountain apples" when I was a kid--the kind of sour, ugly, spotted fruits my parents would buy on the side of the road in the North Carolina mountains and make into the best pies and baked apples. Thanks for the photo!

  • At 26/9/06 14:07, Blogger Owen said…

    Sam - lucky lucky lucky. I can never find anything like this. I find it very hard to find really good apples in the US. The best are ones grown in our and friends' gardens. But it gets too hot in summer here. We have a Pink Lady apple tree that makes great apples but about 80% of them are scorched during the summer when it gets up to 110.

    We also have a baby Cox's orange Pippin - but I am not hopeful - it is even more of a cold weather apple than the pink lady.

    On the other hand our firends have a big orchard with many apples including Cox's and theirs taste just about right. So I guess it is possible.

    Anyway - when do I come over again for the apple dessert?

  • At 27/9/06 07:31, Blogger Unknown said…

    Very enlightening! I did not know the term "cooking apples" was not widely used. We have them up here in the northern hinterlands of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.

  • At 28/9/06 14:31, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Do you suppose they might grow in Southern Ontario?

    I wonder if I could get a seedling or something from somewhere?

    Ilove cooking, but I'm not much on baking, but apples, muesli some maple & dried fruit sounds heavenly... maybe some cold honey yoghourt?


    BlueBerry Pick'n
    ThisCanadian DOT com
    "Silent Freedom is Freedom Silenced"

  • At 1/10/06 11:35, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dianne - I think everyone takes things from their own culture for granted. it takes living somewhere else to work out what some of them are.

    Catherine - no pies - just stewed apple is enough to make me happy. I used some of them to make Kashmiri Apple pudding for cookie crumb

    McCauliflower - you were based in the UK right? We never ever ate them raw. We were told they would give us a tummy ache. The US ones you can eat raw.

    Kalyn - maybe you can find someone there who is growing some more unusual varieties.

    Janice - they don't have english-style chipolata sausages here in SF, though, unfortunately.

    Ulla - my pleasure - your blog is so vibrant and green, I love it.

    C(h)ristine - eyes peeled then apples peeled. Sorry you have to wait another year.

    haddock - i might just take you up on that some time,

    wmm - cooking apples aren;t usually cute - they are usually ugly.

    beccy - umm, crumble - i havent had for years. must have one soon

    mum - i am green as a bramley with jealousy

    shuna - food day - yes! just dont expect the bramleys to be here when you return. sorry.

    Lindy - thanks for the tips - I am going to look out for the apples you suggested. I like cox's orange pippins too.

    erielle - my pleasure - I am glad you enjoyed it so much

    Kudzu - I won't be making pies - you guessed me right. Too much pfaffing. I admit i just love plain stewed apple. How unadventurous of me. The Apple farm does indeed look great. Maybe I should make a journey?

    Scott - don;t you worry about that on this blog - we always recommend the same too - all of our food apart from a few non-local staples, is bought from local farmers in this household.

    Brett - yes they did have the pippins but I eschewed them in favour of the Bramletys. Now the Bramleys are gone the Pippins are next on my list.

    Luisa - I confess - I am rarely quite that excited at the farmers market.

    Rachael - that does sound good, but I can't be spoiling my Bramley with a parsnip. sorry. Another apple maybe.

    Bea - hope you are having a good time in France. Good to hear the bramleys are available in other parts of the country.

    christine - i don;t think that they are anything like Fujis.

    Nicola - I am glad I am not the only one to experience an orgasmic reaction.

    peanut and planet - thanks for sharing your memories. I like that. It's great to have access to such a wide variety of apples at the market.

    lynn - hooray for codswallop! I confess I use words like that to confuse the locals. I miss jersey royals too - but there are some quite good postatoes available there too - several interesting varieties.
    I am glad you enjoy the perspective of my blog.

    Robert - thanks for sharing your memories. it is great that a post about a simple apple can conjure up so many good ones from readers

    Owen - more than luck - its hard work - i go there nearly every week.
    I am going to score sooner or later. I think you told me about your apple trees before. I should have checked them out when I was there. drat.

    mimi - and i didn;t know that the term is used in some parts of america - so that is good to know, thank you

    blueberry pickin' - maybe you could contact the apple far through the link to their website and ask them?
    Hope that helps

    thanks everyone


  • At 2/10/06 12:35, Blogger Anita (Married... with dinner) said…

    One more comment! Didja see this?

  • At 27/10/06 14:06, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have tears in my eyes.

    I came to your post via a search for Bramley apples in the USA as I'm a Brit in Atlanta cooking up some apple crumble and am so frustrated that no one here even seems to have the concept of cooking apples, let alone Bramleys. I guess I will remain frustrated until the next time I return to Devon on my hols but at least I don't feel so crazy anymore!

    All the best.

  • At 25/6/07 08:27, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You know, Trees of Antiquity carries them (the apple trees, I mean). We in zones 6-9 can grow them in our yard. My yard isn't ready yet (just moved last year) but Bramley's on my list! One of these days...

  • At 8/5/08 09:17, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hmmm interesting, good read.

  • At 24/8/08 20:54, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam, Philo Apple Farm is going to have them next week. I just phoned them.

    I'm married to a Brit, that's how I know about them.

  • At 24/8/08 20:55, Blogger Sam said…

    Thank you for the scoop!!!!!!!!

  • At 31/8/08 14:06, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam, I posted above, I'm the one married to a Brit. Anyways, we don't have land (we live in Sonoma County, we can't afford a home yet), and if you have land you can grow your own Bramley Apple Tree.

    Here's the link, it's to Raintree Nursery and they're in the USA. They say that it's climate zones 4 - 9 can grow them. I know you're around SF, I forgot what zone that is (we escaped SF a couple of years ago).

  • At 3/9/08 16:05, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam, we just returned from visiting the Philo Apple Farm, and bought 10 lbs of apples. I bet he could send them to you OR, you could reserve some by calling them.

    This is Married To A Brit (from the above posts).

  • At 6/9/08 10:24, Blogger Sam said…

    Hello Anoymous (the nicest anonymous a blogger could ever had). Thanks for your tips! I just returned from the market where I purchased as many Bramleys as I could carry and some Cox's Orange Pippins too! How wonderful is that? I went around the market giving half the Cox's away to Brits. I was too excited not to share.
    thank you again so much for the reminders.

  • At 8/9/08 00:23, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam, I forgot to tell you but Philo Farm also sells cuttings of their Bramley trees in their nursery. You have to phoen them first. Tell them what kind of area you live in (needs to be similar to the UK, like lots of fog, etc) in order for it to grow properly.

    I'm hoping that when Brits google Bramley Apples USA they'll read this information down here at the bottom.

    You're like #1 or #2 on the google search list for that.

    /Married To A Brit (again).

  • At 14/9/08 02:06, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I saw this post while trying to explain why a British apple pie recipe calling for 'three apples' seemed short to Americans. Bramleys are huge buggers.

    (Yes, I ate one raw once as a kid. It gave me awful stomach cramps. I am so proud to be British.)

    Living near North Carolina's apple country is lovely; not having Coxes or Bramleys grown anywhere in those dozens of orchards is just weird. There are heirloom grafters here who offer seedlings of both once a year, but I'd need a house and garden and a few years to reap the benefit...

    And I can completely empathise with your happy Cox giveaway, oo-er missus etc. They're just joyful to eat: everything an apple should be. When I was last back home, I bought half a dozen and ate them all in a day.

  • At 26/11/08 11:58, Blogger Dan said…

    Just came across your post whilst searching for an American equivalent of a Bramley (making Jamie Oliver's Apple & Blackberry Pie for Turkey Day tomorrow). Guess I'm not going to find anything that's close, as I've always been met with dumb stares when talking about cooking apples to the Americans (I'm also an ex-pat). Thankfully, I'm in SF, so I'll head down to the Farmer's Market next year when they're back in season & see if I can find them. Off to check the rest of your blog now...



  • At 28/10/09 20:40, Blogger UK lass in US said…

    My friend was supposed to stop by there on a trip up North - and keep an eye out for Bramleys for me. She decided to go to a pumpkin patch instead. I guess that someone who hasn't ever had a Bramley doesn't realise what they are missing, but really - chosing a pumpkin patch over the holy grail of cooking apples??


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