We salute one of our best-loved and quirky apples, the Bramley.
The story of the Bramley apple begins in the garden of a small cottage in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, in 1809. Mary Ann Brailsford was playing in the kitchen and decided to plant a few of the pips from some of the apples her mother was preparing. The pips grew into a sapling that was eventually planted in the back garden. The Brailsfords moved on and the cottage was sold to the local butcher called Matthew Bramley in 1836.
Enter stage left one Henry Merryweather, who in 1856 saw some of the apples from the tree and was no doubt impressed with their size and flavour. Merryweather was a nurseryman and gardener and soon set about commercialising the fruit. As the tree belong to Bramley, that is the name he used. Celia Stevens is the great granddaughter of Henry Merryweather and told me she gets fan mail from as far afield as Japan, where there is a Bramley appreciation club.
As for the original tree, it’s still there, and still producing fruit. In 2003 it was chosen by the Tree Council as one of 50 Great British trees to honour the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Here's a lovely video of TV presenter Chris Beardshaw interviewing 90-year-old Nancy Harris, who lives in that famous cottage.
It’s future is safe thanks to a team from the University of Nottingham who took a clone of the tree and now 12 direct copies stand in the Millennium Garden at the University.
Like nearly every other crop the bad weather of last autumn didn’t help matters.
History’s all well and good. But it’s the taste of a Bramley, and how it cooks that makes it unique. Stewed down it remains sharp in taste, but goes a lovely mellow pinky colour. It’s key to an apple crumble in my mind, but its tartness also balances with fatty meats. For a whole range of recipes using the brilliant Bramley, see our Brilliant Bramley recipe round up.
Do you like cooking the Bramley's? talk to us in the comments box below
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