It’s the most wonderful time of the year… no it’s not Christmas, pfft, it’s Apple Day!
As the September sun sets on the year’s Summer, October brings about an annual chill, one laced with foggy breath, warm spiced drinks and the crunch of leaves afoot. Autumn spares no second to bombard the UK, Winter following behind with no mercy (although the former is rather the preferred season). But Autumn, although chilly and wet and sometimes a little miserable, by far is the most magical time of year here – at least for me anyway.
I may be repeating myself from last year’s Apple Day article (which can be found here if you’re interested) but this really comes from the heart… I love Autumn and the festivities it brings about.
It’s an extra delight that Apple Day falls in peak Autumn time in the UK, the annual Harvest festivities celebrating all that’s great and wonderful about this historic harvest period. I vividly remember sitting in primary school assemblies, surrounded by masses of fellow school pupils and singing harvest songs and hymns to no end, bringing in tins and boxes of various foodstuffs to donate to local charities to those who are less fortunate this time of year.
Anyway, across the country you can find multiple Apple Day and harvest celebrations, but the one found at London’s historic Borough Market is the most extravagant and delightful of them all; this year followed suit of last year’s festivities – of course – the schedule being even more packed with activities for all ages, reflecting the rich heritage of the British harvest.
This year, apple bobbing was shockingly omitted and an apple peeling competition filled its place, which was surprisingly just as entertaining, especially with the added drama of kids accidentally peeling the skin off their fingers instead of the apples (a bit morbid for apple day, but I’ll let that pass). Sheep were let loose in the main Market Hall, over the watchful eye of a charismatic sheepdog, colourful performances filled with singing reigned the stage and the magnificent Corn Queene (a 3-4 metre or so woman composed of various seasonal vegetables) was paraded through the market before being set down next to the stage to keep a watchful eye over the proceedings.
Tasting endangered varieties of apple.
Traditional English Morris dancing provided entertainment in-between the performances by local theatre company “The Lion’s Part”, the dancing men dressed in a black and white uniform adorned with yellow flapping strips that were strangely reminiscent of 90’s style pop-star trousers. Live music from the performances and Morris dancing echoed throughout the market as apple tasting events, storytelling sessions and cookery demonstrations provided non-stop Apple Day fun.
Of course, being in one of the best food markets in London, and perhaps the country, the variety of apple dishes, cakes and products were not to be missed. Classic spiced hot apple cider was available to warm up your insides and outsides alongside a variety of apple pies and cakes, apple fritters, apple juice, and also regular apples. It was love at first sight/bite when I discovered a pork “sandwich” of sorts; pulled pork and a sweet and crunchy apple coleslaw squidged not so delicately in between two halves of a CROISSANT bun. I pretty much inhaled the lot as soon as it hit my hands. Later I had a rather stranger dish; a steaming apple, cheese, honey and truffle fondue, ladled into a hollowed-out sourdough bread roll. It was sweet and cheesy yet slightly earthy from the truffle… delicious but really quite bizarre.
A flat white to wash down all the sugar…
To close the proceedings, the Corn Queene was brutally dismantled, her body parts being flung across the market square into the audience, like some brutal autumnal wedding where instead of a chucked bouquet, carrots, corn and other autumn vegetables were being flung. I ended up getting hit by a runner bean amidst the madness but I thanked my luck it wasn’t a carrot or a squash (like the poor ladies in front of me).
With one last glug of hot apple cider, so punchy it’ll make your lips smack for a good couple of minutes after, I said goodbye to Borough Market and this year’s Apple Day, bidding adieu until next year.