Usually taking place on the 21st October, Apple Day, once unknown to us philistines at HOWE, will never be overlooked again. On the evening of the 26th October we hosted a special supper in celebration of the apple in collaboration with our friends at Hole & Corner magazine.

Conceived by Common Ground in 1990, Apple Day has become an increasingly popular event. The apple can be seen as a symbol of our heritage, of English culture and nature’s diversity. A motif for all things handmade and thoughtfully designed, to be celebrated and protected. Our delightful guest list represented these values from three major standpoints – folklore, botany and craftsmanship. Apple Day champions the apple, its numerous varieties and uses.

Guests were greeted in the shop by a spiced apple cocktail, surrounded by plentiful piles of apples Red Devil, Blaze, Russett, Laxton Superb, Cox and Bramley and a beautiful traditional apple press, kindly loaned to us by Peter Bonham Bazeley of Beaminster.

Down below in the Howe kitchen, the team worked on the final touches, matching guest’s starter choices with the seating plan and setting out the first variety of cider, a light Stoke Red. A true feast, trestle tables stretching 28 ft from one end of the kitchen to the other, laden with crab apple branches, candles and many more apple varieties bought by Max at the market that morning. Strewn across the floor, autumnal leaves created a magical and warm atmosphere (helped along by the heat from the cooker).

Before tucking into the first course, Amy reminded us the reason for our attendance and the tradition within which this feast was rooted. Beyond the celebration of Apple Day, for centuries the Apple Wassail has been performed, a folk celebration blessing the orchards in hope of a bountiful harvest.  Valiantly led by Amy, we all joined in the traditional wassail, guests chanting with great gusto.

Huzza, Huzza, in our good town

The bread shall be white, and the liquor be brown

So here my old fellow I drink to thee

And the very health of each other tree.

Well may ye blow, well may ye bear

Blossom and fruit both apple and pear.

So that every bough and every twig

May bend with a burden both fair and big

May ye bear us and yield us fruit such a stors

That the bags and chambers and house run o’er.

Cornworthy, Devon, 1805

Tucking into a choice of either guinea fowl terrine and toasts or a roasted beetroot, goats cheese and walnut salad, the dinner began. Ali’s bramley and crab apple jelly, made from fruits foraged from Westminster streets and family orchards accompanied both starters along with the Stoke Red supplied by Felix from the Fine Cider Company.

Before tucking into the main course, Felix enlightened us about the ciders he had provided and the historical craftsmanship behind traditional cider making, whilst assuring us that Wassailing is much more popular than first thought! We were also treated to a tart taste of the Yarlington Mill apple, the key ingredient in the ciders which accompanied the rest of the meal.

A dry Oliver’s cider washed down the main course. Amy’s roasted pork, crackling, homemade apple sauce, or Ali’s flageolet bean and cider casserole, both served with cauliflower & leek gratin and roasted potatoes. Taking a break from eating, the more courageous amongst us attempted apple bobbing and with perseverance and varying techniques some actually emerged triumphant and wet faced.

Refreshed, it was time to head back in for desert – Amy’s delicious, warm apple pie(s) served with plenty of pouring cream and a sweet Gwatkin’s cider. Guests cosy and content, the evening drew to a close – but not before taking brown paper bags full of apples and a spare slice of apple pie!

Safe to say, we’ve already got Apple Day in the 2018 calendar.