ERNIE APPLE TREE JNR.

AN UPDATED VERSION OF THIS BLOG, ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MARCH 2014

ERNIE APPLE TREE SENIOR

In 1953 my parents moved to the Tasmanian farm I grew up  on. It was four miles from the coastal town of Ulverstone We once gave the property  an Aboriginal name meaning ‘camp on a hill’,  but before a sign could be painted we had   forgotten  what the  word was.

The old homestead circa 195. Then a very humble abode.

The old homestead circa 1953. Then a very humble abode.

In the back garden  was a very old apple tree. Unfortunately it’s out of view in the photo at left.. Strangely enough I don’t remember climbing it.I think my siblings and I realized how precious it was.

The old tree in the 1970's, laden with fruit.

The old tree in the 1970’s, laden with fruit.

The tree produced an enormous crop of  cooking apples. Its name of   Ernie derived from Ernie Townsend, the old bachelor  who owned the property before us.

 

No-one has been able to identify the variety, but the fruit has a squat, ‘big  bottom’ shape, rather like an English Bramley. They were wonderful ‘keepers’ and my mother used them all winter, in apple sponges, apple and blackberry pies and in  baked apples stuffed with raisins and brown sugar. When baked, the cooked pulp  foamed up over the skins.

My sister Robbie was famous for eating the apples raw, but naturally they are a bit sour. After my brother’s children came up one day we found dozens of them in the adjoining paddock with a bite taken from each one. The kids had thrown them away in disgust.

Our favourite apple dessert was steamed  Southport Pudding. My mother’s recipe came from the old  Central Cookbook, used in Tasmanian schools  for generations. I once wrote to Southport in the UK about its origins, but nobody had heard of it…has obviously  been lost in the mists of time!

The earliest mention I could find  of Southport Pudding was in a Tasmanian newspaper dated 1927. It was a good depression era pudding, as every  larder  contained  the necessary ingredients.

Tassie has always been famous for its apples; hence being dubbed The Apple Isle. Sadly, most orchards  in the Huon Valley  and Spreyton have disappeared; freight charges across Bass Strait to the mainland simply became too much. We used to attend the annual apple festival at nearby Spreyton, where they had  case making and packing competitions etc. When I was a child in the fifties everyone had a tree in the backyard as well.

My only dolls’ house was an upturned apple case and no doubt they were used for countless other purposes, even split up as kindling for the fire.

Here is the steamed pudding recipe;

SOUTHPORT PUDDING

6 ozs fresh breadcrumbs

6 ozs cooking apples

6 oz sugar

1 gill milk

1 dessertspoon light brown sugar

3ozs shredded suet or butter

2ozs candied peel or raisins

2 eggs

2 small teaspoons baking powder

Grease a pudding basin and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Peel, core and cut apples into small pieces. Place in a bowl with candied peel (or raisins), sugar, baking powder, suet (or melted  butter) and breadcrumbs.  Add well beaten eggs and milk. Mix well. Place in padding basin and cover with greased paper. Steam two to two and a half hours. Serve with cream and boiled custard.

Delicious and comforting in a chilly Tasmanian  winter!

She also made a simple dish by laying scone mixture over stewed apple in a saucepan. The lid was put on and the dough steamed and swelled. Even I can make this!

THE NEXT GENERATION

My  brother  now lives on what remains of the original farm and a few  years ago he took some grafts from the apple tree, which was then over a hundred years old.  Co-incidently, the farm was owned much earlier by my great-great-aunt,  Maryanne Eastley,  who may well have planted it.   In late winter  2005  my brother kindly  posted  my little tree to the Blue Mountains,  bare rooted.  He had wrapped the roots in damp sponges, encased the whole tree in cardboard then bound the parcel  with so much packing tape  it resembled  a small Egyptian mummy. It was delivered Express Post early one morning and Rob brought it into the bedroom with my cup of tea and toast.

In goes Ernie Jnr.

In goes Ernie Jnr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has grown quite a bit since then.

Not doing too badly.

Not doing too badly.

A year or two later  we spent a few weeks in Tassie and went back to the farm, where the original tree was as healthy as ever. (Update… It has since died, after being struck by lightening.)

When I came home in October my own little tree was in blossom and  later produced  a dozen pea sized apples. A friend advised me remove them until the tree was bigger but I couldn’t bring myself to (nature intervened and they fell off anyway).  I have  since had a small, but ‘proper’ crop.

First Harvest!

First Harvest!

The tree is a bit  too big to move now. It will break my heart to leave it if we ever sell up in the Mountains.

****UPDATE……August 2015.   Oh dear, we suddenly  have to move the tree.  This will be a challenge. It’s winter, but there are already buds forming.

Poor little apple tree about to be moved behind the tank.

Poor little apple tree about to be moved behind the tank.

By the way, there  is another lovely thing about apple trees. They are a favourite place for beautiful little  European  goldfinches  to nest in. These birds were introduced to Australia in the 19th century; originally as caged songbirds I think.  A family  used to build a nest in our tree every year. The collective name for them  is a ‘charm’ of goldfinches…how appropriate.

Goldfinch feeding on thistle (Wikipedia) No wonder they liked our farm!...sorry Dad.

Goldfinch feeding on thistle (Wikipedia) No wonder they liked our farm!…sorry Dad.

Our own apple tree is a favourite perching spot for Eastern yellow robins. We successfully moved the tree today, and the little birds don’t seem to mind.

The birds check out the new location.

The birds check out the new location.

OCTOBER 2017

A decent crop this season, there must be at least  50 little green apples. I’ll have to work out how to protect them from my dear bowerbirds and parrots.

Baby apples.

Apple pie?

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14 Comments
  1. I have very sour memories of these apples and grandmas voice admonishing us children for wasting good fruit
    But thanks for writing this.

    • Pauline

      Ha ha, yes I though it was your lot who threw them over the fence! How is the tree going? xx

      • Sadly the tree took a lightening strike a few years ago but dad did manage a few grafts from it. I climbed the tree many times over the years but being young children we didnt realise the significance back then its only as I’ve become older I think back to those days and how lucky I was.

        • Pauline

          Ooh, struck by lightening…well a fittingly dramatic end I guess. Is Kenny’s graft in the same spot? Answer me on FB if it’s easier. xxx

      • Sadly the tree took a lightening strike a few years ago but dad did manage a few grafts from it. I climbed the tree many times over the years but being young children we didnt realise the significance back then its only as I’ve become older I think back to those days and how lucky I was.

  2. I loved your story about the apple tree. Your great, grey Aunt must have been one of the early settlers as my family was in Queensland. I can’t remember what modern measurement would equal a ‘gill’. I love making ordinary baked apples,. It’s all the ingredients with the exception of the eggs. Your recipe sounds lovely, too.

    • Pauline

      Hello Heather
      Well the eggs were only in the steamed pudding. A friend just reminded me that a gill is a quarter of a pint, or 142 ml. My earliest relatives in Tasmania were convicts, in the 1840’s. If you search for Shadbolts on my website you will find their story.

  3. Looks lovely. People in foreign climes who eat exotic fruit only do it because they can’t grow apples.

    • Pauline

      Ha ha, or raspberries and strawberries! Spoken like a true Englishman Mike. Do you know where the Granny Smith Apple came from?

  4. What a wonderful blog about an apple tree – and it’s off-spring. I was immediately transported back to my childhood where there was an apple orchard right behind out home. We children were only allowed to pick up apples that had fallen into our garden, so we made a point to climb as high into the closest tree that we could, and then shake the limbs and branches until apples fell. Oh – and they were tart tart tart… made our mouths pucker…. but my Mother would make some lovely desserts from them. Blackberry and Apple pie was probably my favourite, but the Apple Charlotte was also heavenly. Now I have a craving to make a pie today.. Thank you for your wonderful writing Pauling – you are able to transport back in time and resurrect memories that I thought were long gone.

    • Ha ha, I love the enterprise you showed in shaking the apples off Susan. But surely ‘stolen’ fruit tastes sweeter?? The day after I wrote this blog there was a huge discussion about apples on sale here in Australia. So many old varieties have vanished, including Cox’s Orange Pippin. No Bramley apples. I might sell my Ernies at a roadside stall!

  5. Delightful story and beautiful photography!

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