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Reach Fair 2006 – toffee apples

First of all, an apology for not having posted for a week and a bit. A visit from family, a series of busy evenings of unbloggable dinners (at the houses of friends who weren’t seeking Internet fame, at the University where the lights are dim and the meals a bit swillish) and finally a really, really nasty brush with salmonella all conspired to stop me posting. I’m better (and thinner – positively svelte, now I mention it) again now, and I and the seven colleagues who ate the coleslaw at the pub on Perne Road have called Environmental Health in.

Cast your minds back a week and a half.

Astute readers familiar with Cambridgeshire will have worked out by now that I live in Reach, a tiny village about fifteen miles from Cambridge, set around a large green. The village is complete with a Roman canal, a ruined Norman church (I’m looking at it out of the living room window as I type – see above for a picture taken at the end of March – the roundabout on the left is the view out of the front garden from the last week of April) and marks the start of the seven-mile Devil’s Dyke, a perfectly straight chalk earthwork which was put in as defence by Hereward the Wake’s lot. It is, you might gather, a village with a fair old bit of history.

In 1201, King John granted a charter to the village allowing it to host an annual fair on May 1. Historically, the fair had huge significance in the region, and was a big event for those wishing to trade in livestock and the goods which had come down the Roman canal (which, in 2006, is still navigable, although it’s not been used commercially for about a century). Back then, the fair was a three-day affair, drawing visitors from all over the east of England.

Eight hundred and five years later, the fair is still running every year, although now it’s an old-fashioned funfair which only opens for a day, with a merry-go-round, swingboats, hoopla, a coconut shy and a helter-skelter. The local schoolkids dance around a maypole, the village is infested with morris dancers and squeezebox players, mock battles are held on the playing fields, and there’s a hogroast.

There’s food everywhere you look; excellent local ice-cream, vans full of sweets, the coconuts nobody is winning because they appear to be weighted with lead. Our very splendid local pub also has a beer tent most years. These toffee apples are particularly magnificent, and they’re a staple of the fair. To make your own, you’ll need:

450 g soft brown sugar
50 g butter
10 ml malt vinegar
150 ml water
1 tablespoon golden syrup
6-8 medium-sized apples and the same number of good wooden sticks. (I’ve used pencils in emergencies – and no sticks for your toffee apple is, as far as I’m concerned, an emergency par excellence.)

Put the sugar, butter, vinegar, water, and syrup into a large pan with a heavy base. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the temperature and then boil until the temperature reaches 143°C (soft crack on your jam thermometer). At this temperature a drop of the mixture in cold water will separate into hard threads which are not brittle.

Push the sticks into the clean apples. Dip the apples into the toffee and swirl them around for a few seconds until they are covered in the toffee. Leave to cool on a sheet of greaseproof paper.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the fair in the 1930s. See those people sitting on the verge on the left? These days, that’s my front garden.

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Related posts:

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  3. Sticky toffee pudding
  4. Mrs Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book – Baked apple pudding
  5. Tarte Tatin

6 comments to Reach Fair 2006 – toffee apples

  • You live in Reach? That’s just a hop, skip and a jump from me in Newmarket. You’re even in the circulation area of the paper I work for…

  • Great post! I want to try to make these apples. How was the hog roast?

  • hello thank u for the toffee apple recipie there gr8

  • kes

    Imagine my surprise I do a search for toffee apples as its been a long time and I couldnt quite remeber the recipe and I come up with your page. I spent most of my childhood in Cambridge and went to Ely High for girls. I dont remember a village called Reach but that doesnt mean I was never there. Is a smll world. I am in toronto Canada now

  • I now live in France and wanted to make something for my English friends ti remind them of home, well your toffee apple recipe did the trick, they were popular and delicious.
    I think I might make some for the guests in my Bed and Breakfast.
    http://www.dunroaminbandb.com
    Norma

  • Anonymous

    Hello, I'm in Calif and longin for an English Toffe Apple.Found a recipe last week on internet but the toffee didnt go hard enough and dribbled off my apples, very disheartened. Its probably me, I'm a BAD cook, but I'll try your recipe with hope in my heart!!!I lived in Colchester until three years ago, and I so miss the change of seasons, as well as the good bread, fresh cream cakespie and mash!!! Green fields and daffodils in the Spring.Love Cambridge too, what am I doing here!!!!

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