There are few fruits more versatile than apples and pears. They are both excellent for eating raw, and combine well with cheeses, especially Cheddar with apples and Gorgonzola with pears. They make homely pies or elegant desserts, and can also be cooked with meat, poultry and game.
Choose apples that are firm and unblemished, with a sweet smell and taut, unbroken skin. Apples are hard even when ripe.
BRAMLEY'S SEEDLING: Used only for cooking. Good for pies, sauces and purées.
COX'S ORANGE PIPPIN: A dessert apple with a spicy smell. Also good for baking.
DISCOVERY: A crisp dessert apple with a sweet flavour.
GOLDEN DELICIOUS: All-purpose apple. The yellow-skinned types are best for eating raw.
GRANNY SMITH’S: A good eating apple. Also ideal for baking and stewing.
Buy pears unripe and ripen them at room temperature - once ripe they should be eaten immediately.
COMICE: Large round sweet pear that turns yellow as it ripens. Best for eating raw.
CONFERENCE: Long, curved fruit with a good sweet flavour when ripe. Good for poaching.
PACKHAM'S: Pale green sweet pear which yellows with ripening. Eat raw.
RED BARTLETT: Rosy-coloured pear with sweet flesh. Eat raw.
WILLIAMS: Yellow-speckled pear. Eat raw or cooked.
Peel fruit with a peeler or small knife just before using to prevent discoloration. How to peel can vary - peel around the fruit in a spiral as shown here, or remove a little skin at the top and bottom and peel the remainder vertically.
Core the apple, then peel off the skin, circling round the apple from top to bottom.
Use a canelle knife to pare away a single fine strip of skin, spiralling carefully down from the stalk to the bottom.
A fruit corer is most effective for coring apples and pears whole, but a vegetable peeler will do the job almost as well. A melon baller is the best tool to use for coring halved fruits. Core fruit, unpeeled or peeled, depending on future use.
Push corer into stalk of apple and through to the bottom. Twist to loosen the core, then pull it out in the corer.
Insert point of peeler into the bottom of pear and twist it so that it cuts around the core. Gently pull out the core.
Hold halved fruit firmly in one hand and scoop out core and seeds by twisting the melon baller around.
SLICING APPLES AND PEARS
Hard fruits can be sliced as you like, but for classic presentations in tarts and pastries or for poaching, special slicing techniques need to be learnt. Here three of the most commonly used shapes are shown, together with a clever method of chopping that ensures neatly diced fruit with a minimum of waste.
Core and peel an apple, keeping it whole. Hold the apple on its side and slice downwards.
Peel, halve and core pear, leaving stalk intact. Put cut side down and slice from stalk to bottom. Press with your hand to fan out slices.
Core and peel an apple, keeping it whole. Cut in half lengthwise. Put each half cut side down and cut crosswise into half moons.
Make thick apple rings and stack them. Slice downwards, holding the stack together, then cut across these slices to make dice.
The flesh of apples and pear quickly discolours when exposed to air, so as soon as they are peeled or cut, treat them with an acidic liquid to counteract this. Here the juice of citrus fruit is brushed on the fruit, but you can rub the exposed flesh with the cut surface of a halved citrus fruit if you prefer. Use apples and pears immediately after preparation and, if possible, use stainless steel tools.
Squeeze the juice of a lemon, lime or orange into a bowl. Dip a pastry brush in the juice, then paint the juice all over the flesh as soon as it is exposed, working it into the crevices.
Rhubarb bought early in the season is very tender and requires little preparation, but main-crop rhubarb is dark in colour with a more fibrous flesh that needs peeling. If the leaves are still attached, they must be cut off and discarded because they are poisonous. Rhubarb is never eaten raw because it is so tough and tart. It is always cooked with plenty of sugar, or combined with other fruits.
1. Cut off the leaves and discard, then pare away the skin of the rhubarb in long strips using a vegetable peeler. Trim the base of each stalk.
2. Slice the rhubarb crosswise on the diagonal into neat chunks using a chef's knife. The rhubarb is now ready for cooking.