It has to be said that I’m rather partial to a nice crisp apple. The area around Port Naain is quite good from them, northerly but not too northerly, and the weather is quite bracing which apparently blows all the pests away. Or so I am reliably informed by those who claim to know.
As you can imagine there are a lot of orchards scattered about and many houses will have a tree or two in their garden. But I know of only one fortune built on apples. This is the business run by three consecutive generations of the Mistresses Garon. (Note that although all these ladies have married, they retained the family name.) The first Mistress Garon inherited the orchard, and took it in hand, planted a lot of new trees and generally got it running properly. The second Mistress Garon, presented with an orchard that was running as smoothly as a well oiled watch, concentrated on selling the apples more profitably. She it was who started supplying apple sauce to butchers, and experimented with apple juice which she sold to some of the more prestigious restaurants.
Finally we have the third Mistress Garon, seen here with the child who will doubtless be the fourth Mistress Garon. She it is who seems to have managed to wring every last dreg of value from her apple crop. The first thing she did was to acquire shares in a number of businesses, and used them as outlets for her products.
She rather ignored those apples sold as whole apples for people to just eat (a side of the business that was running as well as could be hoped) and concentrated on the manufacturing side of the business where she felt there was money to be made.
First all apples that failed to pass the family quality standards are pulped and crushed to produce juice. The juice she continues to sell through the same restaurants as previously.
The pulp is then fed to fattening motts which are slaughtered at the butcher’s shop in which she has a half share. The butcher’s shop obviously sells Garon apple sauce to complement the mott.
This rather brings us to the topic of the apple sauce. This is a high quality product; Mistress Garon is not willing to accept second best. So the apples that were to go into manufacturing as apple sauce are peeled and cored. The sauce is then poured into large glass jars. Some is sold direct to customers and some to butchers. But the majority goes to the two bakeries in which she has significant shareholdings. The number of cakes and pastries that can be enhanced by adding apple sauce is apparently infinite.
In the interests of business efficiency she opened the Garon tea rooms, where one can sit and eat these cakes. My favourite is the Garon apple squdge. Take a soft oatmeal biscuit base, spread it thickly with apple sauce, and then spread a final thin layer of the oatmeal mix on top. When you cook it ensure the biscuit doesn’t get hard. What a treat for a hard working poet.
I mentioned that the apples were peeled before they were made into sauce, and the peel also had a use. At the Garon tea rooms the peel is boiled with a dash of lemon, cinnamon and brown sugar to produce a tisane. This is perhaps their most popular drink and aficionados claim it has many medicinal properties, curing virtually everything given time.
Obviously the tisane is served as a clear liquid, the tea being strained before being served. The remains are saved in the kitchens and go back to the estate to help fatten the mott.
Even the apple cores are saved. The pips were carefully picked out of them by children equipped with tweezers. The cores are then placed in huge cauldrons, covered in vinegar and salt and sugar are added. Then the whole lot is brought to the boil. After half an hour or so the liquid is allowed to cool, then it is poured into storage containers, covered and left in a cold room for a month.
After a month, the liquid is strained off and the resulting apple vinegar is bottled for sale. Like the tisane it apparently has so many healing properties that one wonders how anybody in Port Naain has the temerity to die!
There again, Mistress Garon has that side of it covered as well. The pips are carefully put to one side, and on two evenings a week, after supper, Mistress Garon will retire to her workroom with the box of pips. These she crushes in her hydraulic press and the resulting pulp is gently heated under reflux for a couple of hours. The remaining concentrated cyanide solution has a lucrative market amongst those who feel that their lives will be so much more fulfilled were a particular person to pass away.
Those wishing to know more about life in Port Naain might like to read
Tallis Steelyard. The Festival, and other stories.
As a reviewer commented, “Another selection of tales from Port Naain, as told by jobbing poet Tallis Steelyard. Read about the underpinnings of dancing matrons, the secret beneath the undergarments of a gentlewoman of the town, the resurrection of a dead mercenary, and much more. This is a gentle comedy of manners in a world so different from our own. The author writes affectionately of his world and his characters, and I share that affection. Lovely stuff.”