Armagh the Bramley Apple County
My great grandparents on my father’s side had an orchard in Benburb just outside the village of Blackwatertown. The orchard was known as Tullylearn and my father inherited it from his mother.
My Granda Mackle, who lived two fields down from us – as children we took the direct route through the three hedges and two fields – got into the apple business during the second world war starting out with selling Bramley apples at the market in Dublin. Armagh Bramley Apples have always featured in my life.
My father had two orchards, Tullylearn and a smaller one which started at the garden fence and my five brothers and I earned pocket money picking the apples and pulling suckers from the trees. My father’s orchards are long gone but the orchards of County Armagh produce 40,000 tonnes of Bramley apples annually and you don’t have to go far to see them growing.
Armagh Bramley Apples
In 2012, Armagh Bramley apples were awarded PGI status (Protected Geographical Indication) a designation given to foods that are recognised as being original and unique to a specific geographical location. The mild, damp climate and the lower likelihood of late frosts are what make the area particularly suited to the growing of Bramley apples.
My mother baked apple tarts, crumbles and potato apple bread (a County Armagh specialty always served at Halloween in our house) and even my father on occasion made an apple tart, all recipes I continue to make and teach in my baking classes. Bramley apples are bitter but it is the unique texture that softens on cooking that makes them ideal for cooking and desserts and cider of course.
Bramley Apple Baking Experiences
In my Bramley Apple Baking & Orchard Visit, we will visit Rose Mackle’s orchard named after my great great aunt, Rose Mackle, (pictured above) which is now owned by my Uncle Des (top picture) and down the road from where I grew up. Uncle Des will give a tour of the orchard and chat about the Bramley apples, the heritage and his own family history in the business. Then it’s back to the cookery school for refreshments and a hands-on baking class with Bramley apples as the star of the show.
Below are my father and grandfather with myself and two of my brothers. Apples and orchards feature in many of my childhood photos.