Aspall Cyder - Cider and Vinegar

Springtime - season of the year?

23rd May 2018

Cook And Eat

Whilst digging our potatoes in recently (Anya’s, Pentland Javelin and Cara if you’re interested), I found myself humming “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. I’m no hard core Andy Williams fan, so probably like most people – at least until I looked it up – I couldn’t get as far as the second line of kids jingle-belling and everyone telling me to be of good cheer. I know, it’s a Christmas song.

But jingle belling aside, I am in extremely good cheer – in fact in better cheer than I recall ever being in mid-winter, and I remain full of good cheer, because it’s spring, and if spring doesn’t put a smile on your face nothing will. 

It starts for me when I hear the first chiff chaff – usually in April; once I have heard a chiff chaff, no matter if the weather still feels mean, spring is just round the corner. It is imminent. Power wash the patio in anticipation, dust off the garden furniture, service the mower, drag out the barbeque – start planning. Half the fun is in the planning….

But nothing lifts the spirits quite like the burst of colour and life that marks nature’s awakening. And it was whilst I was marvelling at the unfolding scene around me that Andy Williams – or one line of him – popped into my head.

And it set me thinking; how come Christmas gets all the fanfare, all the holiday, all the attention? It’s not even the most important of the Christian festivals - that falls to Easter, which, guess what, is in Springtime. I know, all of the Christian festivals were dropped in on top of pre-existing pagan festivals as a matter of mischievous Medieval monkish convenience rather than historical accuracy; but these days, there just seems so much more to celebrate come Spring than the passing of the shortest day. I don’t knock marking mid Winter’s as a milestone, but it feels a bit of a “chin up, the worst is over, days are getting longer” sort of moment. Isn’t that what New Year is for?

For me of course, since time immemorial spring marks blossom on the apple trees; and not only that, it’s traditionally when the juice laid down the previous Autumn has finished fermenting and is ready to taste. It’s the first chance to see just what sort of vintage the previous year has actually produced. And what a heady combination that is.

No disrespect to births, deaths and resurrections, but the return of Spring is truly miraculous and worthy of way more of a celebration than the paltry one Bank Holiday it currently gets. You look at the muck we chuck at our planet on an ever-increasing industrial scale, and yet it still keeps coming back and putting on its dazzling show.

So I propose we make Spring the star of our National Festivals; “Blossomfest” is born – you heard it here first.

All together now “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Summer….”
  • Recipe for Versatile 'Inter Season' Pork Belly

    Despite all of my championing of spring as the season of the year, we all know the weather cannot necessarily be relied upon to play ball with our catering plans. This incredibly simple and easy pork belly recipe can be served with salad and new potatoes if the weather complies, or winter veg, baked red cabbage and celeriac mash (don’t forget the truffle oil) if it doesn’t.

    Ingredients (serves 6)

    • 1 pork belly
    • 1.2 kg’s approx. – bones left in
    • 2 Bramleys
    • 2 medium red onions
    • Aspall Draught (approx 330ml)
    • Soy sauce (approx 330ml)
    • Salt


    1. Pat dry the pork skin. Scour the skin almost, but not quite, to the meat, with a sharp knife.Cover with a good layer of salt – you shouldn’t be able to see the skin through it. Set aside for about an hour.

    2. Peel and core the Bramleys, chop in to quarters and then halve again. Chop the onions into eighths. Arrange on the bottom of a roasting tray, so there is a bed for the pork belly to lay on top of.

    3. Mix the soy sauce and Aspall Draught.  The quantities in the ingredients list are a guide so pour into the roasting tray; making sure there is enough to come up to the ‘shoulders’ of the Bramley and onions, so the tops still poke above the surface.

    4. Lay the pork belly on its bed of fruit and veg. Put into the oven at 220⁰C for the ‘half hour sizzle’. After half hour reduce the heat to 120⁰C and leave the belly to do its thing for 2 ½ hours. Relax about timings, it is almost impossible to overcook this dish.

    5. After 2 ½ hours – or close to, take the roasting tray out; by now, the salt will have formed a hard crust – remove it as best you can without breaking it up; a spoon or spatula is good for this. Back into the oven at 220⁰C – nominally for another half hour, but really just until the skin crisps up divinely. Keep an eye on it – this bit you can overdo.  

    6. Once you have the crackling to your liking, remove the pork belly and let it rest. The sauce is just about good to go, but beware, there is now a lot of fat in it as it rendered down from the belly during the cooking process; if you have one of those extremely useful fat separating gravy boats use it for this. Alternatively, spoon it out as best you can before pouring into a jug to serve. I quite like a fatty gravy….

    Serve with Aspall Draught. Obvs 

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