Sunday, November 13, 2011

You too can have real Bramley apple pie, in Japan!

My excitement might be difficult to understand: I found Bramley apples in Japan! (Also see my later post about the original home of Bramleys in Japan.) I've looked before, in English and Japanese, and found only "currently out of season" information on seller sites, and the Bramley Fan Club site which interesting though it is, didn't tell me how to get my hands on the unprocessed fruit itself.

Apple pies of all varieties can be lovely, and everyone has their favourite type. In Japan anything called 'pie' is usually made with a flaky puff-pastry type crust. In fact you can even get 'leaf pie' which sounds horrid now I think about it in English, but refers to a biscuit-type piece of sweet flaky pastry in the shape of a leaf. See for yourself, there is nothing forest-floor about it. Most apple pies you'll get in Japan then are of the flakes of pastry down your front variety, and are filled with dessert apples. No!

Sorry. I don't really mean to decry anyone else's love of apple pie made with Fuji apples, or any other dessert apple, it's just that I crave what I had when I was little. The house I grew up in had 2 Bramley apple trees and a cherry tree. Each year we'd try to get as much of the ripening fruit as we could in a fight against the crows who would take all the best ones as they ripened first at the top of the tree. I have fond memories of washing and peeling the fruit, rolling out the pastry with Mum, and the taste - the perfectly balanced tart and sweet result you get from the high-acid cooking apple. That's the taste I crave. A well structured white wine, a nice riesling let's say, will have an element of acidity to balance out the sugar in the palate, without it, it's just a flabby 80's Blue Nun - that's how I feel about apple pie made with dessert apples. Many non-cooking apples also keep their shape far too well during cooking, resulting in dry slices of over-sweet apple in your pie, rather than a lush tangy-sweet puree with pieces of soft apple. Am I being too forceful about this?

You might now be vicariously excited to learn that, giving the cooking apple quest another go the other day I came across 北の果族 Kitanokazoku, an online store for a farm shop in Hokkaido which stocked among their produce what appeared to be real bramley apples. I put in my order in disbelief, surely a 5kg box of Bramley apple jam will arrive.. The method was cash on delivery, quite a common payment method used in Japan, so I felt the only thing I was risking was the chance of being hugely disappointed upon the arrival of a box of juice. It was all so fast! I could select the upcoming Saturday morning as my delivery time, and there, I was done.

Saturday morning the box arrived, I steeled myself. The cats were just as fascinated with the arrival of a new package - though to be fair, they like all new boxes.

Kyaa! What's inside?

Removing the newspaper covering the top revealed a beautiful sight. Just look at them! In true Japanese fruit rearing fashion, these apples were perfect. The fruit of my childhood were a little more gnarled, and well, littler. I don't think we ever beat the crows to any apples ripe enough to be slightly red.

Bramley 'E-1' seedling apples

I gleefully resolved to spend the day making up a few different kinds of pastry and crumbles. I tried regular shortcrust and sweet shortcrust pastry, and now have a freezer full of pies and crumbles that should last us a while.

Sweet shortcrust Bramley apple pie. Oh yeah!

This pie, a sweet shortcrust pastry filled simply with slices of apple sprinkled with sugar and spices and dotted with butter, with little leafy decorations on top, was my clear favourite. When I make these pies again I'll use more apples I think, but the flavour was spot on, fulfilling my ambitions of that real apple pie of my childhood taste in a way worthy of Proust. :)

A lady from the Kitakazoku store explained that they keep the apples in cold storage, and so they will still have stock well into next year, probably up until March, at which point we'll have to wait for them to come back in season. "E-1" stands for England-1, meaning they are true English Bramleys. They also have Cox Orange Pippin apples, wow!
(Postscript - 2013, Kitakazoku online store is now closed. For Bramley apples try Obuse-ya in Nagano or 三氣の辺 in Hokkaido. Also check here for further updates!)


  1. Hello! Im so happy to find you!
    thank you for visiting our blog, Bramley Fan Club.
    Have you register your name and address to Obuse-Ya which sells Obuse Bramley?
    Hope to talk to you someday.
    contact me by email on the blog, please.

  2. Hello Kitarou! こちらこそ!I was similarly excited to find and read your blog. Thank you so much for the tip regarding Obuse-Ya, I will be looking into this. I look forward to having the chance to talk in person at some point, and one day I hope to also be able to welcome you to my small shop! I'll drop you a line via email.