The Apple Corer and Peeler

Lucy Walker, Chair of the Board of Trustees shares.

“In the kitchen at the Museum of Cambridge, one of my favourite objects sits on a shelf with some other fascinating food preparation items – including what may be one of the earliest mechanical food mixers on the shelf above.

This machine is a thing of beauty, made of heavy-duty steel, with precision engineering, and a handle to turn a chain which links to cogs to move its various parts, with levers and pins.  However, until I read the label, I had no idea what it is!

The label describes it as an apple corer and peeler, dating to the late 19th century, and apparently it once belonged to Clare College, part of the University of Cambridge. Perhaps the catering staff kindly donated it as they were upgrading their kitchens. 

It was made by S Nye & Co (London), and its style is very much of the 19th century, pre-electric, and highly engineered – redolent of much larger machinery designed to do much bigger jobs around the world.  It is hand turned, but it’s easy to imagine a bigger version powered by steam!

I’ve googled apple corers and peelers, and they are still made today – with the added bonus of slicing – but none are as magnificent as this.

Just looking at the machine in the museum you realise it is a solid bit of kit intended to do a big job. As the handle is turned a central projection would remove the core and turn the apple round as a blade peeled it. Clever.

But was it over-engineered? Well maybe! Particularly as I think you can only core and peel one apple at a time.  However, you just have to think of its context to realise that it certainly needed to be heavy duty. Imagine all those students who needed feeding every day, and the number of apples required for sauces and to fill pies and crumbles for their puddings throughout the year.  That gives you an idea of how significant a piece of kitchen equipment it was!”

The Apple Corer and Peeler

One thought on “The Apple Corer and Peeler

  • 1 October 2022 at 10:09 am

    Fascinating — and this immediately reminded me of a Rube Goldberg creation, and “overegging the pudding”.

    However as you pointed out, with all those apples being processed for all those students, something heavy duty indeed was needed.

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