Archive for the ‘Apples’ Category

Aunt Fox’s Hawley Haroseth

5 April 2009

hawley-harosethweb

 
A Note to Readers:
 
 
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Tinky

 
We’re so used to artificial light that we forget how many traditional holidays are based on the cycles of the sun. Easter and Passover (and just about every spring holiday there is) are examples. Both holidays are tied to the vernal equinox. On that welcome day we finally achieve parity between dark and light and start lurching toward the golden days and gentle evenings of summer.

 

Like the vernal equinox itself, Passover and Easter mix dark and light. That mixture is key to the two festivals. The Jews’ flight from Egypt more than 3000 years ago is meaningless unless one understands the harsh slavery under which the Jewish people served the Pharaohs. The joy of Easter is possible because of the sorrow of Good Friday.

 

As a food writer and food lover I appreciate the centrality of food to both of these holidays, particularly Passover. Passover illustrates the connection we all feel but too seldom articulate between food and memory. Food is used at Passover to symbolize the history the holiday commemorates and to bring people together to remember this shared history.

 

The centerpiece of the holiday is the meal known as the Seder, in which families gather to retell the story of the departure from Egypt. Much of the Seder’s menu is prescribed by tradition, and during the meal the symbolism of each item on the table is explained.

 

A bitter herb (usually horseradish) symbolizes the hardship of the slaves’ life, for example. My personal favorite symbol, Haroseth (also spelled “charoset” and a variety of other ways), is a paste of fruits and nuts. It represents the mortar the Jews used to construct buildings—most famously the pyramids.

 

Many years ago my honorary Aunt Carolyn Fox brought this haroseth to a Seder at our home in Hawley, Massachusetts. Growing up I ate haroseth moistened with wine. As a lover of sweets I was thrilled with her use of grape juice instead. The last time I made it I used crangrape juice, adding a little New England tang to this Passover staple. Next time I’m thinking of using straight cranberry juice…….

 

 

The Haroseth

 

Ingredients:

 

2 tart apples, peeled and cored

1/2 cup pecans

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon grape (or crangrape or maybe cranberry) juice

 

Instructions:

 

 

Finely chop the apples and pecans separately; then chop them together to make even smaller pieces. Stir in the cinnamon, honey, and juice.

 

Spoon a bit of haroseth on a piece of matzo for each guest.

Makes 12 small servings.

November in the Hills: Embracing the Darkness (Part II)

13 November 2008
Judith Maloney (Courtesy of West County Cider/CISA)

Judith Maloney (Courtesy of West County Cider/CISA)

          A note to readers: This blog has moved! Please visit the new IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS for new posts as well as copies of older ones (yes, even this post!).  See you around the stove……..

          Tinky

          A strong proponent of November in our western Massachusetts hilltowns is Judith Maloney of West County Cider in Shelburne. Along with her husband Terry and a group of sweet- and hard-cider enthusiasts, Judith founded Cider Days in 1994. This tradition of celebrating the apple harvest and sharing cider, which takes place the first weekend in November, is now a highlight of autumn in Franklin County.

          To Judith, Cider Days don’t just honor the harvest. They also keep a way of life alive. She told me last week that early on she saw this festival as “something that would keep the apple trees in the ground—because the economics of apples have changed very much over the last 20 years. No longer do people buy apples to store over the winter. They buy them at the supermarket, and [the apples] come from Australia and New Zealand.”

          In contrast, says Judith, Cider Days preserve local apples and cider–and the trees that produce them. “We’re so lucky to have these trees,” she said with passion. “A lot of them have great age on them. [And] there’s a lot of knowledge among the orchardists along the valley and in the hills. It’s great that we can go onto the next season with that knowledge still spreading.”

          One of this year’s Cider Days speakers enthusiastically takes his celebration on to that next season, when the trees have yielded all their fruit and the snow has settled in. Michael Phillips of Lost Nation Orchard in Groveton, New Hampshire, takes a group deep into the woods on a dark night once a year to mark “old” Epiphany (January 17, the 12th night after Christmas in the old Julian calendar). There the group sings, dances, salutes the apple trees that will blossom in spring, and shares warm refreshments, including wassail (spiced cider-y punch) and slices of wassail pie.

          Here are the lyrics to the song the wassailers sing, courtesy of Michael Phillips:

Oh apple tree, we’ll wassail thee in hope that thou will bear.

The Lord does know where we shall be to be merry another year.

To blow well and to bear well, and so merry let us be:

Let every man drink up his cup, here’s health to the old apple tree.

To blow well and to bear well, and so merry let us be:

Let every man drink up his cup, here’s health to the old apple tree.

(Repeat all twice more)

Apples now–

Hats full,

Caps full,

Barrels full,

Three bushel bags full,

Barn floors full,

                   And even a little heap under the stairs.

Hip, Hip, Hooray! Hip, Hip, Hooray! Hip, Hip, Hooray!

          In his book The Apple Grower, Michael explains that he likes to greet the season with gusto. He writes, “[O]ur gathering often occurs on the coldest night of the winter. There’s certainly an almost mystical power in sharing apple custom with forty dear friends as you dance around the chosen tree at thirty degrees below zero!”
          Now, there’s someone who knows how to embrace the season’s darkness.

          If you’d like more information about Cider Days, visit their web site, http://www.ciderday.org/. Meanwhile, here are a couple of recipes that take advantage of the season’s cider bounty. Be sure to bow to an apple tree as you get ready to eat them; then go indoors and enjoy the cozy warmth and light of your house.

The Green Emporium (Courtesy of the Green Emporium)

The Green Emporium (Courtesy of the Green Emporium)

Cider Mussels Emporium

          This recipe comes from the fertile culinary mind of Michael Collins, chef at the Green Emporium in Colrain and a longtime fan of Cider Days. The restaurant has just reopened as a pizza/pasta parlor. Michael may have simplified his menu, but he hasn’t lost his creativity: he has a terrific new apple pizza!

Ingredients:

3 to 4 chopped shallots

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups hard cider

3 pounds mussels, cleaned and de-bearded (discard opened or cracked mussels)

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (of your choice; Gorgonzola is nice here, or just plain blue cheese)

chopped parsley as needed for garnish

Instructions:

          Sauté the shallots in the olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Just before the shallots become translucent, pop in the garlic pieces, but be careful not to burn the garlic.

          Add the hard cider, and simmer the mixture until the cider is reduced in half.

          Add the mussels, and cover to steam until the mussels open. (This will only take a couple of minutes so be sure to check frequently.)  Take the pan off the heat, crumble the cheese over all, and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with parsley. Serves 6 to 8.  

Michael Phillips at Cider Days (Courtesy of Carolyn Halloran/West County Independent)
Michael Phillips at Cider Days (Courtesy of Carolyn Halloran/West County Independent)

 Lost Nation Traditional Cider Pie

Michael Phillips serves a slice of this pie (indoors!) to his guests each winter at the end of his orchard wassailing ceremony.  He also recommends it for Thanksgiving and other special occasions.

The cider jelly required is a reduction of sweet cider. Boil 3 cups of cider until you have only 1/2 cup left; what remains is what you will need for this recipe.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup cider jelly

1/2 cup boiling water

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon melted butter

2 cups sliced apples

pastry for a 2-crust, 9-inch pie

Instructions:

         Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the cider jelly and water, and blend. Stir in the egg and melted butter. Place the apple sices on the bottom pie crust in a pie plate, and top with the cider mixture. Put the top crust over all, cutting a few slashes in it. Bake for 40 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.

Mrs. Baker’s Applesauce

28 October 2008

 

          A note to readers: This blog has moved! Please visit the new IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS for new posts as well as copies of older ones (yes, even this post!).  See you around the stove……..

          Tinky

          This year has seen the most abundant apple harvest I can recall in our corner of New England. My neighbor Alice speculates that our literal windfall of apples has something to do with the hatching of swarms of bees just as the apple trees blossomed last spring. All I know is that our apple trees, most of which are older than anyone living on our road, suddenly acted like fertile teenagers.

          Naturally, my mother and I have made large quantities of applesauce. Applesauce is the perfect fall comfort food, and it’s amazingly easy to make, especially if you have a food mill. Food mills render the peeling and coring of apples completely unnecessary. The skin, core, and seeds of the apple cook along with the sauce, adding flavor to the end product, and then get pushed out and discarded. The residue left in the food mill is surprisingly small.

          If you don’t have a food mill, you will have to peel and core your apples. On the other hand, you will end up with lumpy applesauce, which some people prefer to the smoother version.

          As you can see in the photographs above and below, my food mill requires me to push the apple pulp manually through the holes in the mill. My neighbor Peter has a relatively high-tech machine with a crank that does most of the work. Either type of mill is definitely worth purchasing.

          My applesauce is named after Abigail Baker, who lived around the corner from our property in Hawley, Massachusetts, in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Mrs. Baker is famous (in our corner of the world, at any rate) for creating the winning pudding in a late 18th-century pudding contest that gave our district, Pudding Hollow, its name.

When my friend Judith Russell and I began work on our Pudding Hollow Cookbook, Judy suggested that we include a recipe for Mrs. Baker’s applesauce. Somehow it slipped through the cracks then so I’m rectifying that omission here on my blog. I portray Mrs. Baker every year in the entertainment that accompanies our revived pudding contest. Hawley’s most celebrated cook is therefore seldom out of my thoughts. Judy, too, is in my thoughts a lot, especially at this time of year. She died in the autumn of 1994, but her colorful folk art and sunny spirit live on in our hills, in our hearts, and in my cookbook.

 

 

Mrs. Baker’s Windfall Applesauce

Ingredients:

6 cups quartered apples (preferably more than 1 variety)

1 cinnamon stick

1/4 cup cider plus additional cider as needed

maple syrup to taste (I used 2 tablespoons for my most recent batch)

Instructions:

          Wash the apples and quarter them. Remove any bad spots, but don’t worry about cutting out the core and seeds if you have a food mill.

          Place the apple pieces, the cinnamon stick, and the cider in a 4-quart pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat, covered, and simmer it until the apples soften, checking frequently to see whether you need to add more cider to keep the sauce from burning. The cooking time will depend on your apples; my most recent batch, which used Cortland and Northern Spy apples I’d had sitting in my entryway for about a month, took 20 to 25 minutes.

          Let the apples cool for a few minutes; then run them through a food mill. Discard the pulp and seeds (excellent pig food or compost!), and place the sauce in a saucepan. Add maple syrup to taste, and heat until the syrup dissolves.

          The yield will depend on your apples. My test batch this week gave me just under 2 cups of sauce. Feel free to multiply this recipe if your apple harvest is copious.

 

Apple-Cranberry Salsa

9 September 2008

 

Photo Courtesy of Susan Hagen

Photo Courtesy of Susan Hagen

          A note to readers: This blog has moved! Please visit the new IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS for new posts as well as copies of older ones (yes, even this post!).  See you around the stove……..

          Tinky

            This colorful salsa is adapted from a recipe published online by the Washington Apple Commission. For more recipes and nutritional information, visit http://www.bestapples.com/Recipes.

            I happened to have some frozen cranberries in the house so I used them to make fresh cranberry sauce, which always tastes better (and usually uses better ingredients) than the canned version. If your freezer isn’t stocked and cranberries are out of season, however, you may use canned sauce.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

the juice of 1 large lime (or 2 small ones)

2 cups chopped apple (2 large apples, more or less; core them, but don’t peel them)

1 cup cranberry sauce, preferably homemade

1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, carefully stemmed, seeded and chopped (if you like things spicy, use more; if you don’t, use a milder pepper)

several sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped

1 pinch salt

Directions:
            In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, and lime juice. Bring the liquid to a boil, and stir in half of the chopped apple pieces.

            Return the mixture to the boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer until the apples almost soften (this will happen very quickly, in about 5 minutes). Mash the apples until they are soft but still have a little texture. Remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the cranberry sauce. Let cool for 10 minutes.

            Stir in the remaining apple plus the onion, pepper, cilantro, and salt. Let the mixture sit for at least half an hour to allow the flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla chips or as a condiment to accompany meat, vegetables, or fish. You may refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days. Makes about 2-1/2 cups.

Apples and the Universe

3 September 2008
 
Photo Courtesy of Susan Hagen

Photo Courtesy of Susan Hagen

          A note to readers: This blog has moved! Please visit the new IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS for new posts as well as copies of older ones (yes, even this post!).  See you around the stove……..

          Tinky

       If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

            So said the late astronomer Carl Sagan on the PBS television series Cosmos.

            Sagan was one of the great writers of popular science for a reason. He knew how to phrase complicated truths about human existence in down-to-earth ways.

            To him, of course, the important noun in his sentence was the universe. To me (because I’m an ordinary person and a cook), it’s the apple pie. I love to cook—but I can’t imagine how anyone ever invented our most basic recipes: a simple cake, a loaf of bread, a scrambled egg, a pie. To my mind those breakthroughs are as mystifying as thinking up relativity or quantum theory. I’m glad I don’t have to come up with them myself. I’m content with tweaking traditional folk recipes and asking my neighbors to share the formulas for their own culinary triumphs.

            Nevertheless, I do know that very time we cook or bake we’re using science and recreating the universe in numerous ways. Even though I managed to avoid taking chemistry in high school and college, I use its magical processes every day to create meals for family and friends. When I follow a recipe or consider a specific food, the neurons (or whatever the heck does the work) in my brain conjure up the person who first introduced me to that flavor. And of course when cooking I create something new out of unrelated matter—my own personal big bang.

            (I’ve had a few little bangs in the kitchen as well, but that’s another topic.)

            Apples are all around us at this time of year, embodying the coming autumn with that season’s key characteristics. They are cool. They are colorful. They are crisp. Looking down at us from trees or up at us from a basket, they evoke wonder and laughter, just like the universe. They are comforting, nutritious, and versatile—capable of waxing sweet or sour (again like the universe), depending on their use.

            My dog finds them on the road and uses them as balls, illustrating gravity (wouldn’t that old apple lover Isaac Newton be proud?) by propelling them down the street and running to retrieve them.

            I’ll be posting some apple recipes here over the next few weeks. Luckily, none of them actually takes 13 billion years to make—unless you, like Sagan, like to consider the very, very big picture.

                                                                       —  Tinky