Posts Tagged ‘apples’

The Road Home to Apple Country: Apple Butter

Homemade apple butter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I know I swore I’d never can another fruit. And then along came a big bag of apples, plucked straight from the tree, and I couldn’t just let them rot.

I’ve never been much of an apple person. I think they’re a little boring as fruits go – a little too uniformly sweet, too big to nibble on, too much chewing to do. But apples feel like a harbinger of the fall, of cooler, crisper days, of waiting for the school bus and new sweaters, of cinnamon sticks and pie and holidays.

A bowl of just-picked apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Just a lonely little apple (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I grew up in apple country. Not far from where we lived, the roads started undulating like a kiddie coaster, curving through fog-stained fields full of gnarled fruit trees and corn. We bought our apples from a stand along the road which sold fresh peaches and blueberries – whatever was in season – along with homemade pickles and preserves. And every fall, there was the Apple Harvest Festival, a sweet-smelling country fair with bluegrass music and whole pigs roasting on spits. Mouths full of apples, of course.

Bowl of bright apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Apple butter helper (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Homegrown apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I have a very vivid memory of the festival. It must be a composite, because I’m sure we went more than just the once, but in my mind it’s that one long day in the clear, blue fall. I remember an apple fritter pulled from a vat of boiling oil, soft and doughy and covered in powdered sugar. I remember sitting on a hay bale and watching a play whose plot points I can no longer recall though I can still feel the scratchy hay poking through my thin leggings and the straw sticking out from a scarecrow’s shirt beside me.

Weighing apple quarters (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Quartered apples for making apple butter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I know there were tractors on display and squat ponies walking around and around the corral with children on their backs. » Continue reading this post…

Apples and Guilt: Baked Apple Custard with Butter Cookie Crust

Baked apple custard (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The way I see it, there are three types of guilt. Guilt complexes, guilty consciences and the most fun of the three, guilty pleasures. Guilty consciences arise when you’ve done something you know you shouldn’t, and a guilt complex comes from anticipating a guilty conscience. A guilty pleasure, then, is something you do to calm  your guilt complex down. It’s the solution to everything.

Apples and guilt go way back. Biblical back. (Let’s not get too hung up on whether apples really are Edenic. Persimmon, perschmimmon. We’re sticking to modern-day symbolism, here.) It was the fruit that cost the garden, and introduced the very first guilty conscience to the world. And we all know the three-tiered progression of guilt that follows.

Apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Halved apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Luckily, apples are their own solution. Fast forward hundreds of thousands of years to a little kitchen in Berlin where the apple became a guilty pleasure: Sensuous and silky apple custard resting on top of a crumbling butter cookie crust. The earth, it trembles.

Crushing butterkeks (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Baked apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Work and play (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’ve been on a bit of a custard craze, having made my very first custard just a few short weeks ago in the form of lemon bars. What an interesting collection of ingredients, what a sumptuous result. Dense and creamy, sweet and bright. A new custard-lover was born.

Adding sugar to butterkeks (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Butterkeks crumble (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Butterkeks crust (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Never much of a baker, custard was so easy to make I thought even I could experiment with it. What if, for instance, I left out the lemons and substituted some of my overflowing supply of slowly-going-bad apples? What if I thought of the filling as a custard version of apple pie? What if the base was a riff on a graham cracker crust made with butter cookies instead? » Continue reading this post…

The Arrival Poems: Berliner Leek and Apple Tart

Leek and apple tart with goat cheese (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Who knows pleasure who does not know the smell of leeks on a stovetop? Fragrant and sweet, soft with butter, the scent is a perfume muskier than onion and green with earth. The leeks slowly simmer down, reducing to the thinnest slimness, translucent and rimmed with butter-burnt brown. Now there is sage in the pan, now salt, now the hiss of hard apple cider.

In this moment, I can imagine nothing more beautiful. I am completely happy.

I have just started to write poems about Berlin. What does this mean? For one, it means that I have stopped writing poems about New York. It means that at least for a while, Berlin is the most tangible home I have.

Baking the crust (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Rolled-out dough (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Tart crust (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Beneath my fingers, flour and butter blend. Light, quick rubs until the butter leaves no more trace than a yellow stain and the dough feels silkily dry. Then there is a whisked egg, drops of cold water. Then the dough is a smooth ball beneath my fingertips. It is rolled and glossy, wrapped in plastic and set aside. It needs to think.

It seems to me that New York is a story about leaving a place you love and Berlin is a story about arriving in a place you come to know. Where we are or where we live is never as simple as choosing what we love. It can be right to live in a place we don’t care for and wrong to live in the place that knows us best. » Continue reading this post…

Smells Like Fall: Uncle Richard’s Apple Cider

Apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It is one of my last evenings living in Neukölln, and I’m feeling prematurely nostalgic about the scratch of car wheels roughing up rain outside my ground floor window, the headlights shining in through the curtains, the soft glow of lights in my little room, and the way it’s always cold no matter how much you wear. For that reason, and because hot drinks are so well suited to nostalgia, I’ve warmed myself up a cup of homemade apple cider and am sitting here at my desk researching moving truck prices and trying to figure out what Kbpi/s means.

I made my first batch of  homemade apple cider last week, listening to soft music and letting the warm smell of cinnamon waft through the apartment. A few weeks before that, my uncle had sent around an email with his recipe for apple cider.

My uncle, who lives in West Virginia, is an avid and experimental cook, reconstructing his favorite dishes by taking them apart and building them back up again. I store the recipes in an email folder, saving them for a rainy day or an alignment of the proper stars. I have yet to try the French onion soup, Moroccan-style boneless pork ribs, and Pho broth, but this fall in Berlin has been gracious, and that’s enough stars to spend a day with a pot of cider simmering on the stove. » Continue reading this post…

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