09 December 2009

How 'Bout THEM Apples?



Silent Bob, Kate, and I took a road trip a few weeks ago to Walpole, NH to get apples. I was also in the market for pears before they disappeared from the local fruit scene. The day was typical for late Fall in New Hampshire. A thick wedge of gray clouds made its way across the sky and chilly air was pushing on through, as the remnants of Hurricane Ida rolled in. As we trundled up the dirt road to Alyson’s Orchards, Silent Bob was looking forward to ‘Golden Crisps’ for snacking on during his upcoming hunting trip. I was thinking ‘Cortlands’ for apple pies and those pears for a tart. Kate was along for the ride.

As we rolled into the dooryard of the orchard store, a rag tag flock or free-range chickens caught Kate’s attention. They lead her a merry chase here and there with her camera while I headed with SB to the store shelves. I knew exactly where those pears were and you can always find ‘Cortlands’ in New England. Alas, the pears were gone! In their place sat small boxes of strange looking apples. The word ‘heirloom’ was emblazoned across the handles of the boxes. After looking them over and reading the small tag describing each variety, I became interested in the ‘Hudson’s Golden Gems’. They were touted to have a sweet juicy flesh and a pear-like flavor… hmm, maybe my tart idea might work after all. We snapped up the ‘Hudsons’ and ‘Golden Crisps’, decided to wait on the ‘Cortlands’ until the next trip, threw the money in the ‘honor jar’ on the counter and went outside to enjoy the afternoon before the rains started.

It’s a couple weeks later and I’ve got it in mind to make that tart today. The recipe is a tried and true classic French tart. I will be using apples and a bit of Calvados to season the sweet juices in the tart and its glaze. I include my recipe here for your enjoyment. Silent Bob and I will have it warm with a dollop of whipped cream… leftovers will grace the breakfast table tomorrow morning. I’m drooling already!

While it’s baking, I’ll indulge my curiosity. I can’t get that visit to Alyson’s Orchard out of my head and have been obsessing on finding out more about apples… particularly, heirloom apples. Heirloom status sounds really special doesn’t it? What makes one apple an heirloom apple and another a regular old apple? Come on, aren’t all apples special? Even the wormy bedraggled looking things that you see lying in the field at this time of year came from a wonderfully gnarly old tree and nourish the field mice or foxes or deer that pass through on their forages. They’re ‘old’ apples so doesn’t that make them heirlooms? It turns out I have a lot to learn!

Apple Tart - printer friendly

Apple Tart

In a food processor bowl:

   1 c. flour
   2 tbsp. sugar
   1 stick cold butter (not margarine!), cut into chunks

Pulse the flour, sugar, butter mix until it resembles a crumbly meal. Remove the top and turn the flour that has collected around the edges back toward the blades.

Return top and pulse in:

   2 to 3 tbsp. ice water

Pulse until the dough forms a ball. Remove top and turn dough onto a lightly floured board. Work any excess flour in work bowl into the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for an hour.

Meanwhile, quarter, peel and core 4 large apples (Cortlands are a good bet, but I’m using those Hudson Golden Gems today). Slice thin slices and toss with a tiny bit of lemon juice.

Roll the dough into a circle and place in a lightly buttered 9-inch springform pan. Bring the edges of the dough about one inch up the sides and crimp prettily.

Arrange the apples in circles, creating a blossom pattern.

Sprinkle with:

   5 tbsp. sugar
   4 tbsp. butter, cut into dots and scattered on the surface of the tart
   1 tbsp. Calvados (a ginger or peach brandy might be yum)

Bake in a 400º oven until the fruit has caramelized and the crust is golden.

Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine in a small saucepan:
   1/3 c. apple jelly (some peach or apricot jam would be just as good!)
   2 tbsp. Calvados

Stir over a medium-high heat until bubbly and incorporated.

Drizzle over the cooling tart. Finish cooling and serve just warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

Afterword…Isn’t it interesting how you can be puttering around at one thing and get side-tracked to another? In beginning to research heirloom varieties of apples and learn about how apples grow, I discovered an interesting non-profit that is based in the Boston area. I encourage you to take a look. These folks are on to something good! The second link is an informational article published by a county cooperative extension affiliated with Washington State University and provides everything you’ve always wanted to know about apples.

Happy reading!



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