November 27, 2005
As one of the country's largest apple growers, Nagano has seen busy and yet worried apple farmers over this past month or so. Usually, they would have been busy picking Fuji, the area's biggest sell, since as early as the beginning of November; but this year, this warmer-than-normal weather has slowed ripening of apples, leaving them on the trees longer than usual. They only started the picking in full swing towards the middle of the month, but once they started, they didn't have much time to worry; they had too many apples for picking to care about other things!
To see the full set of pictures I took of some apple picking, click here and start a slideshow in a new window.
In the second week of this month, their appels weren't quite ripe enough, especially the ones in an applefarm on the top of a hill. They'd check the farms every day, picking an apple or two to test taste for their ripeness. To my taste, many of them were quite ready, but apples here need right time to have their sugar content rise and get some really sweet, sugar-saturated part called "mitsu" (literally meaning honey or nectar).
And they finally called it a go into the third week of the month, and once it happened, everything got hectic - individual apple farmers in this area are typically small, family-based businesses, and at this time of the year they'd have their relatives and friends to come and help them picking apples as promptly possible. because, while they need to wait until last moment for apples to rightly ripe and sweet on the trees, the sweetness of fruits would ruin pretty quickly if they are left on the tree too long.
Here's my first crop of apple - isn't it beautiful?
I have a particular say about apples. It's not that they are the most favorite fruit of mine, but as someone that has families and relatives who would send us boxes of guaranteed-fresh, quality apples directly from the apple-growing area every year, I grew up with only good apples and have become quite spoiled, so to speak. As far as I'm concerned, I'd only accept super-crisp, sweet but tart ones as "proper" apples; the last thing I could stand is those spongy, almost mushy, bland-tasting ones that might appear bright and glossy on the surface. Well, people have different tastes, so this is my case. Still, I won't go as far as eating "an apple a day", but would love to enjoy the season's crop, appreciating farmers' care and efforts that are devoted to every single fruit - even more so now that I have gotten a glimpse of apple harvest for the first time.
Now, as you might be able to imagine, with this much of apples around, I've been making a whole lot of apple things this season. I will feature some of such things in my future posts, but for now I'd pick up something most directly apple-y, something that I wouldn't make if I had to buy bags of apples from a supermarket.
This is named Twenty-hour Apples by Pierre Herme, in the book Desserts by Pierre Herme (Pierre Herme, Dorie Greenspan, ed. Little, Brown, 1998). You get the idea from the name; it takes 20 hours to make, plus some more for peeling and coring of four pounds of apples. What you do is make layers and layers of thin-sliced apples, sugar, melted butter, and zest of orange (I used lemon, as organic oranges are hard to find here), piling up in a pan, then bake them at an ultra-low heat for ten hours. Ten hours! I don't know about your oven, but ours didn't have a 10-hour time setting, so I had to re-time the oven every 90 minutes. Then, you'd have a little less bulky mass of browned apples, which are then set to sit in the fridge for another 10 hours to be ready. This is such an uncomplicated-to-make dessert for an Herme's recipe, but he still wouldn't let you straight go to a quick-to-make solution, it seems.
The results? They may not look remotely unlike apple jam (which I don't like, by the way), but much more fragrant and subtly sweet, with a pleasant texture of the fresh fruits well reserved. I had it with cheese croissant to begin with, but can't wait to try it with a pie and/or tart sometime soon, as I have literally a pile of it....
To see the picture of today's post, click here.
posted by chika at: 11/27/2005 12:36:00 PM