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For realsies

Peachy Likes Apples, Old School November 11, 2012

I spend so much time immersed in the ridiculous, it becomes absolutely essential that I find my way to the sublime as often as possible.  Food, gardens, and a select group of awesome people are my Xanax.

A passion for apples was instilled in me from an early age, when my mother would roam the family homestead’s orchard, which had been planted somewhere around 1890.  She would name varieties like Transparents (varieties were usually referred to in the  plural), Greasy Pippins, Spies, Winesaps, Jonathans, Russets, Dutchesses,  and Snows.  It was, really, a wild orchard of sorts, as she didn’t “cultivate” the fruits.  An occasional trim of dead wood was the only maintenance of which I was aware, and the apples probably resembled their predecessors as a result.  These were not fancy, unblemished fruits—and yet my mom extended affection and respect to each one, spots and all.  I suspect that this was a mater of course for earlier generations, especially those with connections to life during the Great Depression.  There would be a good deal of grave rolling if those folks saw some of us in our petulant rejection of imperfect-looking, diminutive fruits, as we lob them down the orchard rows as we seek the perfect apple-picking experience.

She rejected almost no apple.  She would sit on the porch, or in the kitchen if it was later in the fall, with an enameled pan full of apples on one side, another full of water in which to deposit the prepared slices.  She peeled, quartered, and sliced using a little paring knife that wasn’t particularly sharp.  She would salvage any part of a yucky-looking apple, even if it resulted in two slices being added to the pan of water and apple slices.  I suppose that this was a meditative practice for her, despite the fact that her lovely pan of apple slices was periodically raided by kids.  When I think of the considerable labor it takes for me to make a pie using enormous, perfect apples, it’s pretty humbling.

I am a better cook, in general, than my mom was.  We didn’t have a lot of financial security growing up, and she used some cheap-ass ingredients and menu-stretching methods as a result.  She was also allergic to onions and to black pepper, so the Flavor-Meter was pretty much permanently set to “Bland.” Another side effect of Depression days was the practice of cooking the hell out of everything.  And when I say “hell,” I mean flavor and texture and nutrients.  My mom burned out many a cheap pan while cooking vegetables on the stove.  The one exception to this rule was her baking, and especially her pie baking.  The apple peeling process described above yielded a mixture of apples, whose flavors would meld together into something pretty remarkable.

Right now, I have some Granny Smiths and some Winesaps in the kitchen.  Neither are shiny from the grocery store.  Both were locally grown.  Winesaps are tough to find, and they were not named after an over-emotional drunk.  You must try them, especially in a pie, to understand.

I know, I know—those pricey Honeycrisps are trademarked and tasty.  But if you get a chance, hit a farmer’s market and try something that is old along with something that is new.  And remember that it won’t kill you to cut off a blemish; it takes a lot of chemical seasoning to make an apple look “perfect.”

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8 Responses to “Peachy Likes Apples, Old School”

  1. WSW Says:

    There is nothing to match homemade pie. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. javaj240 Says:

    I love apples, but I hate cooked fruit. As a result, I don’t eat pie. I do, however, love a good piece of fresh fruit (as much a I hate going to Whole Foods, I will go there for the farm-fresh organic fruit)!

  3. javaj240 Says:

    My husband loves my apple crumb pie, so, no, I don’t get out of pie-making, just pie-eating. I’m not actually a big fan of pie crust, either, though I have been known to make an exception n the case of pecan pie. I make a fine pecan pie!

    While I am sure you make a mean peach-blueberry pie and my “no cooked fruit” policy notwithstanding, I hate blueberries. LOL!

  4. We used to go to the orchard every fall when I was a kid. I’m a simple girl – crispy Macintosh right off the tree or out of the bushel are my fav’s. Great post!

  5. Where are you? I love Winesaps, and I don’t think I’ve had them out here in SoCal. The olds had to deal with so much less, they became very good at adapting. I learned all that from my mom and am now referred to as the hoarder cheapsk8! I mean you never know when you might need 100 empty boxes, right? Or plastic bags? Holla!


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