Forget scented candles: they make you hungry but taste terrible. The real thing is so easy: a pot of bubbling apples, sifted generously with cinnamon and just enough sugar. The fragrance of simmering malus domestica fills the house with an inner sense of cozy that’s hard to replicate any other way.
Apples are taken for granted, I think. Shining like glass, waxy to the touch, the supermarket apple often disappoints at first crunch. It pales in contrast to the fresh, non-shiny ones you pick from your own tree or find at the farmers market in September, a leathery leaf still hanging on the odd stem. The best part about Farmer’s Markets and co-ops is finding there is more to apples than the half dozen varieties you see in the produce aisles. In fact, making sauce from some of the dessert varieties most commonly available is disappointing, as they disintegrate into blandness, due to their low acidity.
Living in Washington state, I’m lucky enough to have access to many different types, including hard to find Gravensteins and Pippins, but you can enjoy checking out your farmstands and local markets for vintage varieties wherever you are.
One of my all time favorites for simmering is the commonly available Granny Smith. Its green apple flavor adds a nice complexity in sauce or pie, and a perfect texture.
Another one worth mentioning is the Transparent. Early to ripen, it’s green, with a thinner skin than the Granny. Eaten out of hand, it’s mouth puckering, but in a sauce, transformational. It cooks down into a soft creamy white mass with perfect classic apple flavor.
If you can find Rome Beauty, you’ll get a nice pink applesauce if you throw in a few curls of peel to simmer with the chopped fruit. Adding half grannies to the mix would maximize the flavor, as well.
There really was a Granny Smith. Maria Ann Smith of New South Wales, Australia first cultivated this tart green apple in 1868. It’s thought that Grannies are a hybrid of malus domestica and its wild cousin, malus sylvestra.
Apple cider was one of the most commonly consumed beverages among colonial Americans, who often avoided fresh water. It was difficult to store fresh, so it frequently was drunk “hard.”
It turns out the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” has some merit. Apples contain anti-viral properties and are also great for digestion because of the high pectin content in their skins.