Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Long Dark Apple Time of the Soul

Late January.

It's an odd thing. Sure, it's citrus season but citrus does so much better in the summer. I blame lemonade ads. There are nuts and chocolates, as always, but really, what we come to in the wonderful winter world of working seasonally is apples.

Not that it is apple season.

Oh yeah, that's right, all those apples were in season back in the late summer and fall and have been sitting in storage ever since. They aren't fresh. Our cabbages are fresher. But there they are, a dutiful standard until the rhubarb comes in. And the rhubarb is still a long way off.

I love apples, actively seek out interesting varieties and yet in late winter I too look at glorious apple pies and think, "Eh, ok. I don't need dessert today." And that is so wrong. Because apples are endlessly wonderful, useful, nutritious and far more interesting and challenging than any old berry. Best way to serve a berry? Straight up. How boring is that? But what is the best way to serve an apple?

In a pie? a cake? dipped in caramel? as a sauce? baked? fried? spread on toast? a tart? As chips? Dumplings? Juice? Cider? Layered with almond cake and served with toasted almond ice cream?

Straight up?