October is not just a bacchanalia of overflowing beer in pubs, bars and festivals. October is certainly the time of the year where you can keep the doctor away. Why? October in the United States is National Apple Month according to the U.S. Apple Association. As autumn starts to shed the leaves of the deciduous trees, apples also become ripe for picking in fruit orchards. Because it’s the season of the apple, they will also cost cheaper in groceries (at least here in the United States) and they will also taste a lot better than apples picked “outside” of its season.
If you are a fan of mythology, literature, the classics and arts, you would probably notice that apples typically have become either a sacred, indulgent or seductive symbol. The golden apple of discord caused three Greek goddesses to clash and compete in a beauty pageant title of being the “fairest one”, indirectly precipitating into the Trojan War. The “tomboy” Atalanta lost to Hippomenes in a race after the latter threw three irresistible golden apples of joy in order to outrun her in exchange for her hand in marriage. The golden apples of Hesperides/Hisbernia bestow immortality in Greek mythology and eternal youth to the gods of Norse and Celtic mythology. Renaissance painters use apples in their paintings as emblems of condemnation and redemption in their re-imagination of Biblical stories from the fall of man to sin to the salvation by Jesus’ loving sacrifice- depending on the persona who holds the apple.
As of this month, there are 7,500 cultivars of apples based on the place of origin and their ancestors. This does not only mean that there are 7,500 apple genomes out there but this may also imply that if your tongue has a has a detection limit of 1/7500, then tastewise, it would be able to distinguish how subtly different the cultivars are. Of course there is no human tongue that is gifted enough to achieve that feat! That is why these apple cultivars are gastronomically classified according to their use – eating, cooking and cider. Not that you have to be anal retentive, but you need to plan ahead what apple cultivar you are going to use in your recipe before you buy them in the grocery.
I must confess though that I am not much of a fan of apples, I had only come to appreciate them during the celebration of National Apple Month thanks to this marvelous recipe – Apple Snow. This dessert is simply a combination of applesauce and egg whites as the latter are beaten into stiff peaks. What’s pretty slick about this dish is how the applesauce and egg whites complement the taste and the texture. The applesauce gives the mildly zesty flavor and the sweet taste while the egg whites are responsible for the creamy texture. The addition of caramel sauce finally enhances the rich taste.
But how do you address the issue of apple cultivar for the applesauce? I highly recommend the Golden Delicious (United States) which according to the U.S. Apple Association is third most popular cultivar. While the Granny Smith (Australia) is ideal for withstanding the cooking temperatures, it is not suitable for this dessert because of high malic acid content, resulting to a sour taste (Wu J, Gao H, Zhao L, Liao X, Chen F, Wang Z, Hu X. "Chemical Compositional Characterization of Some Apple Cultivars" Food Chem., 2007, 103, 88-93. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2006.07.030). In fact, I learned this the hard way from the first time I tried preparing the applesauce from Granny Smith apples. Golden Delicious is also advisable for the applesauce not only because its low malic acid content has been consistently reported from literature but also because it contains a high sugar content in comparison to sorbitol-devoid apple cultivars like the Gala (New Zealand) and the Gravenstein (Denmark) (Hecke K, Herbinger K, Veberic R, Trobec M, Toplak H, Stampar F, Keppel H, Grill D. "Sugar-, Acid- and Phenol Contents in Apple Cultivars from Organic and Integrated Fruit Cultivation" Eur. J. Clin. Nutr., 2006, 60, 1136-1140. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602430). Finally, it just makes the experience of enjoying your apple snow both golden and delicious!
Apple Snow (taken from “The Way To Cook” by Julia Child)
6 to 8 Golden Delicious apples
1 medium lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup sugar or even less
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup homemade caramel sauce
1. Wash, quarter and core out the seeds of the apples. Keep the peel in the apples to retain the flavor and the body of the sauce.
2. Place the apples in the saucepan along with the zest of the lemon and the cinnamon. Sprinkle the apples with lemon juice. Cover the pan and soften the apples under moderately low heat for 30 minutes. Make sure to stir and mash them frequently.
3. Remove from heat. (If you are using the cinnamon stick, remove the cinnamon from the saucepan) Transfer the apples into a food processor, purée and return the applesauce into the pan.
4. Boil the apple sauce, gradually adding the sugar. Stir in the vanilla.
5. Cover and chill inside the refrigerator for at least one hour.
6. Set the electric mixer at moderately low speed and beat the egg whites until they start to foam. Add the cream of tartar and increase the speed until stiff shining peaks are formed.
7. Reduce the speed and add the apple sauce into the beaten egg whites. Raise the mixer speed again until the mixture is stiff enough to hold its shape.
8. Drizzle or layer with caramel sauce any way you like it
1/3 cup sugar
5 teaspoons water
1/3 cup cold heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Blend the sugar and the water in a saucepan and let them simmer.
2. Remove from heat and swirl to completely dissolve the sugar.
3. Return the pan to the stove at moderately high heat and boil for several minutes. Make sure peek into the pan. Once the bubbles look thick, uncover the pan and swirl it by its handle.
4. Boil for a few more seconds. Remove from heat and continue swirling.
5. When caramel has cooled but remains in the liquid state, add the heavy cream.
6. Whisk over moderate heat until the congealed caramel dissolves. Stir in salt and vanilla.