Thursday, October 14, 2010

Spys Like Us (and we love them)

Of course, for those of us who live in Quebec, another aspect of the trouble with Vermont, during the apple harvest or at any other time of year, is that you can go down and sample their apple crop, but you're not supposed to haul quantities of apples across the border. It doesn't matter if they're heirloom varieties that are hard/impossible to find in Quebec. It just ain't allowed. NAFTA or no NAFTA.

fig. a: into the orchard

Luckily for us, Quebec still has plenty of small- to mid-size orchards that cultivate some of your lesser-known and harder-to-find varieties of apple. Luckily for us, there are still orchardists like M. Safian producing top-notch Northern Spys, Ida Reds, Russets, Empires, Spartans, and Cortlands, in addition to his excellent McIntoshs.

fig. b: banana box

Visit M. Safian, and past the beaten-up old banana crates (?)

fig. c: this old barn

and the decrepit old barn

fig. d: Ida Reds, ripe for the picking

you'll find that his trees are still chock-full of perfectly formed, unusually sweet apples (it's been a good year).

fig. e: Ida Reds, up-close and in-person

You might need to borrow a ladder to get at some of the prize specimens, but the trees are so overloaded, so ripe for the picking, that you can easily fill 4 or 5 buckets in a matter of about 15-20 minutes. If you have plans to do a lot of seasonal baking or cooking with apples, or you enjoy eating about 4 or 5 apples a day (the way I usually do this time a year), there really is no better way to get the very best apples at the very best price. Throw in some fresh country air and possibly some sunshine, and you can't ask for a more pleasant, more satisfying outing.

We got ourselves a nice mix of apples, but we picked a whole bunch of Ida Reds (like the ones you see above), which have a lovely blush when cooked,

fig. f: Northern Spys

and we positively loaded up on Spys, which have a tartness that we absolutely love and that makes them ideal for apple desserts.

m. safian vous offre... fig. g: M. Safian vous offre...

For directions to the Hemmingford/Covey Hill/Franklin apple-growing region (including directions to M. Safian's), look here and here.

For a recipe for Poulet à la Normande (with apples and Calvados), look here.

For a recipe for Tarte Tatin (with lots of apples), look here.

For a recipe for Huguenot Torte (with a couple of apples), look here.

For a recipe for Squash & Apple Soup, look here.

For a couple of recipes for Ketchup aux fruits (with apples), look here and here.

And if you need a recipe for the Brady Bunch Special, pork chops & apple sauce, look no further:

Pork Chops & Apple Sauce

4 meaty pork chops
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Calvados, Cognac, or Bourbon

2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 lemons, sliced in half
4 cups water

apple sauce:
4 apples, cored, peeled, and roughly chopped
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup Calvados, Cognac, or Bourbon
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

In a bowl, squeeze the lemons, throwing the four halves in when you're done, then add 2 tablespoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 4 cups of water, and stir until the sugar and salt are fully dissolved, making a basic brine. Add the pork chops, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make your apple sauce. Add the apples, the lemon juice, the vanilla bean, the sugar (the amount will depend on how sweet your tooth is and how tart your apples are), the Calvados/Cognac/Bourbon, and the water to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 45 minutes.

30 minutes before you intend to cook your pork chops, remove them from the refrigerator, pat them dry, rub them lightly with just a bit of olive oil, and salt and pepper them. Set them out on a plate to come to room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 300º F. When the 30 minutes is up, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat till the pan begins to smoke. Put the pork chops in the pan and sear for 2 minutes on each side, using tongs or a spatula to flip them (not a fork). When you've seared the chops on both sides, place the entire skillet in the oven and roast the chops for another 4-6 minutes, depending on their thickness.

Place the chops on plates. Meanwhile, deglaze the skillet with some more Calvados/Cognac/Bourbon. Pour a little of the resultant pan juices over each of the chops. Place a dollop of the apple sauce on top of the pan juices and serve. We recommend accompanying the pork chops & apple sauce with your favorite mashed potatoes and some braised cabbage (green, red, Savoy), but if you've got other ideas/plans, go for it.

You'll most likely have some leftover apple sauce. Don't worry, it'll be delicious. It won't go to waste.

Serves 4.



andrea m. said...

A very strange sight last month at the Buffalo Mountain Food Co-op in Hardwick VT was a display of apples from New Zealand, sitting next to all the local ones.

Restaurant tips: Tip Top Cafe in White River Junction. We had an excellent slightly fancy dinner there. Also Tucker Box for excellent breakfast scramble and coffee the next morning. The two are related. You can then cross the Connecticut River to Hanover and visit Dartmouth College and its Hood Museum of Art and the Orozco murals in the library. (Now I know that isn't in Vermont but it kind of felt like all the same place.)

Denise Michaels - Adventurous Foodie said...

Boy, does this ever bring back sweet memories. I grew up in Michigan and making a Saturday trip to the U-Pick apple farms outside of the Detroit suburbs was always a time-honored tradition every October. I remember climbing the apple trees and gently tossing their ruby treasures down to my Dad or younger brother to set in a bushel basket.

Back home again my Mom would make really good chunky-cinnamony apple sauce and other great apple dishes. I have a great recipe for an amazing Hot Apple Cake with Caramel Pecan Sauce I've typed into my blog. I'll make it this weekend so I can get a nice picture and post it. It's just not autumn without the wonderful flavors of apple and cinnamon.