The apple of July (baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. . .)
As we approach the month of July my mother will inevitably call me and ask if I'm free to help her core apples, turn the crank on the food mill and help prepare her world class applesauce made from Transparent Apples, a variety widely grown in Poland, Russia, and Sweden where it's sometimes referred to as the Baltic Sea Apple.
Decades ago we would drive across the Stockton Bridge, crossing the Delaware River, to buy baskets of these pale-skinned, mouth-puckering tart apples then being sold from the Burgess Lea estate, owned at that time by the Johnson family. I don't know if the apple trees are still there, or if the fruits are harvested. I only know that years ago we started finding it harder and harder to find this varietal locally, and eventually had to have them shipped each season from Kaufmann's Fruit Farm located in Bird in Hand, Pennsylvania.
If you're fond of a sweet-style applesauce, you won't find my mother's applesauce to your liking. It is distinctly tart, though she does add what looks to me like copious amounts of sugar. It has a freshness unlike any other applesauce I've ever tasted and my mother freezes it to serve throughout the cold winter.
These same apples make for one of the most extraordinary apple pies on earth--hands down my favorite. I LOVE pie, but I don't like an overly sweet one. Most commercial pies and even from scratch are just too sweet for me. I always cut the sugar by at least half and savor the fresh tartness of the apple. A dollop of fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream gives my pie the perfect pitch of sweetness. For as long as I've been making pies, my pie crusts recipes of choice have been from Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts.
Interestingly, the apple is related to the Rose family (Rosaceae) and includes other fruits such as apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, pears, raspberries, and strawberries. There is evidence to suggest that this genus has been in existence for over 35 million years and is represented on all continents except Antarctica.
I've never had one of these in my life, but they used to always be in the bread box at my grandmother's house. Even though she was an amazing baker, my grandfather enjoyed a processed and prepackaged Tastykake . I was, however, a fan of their Peanut Butter Kandy Kake which my grandmother kept in the freezer. It is still the company's number one selling item!
In the spirit of the upcoming Independence Day holiday, here's a salute to an iconic symbol of America. As the song goes, "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. . ."