Thursday, August 30, 2007

Drinking and Eating Apple Jack.

Today, August 30th

The G(A)stronomer – whose guest post on Celestial Alcohol you enjoyed so much – apparently has a favourite tipple. Or class of tipple actually. Anything alcoholic made from apple. I feel fairly sure that cider and apple brandy and all variations thereof have been made ever since there were men and apples – in other words, since long before recorded time. There is then no timeline or specific historic points that I can detail. My investigations did turn up one interesting thing however.

As you no doubt know, ‘apple jack’ is an Americanism for alcohol made from apples – sometimes it seems to mean cider, sometimes the even harder stuff. If any of my American readers wish to clarify this wish-washy definition, please do so in the comments, for the edification of all of us. In some English counties, ‘apple-jack’ however, is dessert (it is possible that some of you consider the liquid variety in this way too, I suppose) in Suffolk.

An ‘Apple-jack’ in Suffolk is (or was) an apple turnover. It is “a homely sort of pastry” made by “folding sliced apples with sugar in a coarse crust, and baking them without a pan”. It is identical to an Apple-Stucklin (Hants.) an Apple-Twelin (Norfolk), an Apple-Hoglin, a Flap-Jack and a Crab Lanthorn. Who would have thought that a very ordinary farmer’s fare could have so many regional names? If any of my English readers can add some more, please also do so in the comments, for the further edification of us all.

You can, dear G(A)stronomer, have your American alcoholic apple-jack and eat it too. Here is a recipe from The American Peoples Cookbook (1956), with two variations.

Cider Salad.
Mrs. Joe A. Engler, LeMars, Iowa.
Lightly oil with salad or cooking oil (not olive oil), a 1-qt fancy mold. Set aside to drain.
Pour into a small bowl
½ cup cold water.
Sprinkle evenly over cold water
2 tablespoons (2 env.) unflavored gelatin
Let gelatin stand about 5 min to soften
Heat until very hot
2 cups apple cider
¼ teaspoon salt

Remove from heat and immediately add softened gelatin, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved. Spoon a small amount of the gelatin mixture into mold. Chill in refrigerator until partially set. Cool remaining mixture; chill until slightly thicker than the consistency of thick, unbeaten egg white.
Just before gelatin is of desired consistency, prepare
2 cups (about 2 medium-size) diced apple (do not pare),
¼ cup (about 1 oz) chopped walnuts,
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley.

When gelatin is of desired consistency, blend in the apples, walnuts, and parsley. Turn into the mold. Chill in refrigerator until firm.
Unmold onto chilled serving plate. Garnish with
Curly endive.

Apple-Jack Salad.
Follow above recipe. Decrease cider to 1 ¾ cups. Add ¼ cup apple brandy to gelatin after it has cooled but before chilling it.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Food from the Fens.

Quotation for the Day …

When we examine the story of a nation's eating habits, describing the changing fashions of preparation and presentation and discussing the development of ifs cuisine throughout the ages, then we find an outline of the nation's history, harking back to those distant days when a scattered tribe lurked in dismal caves, feeding on raw fish and plants and the hot. quivering flesh of wild beasts, lately slain with a rude spear. Auguste Escoffier.


Catofstripes said...

Here in Normandy we have several variations on apple alcohol, starting with the cider, moving on to a halfway house called pommeau, a sweet concoction used as an aperitif or sometimes for dessert which is made from spirit distilled from apples then diluted with apple juice and extra sugar and finally Calvados, a very strong spirit that comes in a range of ages which usually denotes its quality. The older the better as a rule. This is distilled from cider in much the same way that whisky is distilled from a malted ferment and carries its own local appellation (no pun there!) for authenticity.

As I understand it apple jack is distilled by a freezing process in places where it's possible to freeze large quantities of liquids by application of the local weather and this produces a much more crude form of alcohol full of the byproducts that make for uncomfortable hangovers and next day sicknesses.

Naturally this never happens in Normandy, oh dear me no.

Julie said...

M has it right, on the distillation by freezing. (I understand chemists have a fancy word for that, but darn if I remember what it is.) I grew up in NE Ohio, near the Great Lakes, and folks in the area made apple jack every year.

To make apple jack, we would first make cider, then allow it to get 'hard' or ferment, then allow it to freeze. This was a very low-effort thing, because we lived far enough north that the seasons took care of it for us. There was usually just enough time between the apple harvest and the first freeze for perfect fermentation. After it was frozen, we would break up the ice and drain off the bits of liquid - which was alcohol, of course, that froze at a much lower temperature. The easiest way to do this, was to simply take gallon jugs of unpasturized cider at harvest, and leave them in a shed or garage for the next month or two until they froze, then cut open the gallon jugs and break up the ice. I suspect part of the popularity of it is due to the simplicity of it all.

No one I knew drank it straight, or admitted it. They either made mixed drinks with it (adding it to fresh cider was a fave), or they baked with it, mostly in apple pies and cakes. Apple Jack was often the secret ingredient in prize-winning apple cake recipes.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Julie; do you perchance have a recipe for one of those prize winning apple-jack cakes!

Julie said...

I'm not sure if I've got a recipe or not. When my mother died I made off with all her cook books, which included all my grandmother's cook books (plus recipe files, which is probably even better). I've got them near to hand and will take a quick flip through them to see what turns up.

I DO have my grandmother's prize-winning (literally) apple dumpling recipe if you're interested, but it doesn't use apple-jack. Let me know.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Julie - do please send me the recipe! Or would you like to do a Guest Post on it? That might be fun.

Anonymous said...

Hi -- I just found this food blog (thankyou, thankyou I love it.) Must point out that cider in the USA means apple juice. It's not alcoholic. At least it wasn't when I was growing up there.

Betsey Brister