Monday, October 24, 2011

A Simple Apple Dish.

Kids, cooks, and candy-manufacturers are already gearing up for the fun of Halloween. I thought that this week I would look take some of the traditional foods of the season and look for new-old ways of using them. The traditional foods are, of course, northern hemisphere autumn foods, but we in the southern half of the globe do our best to keep up with what for many of us represents our cultural heritage.

Apples have long been associated with Halloween, for the very pragmatic reason that they are plentiful in late autumn, and not beyond the reach of anyone who wants to have a bit of fun, so they are my starting point for the week. Apple-bobbing or ducking for apples is the traditional sport of the season, but requires no knowledge of apple cookery - only apples and a willingness to get thoroughly wet. 

One of the earliest recipes for apples is for something called ‘apple moise’ (in various spellings.) This is a medieval apple puree, essentially no different from the apple sauce that you serve with pork. There were many variations of this basic theme of course. The apples might be stewed or roasted, the puree coloured, flavoured and enriched with various spices, wine, almond milk, honey, sugar, oil, butter or other fat. 

Sometimes the mixture was thickened, and sometimes dried in sheets or slabs which could then be cut up into something faintly resembling the fruit ‘wraps’ or sticks which find their way into the lunchboxes of modern schoolchildren.

I give you three recipes from three centuries, to give just a glimpse of what can be done with a simple apple puree.

Take Apples and seeþ hem in water, drawe hem thurgh a straynour. take almaunde mylke & hony and flour of Rys, safroun and powdour fort and salt. and seeþ it stondyng.
Forme of Cury (1390)

To mak an appillinose, tak appelles and sethe them and lett them kelle ,then fret them throughe an heryn syff on fisshe dais take almonde mylk and oile olyf ther to. and on flesshe days tak freche brothe and whit grece and sugur and put them in a pot and boile it and colour it with saffron and cast on pouders and serue it.
A Noble Boke off Cookry (late 15thC)

To make Apple moyse.
Roste your apples, and when they be rosted, pill them and strain them into a dish, and pare a dosen of apples and cut them into a chafer, and put in a little white wine and a little Butter, and let them boile till they be as soft as Pap, and stirre them a little, and straine them to some wardens rosted and pilled, and put in Suger, Synamon and Ginger, and make Diamonds of Paste, and lay them in the Sunne, then scrape a little Suger vppon them in the dish.
The Good Housewife's Jewell (1596)

Quotation for the Day.

You wouldn't believe
On All Hallow Eve
What lots of fun we can make,
With apples to bob,
And nuts on the hob,
And a ring-and-thimble cake.
Carolyn Wells

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