Monday, March 25, 2013

How to use Potatoe-apples.

I was briefly puzzled when I first came across reference to “potato-apples”, but I should not have been. The word ‘apple’ used to be used to refer to the fruit of any plant, hence, a potato-apple is the fruit of the potato. As potatoes are not usually grown from seed, I would have assumed that these potato apples would be useless. Many gardening books say they are “not edible.’ There are, however, differences between being “not edible” and “not delicious” and “poisonous.”

Here are a couple of ideas to prove that potato apples are indeed edible and drinkable.

From potatoe apples large quanities of Brandy have been distilled in France. The process is very simple: the apples or berries being gathered at full maturity, are then carefully bruised by means of cylinders, the pulp is put into vats and left to ferment; when this is finished it is distilled, and a hectoliter of Brandy, at about 15 under proof, is obtained from twenty to twenty-five hectoliters of uncrushed berries. From experience we can pronounce favourably on the potato apple Spirit.
British & Foreign Spirits: Their History, Manufacture, Properties, etc. (1864),
by Charles Tovey

I should also have remembered the suggestion from John Evelyn’s Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets (1699): “The small green fruit, when about the size of a wild cherry, being pickled, is an agreeable sallet.” Evelyn does not give explicit instructions on pickling the potato apples, but here below is a recipe from 1839. I have no idea what the ‘Swedish’ connection is.

Swedish Method of pickling Potato Apples.
The apples produced in such abundance on potato stalks are generally suffered, in England, to rot on the ground. In Sweden, these apples are collected while in a green and hard state, well rinsed in cold water, soaked for forty-eight hours in a strong filtrated brine, drained half a day in a colander, and then boiled in vinegar with spices till they acquire some degree of transparency, or clearness, without becoming too soft Thus prepared, they are said to afford a more palatable pickle than either olives or cucumbers. Those, however, who relish the peculiar flavour of the olive, will probably protest against any such preference in the taste, and may even contend for the at least equal salubrity of their favourite fruit. They are, indeed, well worth pickling, if they even equal the cucumber; which, eaten in moderation, is less insalubrious than generally imagined.
A Modern System of Domestic Cookery (Manchester, 1839)
by M.Radcliffe.

There is an entirely different sort of Potato Apple too. Here is the recipe, from Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1918 edition.)

Potato Apples
2 cups hot riced potatoes
Few grains cayenne
2 tablespoons butter
Slight grating nutmeg
⅓ cup grated cheese
2 tablespoons thick cream
½ teaspoon salt
Yolks 2 eggs
Mix ingredients in order given, and beat thoroughly. Shape in form of small apples, roll in flour, egg, and crumbs, fry in deep fat, and drain on brown paper. Insert a clove at both stem and blossom end of each apple.


Les said...

I think the phrase 'potato apple' comes from the French for potato, pomme de terre, literally 'apple from earth'.

I don't know French but pomme de terre has always made me wonder how ugly does an apple have to be to have potatoes named for it.

Mad La said...

Wow, I definitely thought they were poisonous, and Wikipedia agrees (though I suppose you could just edit Wikipedia adding your sources here, obviously that seems like a bad idea when dealing with potential poisons.)

I certainly would be curious about potato fruit, but it would be a very bad idea for me to try them, as I seem to be somewhat sensitive to other foods in that notorious family, to varying degrees.

Mad Latinist said...

Wow, I'd heard they were poisonous (and Wikipedia does agree), so be sure to do extra due diligence before you try any of these recipes.

I for one would be very curious about potato fruit, but it would be a bad idea for me to try them: I seem to be sensitive (in various degrees) to other nightshade fruits.

The Old Foodie said...

I am still trying to clarify this issue of potato fruit as poison. A lot of things of course are poisonous only if taken in sufficient quantity.