So many things have been written about apples for so long: Whether the original forbidden fruit or the means to keeping the doctor away, the apple has served as a symbol of many things throughout history.
Did you know that 7,500 cultivated varieties of apple exist? It is one of the world's most popular fruit, with more than million tonnes grown each year. This is easily understandable. Apples are easy to carry and we can eat them in many different ways: out of hand, in purée, juiced, in baked goods, preserves and jams, and even as a sweet additive for spicy foods such as curries.
While they are available in grocery stores all year long, now is a good time to discover fresh new varieties, starting with early apples (or summer apples) such as the Geneva. It has a semi-firm red flesh, with a flavour that is subacid and aromatic - maybe a little too acidic to be eaten alone, but a great choice to make purée or cider. Indeed, for the past two years, I have made huge quantities of homemade purée with Geneva apples coming from my producer, Jean-Pierre Bertrand, for my two baby girls, Béatrice and Juliette.
And, as mentioned, they also make great ciders. Cider is slightly fruitier than champagne, which makes it a perfect choice at brunch with bread and croissants. It can also be served as an aperitif , or with foie gras, cheese and, obviously, dessert. La cidrerie du Minot ( http://www.duminot.com) uses Genevas to make a unique rosé cider. They also make ice cider, which is becoming more and more popular every year.
Of course, apples are not just delicious: They are jam-packed with rich phytonutrients, vitamins, plus small amounts of minerals such as potassium and calcium. The disease-fighting profile of the fruit provides a multitude of health benefits. On top of that, they are low in calories, contain no saturated fats or cholesterol, and are rich in dietary fibres. So go ahead and indulge! Remember that fresh apples can be kept at room temperature for a few days and stored in the refrigerator for two to three weeks. Do not forget to wash them in clean, running cold water before use.
Geneva Apple Purée
6-8 Geneva apples
Rinse and dry apples well. Place the apples about 2-3 inches apart on a wire rack, then on a cookie sheet. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the skin of the apple explodes open and the interior of the apple is soft. Once ready, take out of the oven and immediately press each apple through a fine sieve, one by one, discarding the seeds and skin each time. The purée is then ready for use plain as great baby food. However, this purée is versatile and can be used in many different ways. It can be modified with honey, sugar, lemon juice, or salt depending on whether the purée is to be used in sweet or savoury preparations. Other varieties of apples can be used as well, such as Cortland or Honeycrisp depending on market availability and personal preference. Be creative!
Normand Laprise is co-owner and head chef of Toqué! in Montreal
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