Sunday, October 25, 2009

the pink ladies have arrived

I used to follow the adage "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," religiously grabbing an apple each morning with breakfast. But as the last of the winter stock dwindled this spring, and summer brought apricots, cherries, raspberries, peaches, and plums, I replaced my old standby with what was in season. And I hardly missed them at all; there was plenty (again, too much) to choose from.
Now, however, is apple season. The market is full of Honeycrisps, Granny Smiths, Macs, Spartans, Ambrosias, and Mutsus. I, however, have been waiting for Pink Ladies.
It has been a long wait, too, one where I kept my mind off apple cravings with Bosc Pears so as not to give in to another apple type, one I knew would be far less satisfying after two seasons without them.
I discovered, and fell madly in love with Pink Ladies last winter, reading a snippet somewhere by Alice Waters and a dessert of a tart made with lemon curd and said apples. On the Chez Panisse online menu, they listed another pairing of the Pink Ladies and cherries. Well, if they were a regular occurance for Chez Panisse, they must be special. So I sought them out...and didnt have to go far. They were in the same place I buy all my apples and pears, the Okanagan Fruit Packing co, a frigid cooler-of-a-building where I once did an apple and pear tasting with some chef friends: 42 varities at nine in the morning, thats alot of fibre even for this fruit lover. I dont remember tasting the Pink Ladies then, but I do remember that successful visit finding them.
The skin of a Pink Lady is, well, pink, blending with yellow in a smeared, pastel sort of coating. They were pretty. Before even getting in my car, I pulled an apple from the bag, and feeling this was going to be something special, closed my eyes and took a bite. Bam! It sparkled! This apple was effervescent, I swear--like having champagne! The skin was the but not chewy, the flesh was so crisp and juicy, not at all mealy or woody. It was perfect; Id never go back (I did once, with a Granny Smith, and regretted it...).
Unfortunately, though, Pink Ladies require a long growing season, adn they are one of the last apples to arrive. For weeks now, there have been plenty of apples to choose from, the Ambrosias particularly tempting with their similar hue (be strong, remember the disappointment of the Granny Smith), but I was choosing to wait for my favorite. I kept stopping in at OK Fruit Packers, but they were not there. By the seventh stop I was beginning to wonder if they were never going to come, we did have very sketchy weather this year. But I had heard that this was to be one of the best apple seasons yet, and I remained optimistic--and patient.
You can imagine my delight then, when yesterday at the market, after asking what the unidentified box of apples was at my Bosc mans stand (let it be Pink Ladies, please say Pink Ladies), he said he could not recall; it was on the tip of his toungue--oh what were they called. Pink Ladies, I asked as he said the same thing, remembering. I did a little happy dance and clap (the same moves I compulsively do when rhubarb hits the stands in spring). And then I bought twelve pounds (youll recall the heaviness of my basket). Back at my car, just as the winter before, I picked out a particularly large apple, closed my eyes and took a bite as delightful as the very first. So worth the wait.
And now I dream of all the things I will do now that my old favorite is back in the fridge. Plenty will be eaten unadultered, sure, but some will be sliced on mueslix or peanut butter toast for breakfast, dipped in lemon curd for an easy dessert, with walnuts and honey at any time of day, baked in crisps, or in a pie with a aged cheddar. I love that combination, old white cheddar with my sparkling Pink Ladies. One recipe I have been dreaming about since I began dreaming again about Pink Ladies is a crostada of the fruit, the crust laced with the sharp cheese. When I make it, I will provide the recipe. But for now, I am so excited to have them again taht I just had to share, and now I have to go eat another!

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