Have something good to write about for a change. Well, as good as any advice that is delivered in my tone and tenor can be. Actually another confession is in order and it’s that this is something that will cost you effort and money. Seems fair enough to me. I henpeck here for awhile, you read it and then we’re even at that point. Later you expend more of your time with a dash of your money thrown in. BUT, you get the smile and the product. There even a bonus in that you’ll get exercise as you fight for the leftovers. Ok, time to ramble around and explain the history/importance of this endeavor.
Looked on ye olde ‘puter for something I liked and could link to. Bah humbug…. I lived what I lived and I know what I know. One thing I know is that the glorious writing and staged pictures posted by “real Southern cooks” were about as authentic as a three dollar bill. Fitting enough because their advice was as useful as that mythical note. Bah humbug…., fine, I’ll just write the whole thing out so you understand what to do, how to do it and why.
Feel free to second guess here but I doubt that a couple of generations of folks who ate what they grew or starved messed up. Think about this from a very literal standpoint. If you could only eat things found on your property, how long would it take to determine what was best and would you forget it? Unfortunately there was a disconnect for about 60 years and several generations lost the knowledge. It suddenly wasn’t a matter of survival anymore. A few got lucky, learning these things for one reason or another. I got lucky and sometimes the mood strikes and so I beleaguere you with it. You know, like now!
Remember my commentary about the importance of apples? Ever pondered the scarcity of settlements in the upper Midwest until well into the 1800’s? Two big factors were at play. It was MUCH colder and it was hard to get apples there. Overcoming the first one was doable but tough. A solution for the second proved more problematic. The government had lots of land that they wanted to give away but no one wanted to live somewhere without apples. The arrival of rail lines for distribution was a big step forward but it was a stopgap at best. Then someone, somewhere in the bowels of the precursor to the USDA had an ingenious idea.
They looked to other countries with similar regions that were well populated. Population = apples! Sort of narrows it down doesn’t it? Sure enough there was an answer in Russia. They brought over a couple of varieties and, within a decade, development was afoot. These all proved good apples in one way way or another but one is on my mind today. This pale, mushy, tart apple that has the shelf life of a fruit fly is properly known as the Yellow Transparent. It quickly migrated to the South where it became revered as the June Apple.
Let’s take a break for a second to clear up the confusion BEFORE you set out. Yellow Transparent is the proper name and June apple is what it goes by in the South. My experience has shown that few fruit stands (and such) really have a deep knowledge of their field and hence the confusion even amongst so many self-professed experts. (Does the person serving you ice cream really understand dairy farms?) There are several apples with June in their proper name and more still given the nickname “June apple” by an individual or business. There is also a apple named Lodi that is very similar in ripening and appearance. The Lodi and the June Apple are different beast entirely as anyone having dealt with both knows. (I have seen them labeled/sold wrong and I have been told that they are one and the same. Grrrr….) For this to work, you need to remember this important difference.
Each apple has it’s areas of excellence. Some do well in numerous areas and others really only shine in one. June apples aren’t pretty. They don’t keep well. They are neither crispy or juicy. Heck, you have to really enjoy a soft, mealy, tart apple to even like them. It’s a wonder anyone ever even ate a second one. The “keep it or cut it down” debate ended the day someone first fried them! They most definitely do excel in this arena. They come in around the last ten days of June and are in shops from around 25 June to about 10 July.
Like so many other memories, memories of this apple are vivid. (Matter of fact it was the first tree I planted on my property if that tells you anything.) Come late June ladies all around had family lugging buckets of apples in and taking buckets of scraps to the hogs. The apples were fried, set to cool and canned or frozen. It was a big deal because of the narrow window of opportunity.
Here’s part of how I know that those real “Southern” cooks lack experience. They all (that I saw) had it wrong. They offered up the modern mutation that restaurants created to save money once refrigeration rolled around. June apples need no added flavor, they are proof God loves us as is. For such a meager apple to taste so good fried is nothing short of a miracle. Here, I’ll even give you my tip-top secret recipe.
“Cut it, heat it, eat it.”
I’ll wait while you write it down.
Now, I’ll be serious. Slice them up, relatively thin works better but experiment. Cook in a hot skillet or pan until they’ve mostly broken down. (Cooking them in the hot bacon grease as you started breakfast was done for a short time each year and oh my….!) Well, you’re done. If you added anything, you messed up that batch so put them in the slop bucket once cool. (Hate to scald perfectly good hogs.) Dump them in the cooling pan and start the next batch. Once that pan is full, start another. When the second pan is full then you take a break and bag the first. Spread the bags then freeze’em once they’ve cooled.
Now for the eating part. (BTW, this is my favorite part!)
– Well, thaw and serve but anyone could share that trick so…
– Thaw in fridge then eat on hot butter toast.
– Fill a bowl about a third full and microwave till warm. Fill rest of bowl with good vanilla ice cream.
– MOSTLY thaw in fridge. Take your somewhat frozen treat out on the porch and enjoy as you watch a summer sunset on a long, hot day of work.
Oh yeah, the leftovers, almost forgot that. The juice in the bag is the best part. Assure everyone you’ll clean up. Once the TV magnet gets them, lay the bag on the counter and run the juice to one corner with a straight edge. Snip off the corner and suck out the juice. I know you are rolling your eyes but I’m salivating at the thought as I type this and I know what it taste like so….. Don’t worry, you’ll volunteer to clean up next time too!
Someone remind me and I’ll post apple pictures. This way you can call around in search of them and know what to look for. Be a shame to cook up Lodi’s or Red June’s and expect a delicious treat. Might consider a day in the kitchen so you can enjoy the taste periodically until next June.