I love apples. I am also a big fan of Dante, even though it took me four months to finish the Divine Comedy. I drank wine and read, the way Dante envisioned.
When I first saw this quote, two things stuck out: freshness and aroma.
Aroma right off the bat – I doubt there are many things that have such a strong aroma as baked apples. Luckily they also happen to be delicious. But, I didn’t just want to do a baked apple, because we’re talking about one of the most complex pieces of literature in history. We need to do the quote justice.
So I thought about freshness. That means adding thinly sliced, crisp apples. But the book is also old, and I wanted to reflect that. Hence the pickled apples – they can last decades. I also decided to make a delicious savoury apple compote to tie it all together, using saffron, a popular ingredient of the time.
You can do a lot with this recipe: bake the apples and enjoy them for a snack or dessert; make the apple compote as a side for any meat; or use the apple chips to add crunch to an autumnal salad. Then we get to the pickle chips, madonna! There might be no better pairing with pork cheeks than pickled apples. You can also make a pork roast or a few pork chops and make this entire dish as a great selection of sides.
APPLE FOUR WAYS
- 2 Golden Delicious apples
- 2 Granny Smith apples
- 1 Pink Lady apple
- 1 McIntosh apple
- ground cinnamon
- ground nutmeg
FOR PICKLED APPLES
- Half the Granny Smith apple
- 50 g cider vinegar
- 150 g white wine vinegar
- 200 g water
- 40 g sugar
- 10 g salt
- 4 g whole black peppercorns
- 4 g whole clove
- 1 cinnamon stick
FOR SAVOURY APPLE COMPOTE
- Half of the Golden Delicious apple
- Half of the Granny Smith apple
- 30 g butter in 2 x 15g chunks
- 10 g saffron
- 50 g brandy
- 1 sprig thyme
- red chilli flakes
FOR SAFFRON APPLES
- 200 g Golden Delicious apple
- 100 g Granny Smith
- 100 g Pink Lady
- 5 g sage
- 100 g water (you might not need all
- 5 g Chinese Five-Spice
- 15 g butter
Cheat and make these in a microwave. But it’s best to use a dehydrator if you have one. You do, however, need a mandolin otherwise the apples simply won’t be thin or crispy enough.
Cut 10 slices of the golden delicious apple on a mandolin, extremely thin.
Layer on a piece of parchment paper. Cover with another piece.
Microwave for 3 minutes, flip and microwave for another 3 minutes.
Once the edges start curling up they are done. Remove from the microwave and let stand at least 10 minutes until dry and crispy.
Cut 8 slices of the granny smith apple thinly on the mandolin, then add to water with lemon juice to prevent oxidation.
Combine all ingredients aside from the apple in a medium saucepan.
Bring to a boil stirring occasionally until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved, cool and combine with the apples.
Vacuum seal if possible; if not store in a jar. *If this mixture is vacuum sealed, it is almost instantly pickled, but if you’re using a jar, you’ll need to wait at least a month for a truly pickled product.
Take a French peeler and completely insert it into the top core of the McIntosh apple. Turn it 180°C and start digging the core out. Leave the bottom inch of the apple but make sure the core and seeds are out.
Butter a piece of aluminium foil.
Season the apple with cinnamon and nutmeg and stuff the core with butter.
Wrap the apple in foil and bake at 180°C until tender, should be 45 minutes.
Let it cool slightly and cut.
Melt 15g butter in a saucepan.
Cut the remaining golden delicious and granny smith apples into small cubes about 1cm.
When the butter is frothy add the saffron and toast for about 40 seconds then add the apples.
Add the red chilli flakes and lightly caramelise the apples, approx. 2 minutes.
Flambé with the brandy. When the brandy is reduced by half, mount with 15g butter.
Season with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt.
Peel apples and cut into 1/2 inch chunks.
Trim and half apples (you can use apples from the other dishes here).
Over low heat melt the butter.
Add apples and Chinese Five-Spice, coat well in butter and cook over low heat at least 1 hour.
You want the apples to to be tender and break down but not to be complete mush. Any time the apples appear to be too dry add some of your reserve water.
Add sliced sage and cook 5 mins and lightly season with salt and pink pepper.