10 February 2008

An Apple By Any Other Name

This recipe has been knocking around in my files for about thirty-eight days, waiting for me to tell you about it. It has not been forgotten because it's not delicious (it is) or difficult (it isn't), and it's not that I don't have anything to say about it, I do. Problem is I don't know what to call this recipe. Candied baby apples? Glazed apples? Glaceed apples? None of those quite work. Lady Apples in Syrup, maybe...

Instead, let's talk about these lovely sweets. There is a tradition in the Middle East, and in fact across the Mediterranean, of preserving tiny fruits in syrup. It is quite similar to jam, but the fruits are usually kept whole and cooked in a syrup, in Greece this is called "spoon sweets." Unlike jam, where less-than perfect fruits are cooked down, the tiniest prettiest fruits are chosen for cooking in syrup, thereby preserving their beauty. They are often offered to guests, on a small plate topped with a bit of yogurt or thick cream. Standard are tiny lady apples, little pears no bigger than your thumb, teensy apricots, and figs. Dates, watermelon rinds, nuts and kumquats are other options. I've written before about the beautifully spiraled rolls of Seville orange and grapefruit peels which are cooked in the same process. And most fascinating, this technique isn't just limited to fruits, but used for vegetables too: chunks of pumpkin, tomatoes, and even the elegant baby eggplants are candied in syrup (there's a recipe in Aromas of Aleppo if you're interested).


At fancy sweet shops you might see these preserved whole fruits drained and individually wrapped in plastic, but the more home-style version is to leave the fruits in the syrup and can them or keep them in jars. Here I've used tiny lady apples that are in season now. I read recently that you should peel the apples, something I'd never bothered with before, so I tried peeling half of them, and I can tell you there's barely a difference and it is certainly not worth the effort. It is, however, essential that your core the fruits, or you'll get a mouthful of seeds, a tiny melon baller is the best tool for this.

So there you have it. Now that you know all about these sweets in syrup, you can decide what to call them yourself. I suppose a name isn't that important as long as they're as tasty as these are.


Lady Apples in Syrup
Though you want small apples for these sweets, keep in mind you have to core them, so you don't want teeny-tiny apples or you won't have any flesh left. The apples can be served as dessert on their own and also make great gifts in jars.

2 lbs lady apples
4 cups sugar
4 cups water
2 tablespoons orange blossom water or lemon juice

1. Working from the bottom of the apples, cut a cone out of the bottom, then use a small melon baller to scoop out the seeds from the center. Leave the stem attached on the top.
2. Place sugar, water, and orange blossom water in a wide deep pot. Bring to a boil, stirring so the sugar dissolves. Let boil gently for about five minutes so that the syrup is thick and viscous. Add the apples, stirring to combine. Lower the ehat and let the apples simmer gently in the syrup for 35-45 minutes. The apples should become translucent and soft but should not fall apart. The syrup will reduce somewhat but should not darken in color.
3. Remove apples with a slotted spoon to jars. Pour syrup over top. (If the syrup seems thin, you can continue to boil it until it thickens up a bit, but this shouldn't be necessary). Store in the refrigerator. Serve at room temp, with yogurt or clotted cream.

8 comments:

Ellen said...

Looks great. My mom has an apple tree that produces smaller-than-usual apples, but I don't think I've ever come across baby apples in stores...

eatme_delicious said...

Ohh what a cute little treat!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

How very pretty - and what a lovely idea! I wonder if I can find apples small enough...

breadchick said...

I've never seen an apple look so pretty as that!

Hillary said...

Wowwww. You transformed those apples into something even more beautiful, they're so cute and decorative.

L*Joy said...

mercedes
oh my! your blog and recipes and photos are lovely. after stumbling into your pretty space, I could not help but leave a comment.I felt like I should say, Thanks.
keep it up!

meeso said...

It sounds so cute having all those little fruits floating in syrup...and tasty too!

Cheryl said...

This is such an amazing idea. It makes me think of Fall too.