Apples of Uncommon Character by Rowan Jacobson is a delightful way to learn about a fruit that is very important to our Capital Region.
During recent years I’ve become more and more interested in the notion of terroir, or that there is a distinctive character in the food of any given region. The soil, the water and the close environment of any food product all have an effect on its flavor and other characteristics. So as I was thinking about our major food products, apples came to the top of a list of many. I love apples and my goal has become to understand our apples and to try to learn everything I can about them.
Enter Apples of Uncommon Character, 125 Heirlooms, Modern Classics & Little Known Wonders, Plus 20 Sweet and Savory Recipes. I jumped at the good fortune of stumbling across this delightful book just as I had formed my desire to start learning about this fruit that’s familiar to almost everyone.
Jacobson takes time with each 125 varieties in a section that doesn’t have to be read from front to back, but can be accessed randomly as one comes across a variety and would like a description. For each apple there are about two pages of description which include Name, Origin, Appearance, Flavor, Texture, Season, Use and Region. There's a photograph for each apple. Anecdotes abound and for the most part they are fun to read. The flavor descriptions are some of my favorite parts, for example: “like a pear wrapped in spruce bark” describes the Gray Pearman apple. And: “even as I raised one toward my mouth it was already giving off vibes of deliciousness”. This is no dry academic text. Jacobson has a deep background in food writing and it serves well in this small and sturdy volume.
Besides all the details to be learned about specific apples, there are bits of knowledge to be had about apples in general as well: “Most apples fall into two categories: the soft early-fall varieties which begin to go downhill almost as soon as you pick them, and the rock-hard keepers which are picked in late October or November but need several months of storage before those tight starches relax into sugars.”
The sections of the book also reveal important knowledge about the different varieties: Summer Apples, Dessert Apples, Bakers and Saucers, Keepers, Cider Fruit, Oddballs. Photographs by Clare Barloza illustrate the beauties and eccentricities of the fruits and make me want to taste and touch all of them.
If you like apples at all and want to know a little more about what you’d like to try when you go to the farmer’s market or out to the orchards this fall, start with this book! With recipes like grilled apples with smoked trout, fennel and lemon zest you also may get some wonderful ideas about what to do with your harvest.
Buy this book and help a local business by getting it from The Book House or Market Block Books. Both shops allow you to order or buy online and pick it up at the store or have it delivered.
LorreBob sez: go to your local bookstore and get it today!