Colours of autumn in Sweden.
Photo © J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson for CMC 2010
In a highly automated and globalized world where standards of living seem to be continuously improving, where ‘organic’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’ are key words in today’s food industry, it’s surprising how far we’ve come from the basics of growing and cooking the food that we consume.
It’s much easier for example to head off to the grocery store and from there, choose from an array of produce to buy and bring home, than to harvest the very same produce from the garden or soil – lack of space, lack of time, too much city life, too many working hours etc. – there are countless valid reasons for our choices and why it is so difficult to have our food straight from the garden, sans chemical pesticides, sans chemical food preserving processes and packaging.
But with not so much the concept of sustainability in mind, rather as time spent on something I enjoy doing in my spare time come autumn, and what makes the little happy moments in life, I went apple picking today in a charming and rustic Swedish garden with the aim of making some homemade apple sauce!
Swedish rustic charm.
This garden comes as part of an old house built during the 1800s along the Swedish west coast. Tucked away in a little niche corner of a narrow, winding road, it was almost surreal, driving up the path, under apple boughs to reach the center of the garden that was washed golden with low rays of the morning Nordic sun in autumn.
Red Ingrid Marie Swedish apples.
The garden had basically two varieties of Swedish apples, the small red and attractive Ingrid Marie and the green golden Signe Tillisch. These varieties are in contrast to a previous autumn picking of Gravensteins.
The Ingrid Marie is named after the daughter of the teacher, K. Madsen, who once found the tree on Westfyn island in Denmark. A small tree grew, probably from the seedlings of a Cox’s Orange, among the raspberry plants. This incident happened around 1910 and today, the Ingrid Marie is one of the most widely grown varieties in Sweden. The trees though hardy, still prefer warmer locations to grow and the apples are instantly recognizable when encountered due to its distinct size, shape and a colour of quite bright red. Some Swedes would deem this one of the best varieties of Swedish apples to be eaten as a dessert apple, baked in cakes, pies and stews. These apples keep till January.
The Signe Tillisch.
A basket with mostly Signe Tillisch and some Ingrid Maries.
One of the best things to do is to eat the Signe Tillisch right after its picked!
The Signe Tillisch is another Danish apple variety that made its way to Sweden in the late 1800s. This apple variety is larger than the Ingrid Marie and has a characteristically smooth green golden skin. This variety of apple is particularly favoured by some in the making of apple sauce because of its sweet, rich flavour. This particular apple variety needs however, to be picked at the right time to be at its most flavourful, and that is the first week of October. It’ll keep till early December.
After the picking, there isn’t much else to do except to peel the basket of apples and place all of them into a large pot over the cast iron stove.
The mixture of apples on the stove with a stick of cinnamon.
Some honey of your choice, sugar and a stick of cinnamon over low to medium heat, stirring ocassionally is all you need to do in order for the contents of the pot to melt and come together to form a luscious and fragrant apple sauce.
Apple sauce from Ingrid Maries and Signe Tillisches, Sweden.
Just one of the several jars of apple sauce from the day’s picking! This apple sauce goes perfect in pies, on bread, in oatmeal or as a brilliant side dish to pork, particularly spare ribs.
The day’s pickings and apple sauce project is also an event that encouraged me to go back to basics when it comes to food, from garden to table in one smooth sweep, reminding me that in a world that sometimes moves too fast, it is these moments that make life worth living and rustic gardens whether in Sweden or elsewhere, worth preserving.