(Cinnamon Fall II)
I missed apple picking weekend at Fabrizio’s this year, we came two weeks late this year and could only pick the stragglers.
Fabrizio is a friend of mine who lives in Trastevere in Rome but he’s originally from a small town near L’Aquila called Colle di Lucoli, a small hilltop village on the way up to the Campo Felice (“happy field”) ski slopes. His house is in the middle of beautiful area of rolling hills dotted with tiny stone villages full of hiking trails and curvy roads.
As Fabrizio was growing up his dad would plant a new apple tree every year on the steep slope cascading down from his childhood house. He planted a different tree every year – varieties ranging from big red delicious to the tiny, yellow apples called “limoncello”, which means lemony, a name which derives from their color, small size and aftertaste. They were once once coveted in the mountainous areas of central Italy because as they shriveled up slightly during the winter in basement storage rooms they became much sweeter just before spring.
It’s an organic apple orchard, in the sense that neither Fabrizio nor anyone else does anything to the apples or the trees. Bugs, birds, squirrel and the like have free reign. Many of them are scarred and ugly. But tasty. I’m not as adventurous as I may seem – I strategically bite where they are not scarred and where it looks like bugs have not travelled. Tiny, little bites. But wonderful.
The wind knocks most of them down before we can get to them so the sloping field is filled with the smell of wild mint and baked apples. We were able to fill just got two bags, not enough for apple sauce this time around.
Three years ago we came the right weekend and there was a bumper crop. After lugging buckets of them to the apple storage room (which doubled as storage for wine, oil and preserves from their little garden) and the pile was shoulder-high we stared taking the rest directly to our cars.
But what do you do with buckets full or apples in a city apartment?
Applesauce, of course.
No real recipe. Peel and cut the apples in little pieces, cook slowly in a big pot with just enough water at the beginning to keep it from sticking until the apples melt. If you want it a bit sweeter or more rustic at the end, melt in some honey. And my favorite touch – cinnamon to taste. I love the smell of caramelized apples, honey and cinnamon just before I take it off the burner.
Then eat and smile.