In September Oslo is turned into an apple orchard. Everywhere gardens are filled with apple trees bursting with fruit. There are so many apples in Oslo that someone came up with the idea of establishing a firm producing apple juice solely on leftover apples from private gardens. Instead of rotting they are pressed into a city apple juice called Epleslang (scrumping).
Vagabond apples vs. commercial apples
The apples from garden trees of Oslo have bruises and come in all sizes. Still they tell the story about why we should eat seasonal and local food. Modern food industry has succeeded in preserving apples so much that the apple you pick in the store can be up to 13 months old.
Most commercial apples today, even organic, are picked under-riped and then induced into a kind of winter sleep where they are kept in an almost oxygen free atmosphere at about 0 degrees. The technique is called controlled atmosphere (CA) and is particularly common with apples and pears.
This is not a modern invention. Already in 1819 the Frenchman Jacques Etienne Berard discovered that the deprivation of oxygen stopped the apples’ “ageing process”. In addition apples today, in particular American apples, are waxed to slow down their decay. In sum, apples are edible mummies.
Norwegian apples are not vaxed, but they are chemically treated. According to Oikos, the national movement of organic producers and consumers in Norway, Norwegian apples are chemically treated about 7 times during their season, strawberries and carrots 6 times.
In the U.S. apples top the list of most chemically treated produce. According to the Environment Working Group, a non-profit focused on public health, apples turned up with the highest number of pesticides while peaches and nectarines moved up to the second and third spots. They put apples on the “dirty list”, together with celery, strawberries, spinach, potatoes and grapes, to mention a few. So if you can get hold on farmers’ apples, do so.
What characterizes Norwegian apples?
What characterizes Norwegian apples is this sweet and tart flavour, a fair and semi-crunchy flesh with a thin skin, and a unique aromatic scent that will leave you breathless. It is a combination of warm summers and cold autumn nights that yield the unique sweet and tart flavour. On the downside Norwegian apples are fragile and do to tolerate much cooking before they disintegrate. Hence, they are not easily turned into tarte tatin.
The first Norwegian apples arrive in August, just in time to shake hands with the last raspberries. These are “early apples”. Later on the “winter apples” come with their bold flavour and longevity. When all leaves have fallen to the ground and frost is reigning, the last winter apples endure as far as December.
Nordic apple trifle (tilslørte bondepiker)
Tilslørte bondepiker is a trifle consisting of apples, whipped cream and a crunchy topping. The Scottish dessert cranachan is a distant relative and you will also find it in Denmark as bondepige med slør (farm girl with a veil). The Danes use rye bread, traditional Norwegian recipes use a type of dried bread (kavring). Instead of bread I use biscuits, preferably digestives (or mariekjeks).
The Norwegian name of the dessert translates into “veiled farm girls” and it is a mystery how it got its name. Norwegian chefs love to make their own twists and rename the desserts in countless ways. These farm girls are not only veiled, they are spoiled, drunk or city girls. If you don’t have Norwegian apples, what then? Choose a crisp and tart apple like Granny Smith, add some extra drops of lemon juice and cook it a bit longer.
Nordic apple trifle (makes 4-5)
6 big apples
100 ml apple juice
3 tbsp sugar
a good squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 vanilla pod
6 digestive biscuits (or mariekjeks)
5 tbsp butter
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
400 ml whipping cream
1. Core the apples. (Keep the skin on to preserve more vitamins and give the compote a beautiful red colour). Slice roughly and cook for 4-5 minutes in a pan with the apple juice, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. They are finished when they start to disintegrate. Mash the apples roughly with a potato masher. Allow to cool.
2. Crush the biscuits with a rolling-pin. Melt the butter in a pan and add sugar, biscuit crumbs and cinnamon. Cook for 5 minutes while stirring. Leave to cool. The crumbs may not be crunchy while warm, but this changes when they get cold.
3. Whip the cream with the rest of the vanilla pod until soft peaks.
4. In a glass or serving bowl, arrange the dessert in layers. Start with the apple compote, continue with the cream and then the crumbs. Repeat. Finish with some extra crumbs on top.