Pies and Apples. Apples and Pies! November 20, 2006

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There are two reasons I love pie. First was the early exposure to that Sesame Street episode in which a stereotypical mustachioed baker is walking down some stairs singing about his "6 cherrrryyyyy piieeesssss" as he falls and covers himself in the whipped cream of a thousand well-executed pie gags - there is nothing like physical comedy to mark someone for life. The second reason is a bit closer to home. My Grandmother Beemie and my Aunt Carol are famous in our family for their mastery of Thanksgiving pie baking. My favorite has always been apple pie. There is nothing like being around Beemie and Carol, mother and daughter, covered in flour, sipping sherry as they dig into competitive pie-top decorating during the Thanksgiving holiday. As we near the end of fall and start moving into winter, our produce buyer Dan continues to unearth some wonderful local apple varieties to tantalize our taste buds and ready us for that Thanksgiving pie baking tradition. This week some fresh apple treats include the Rising Sun Fuji, a great way to put the light back in our lives as the days get shorter. This apple comes from Gold Bud Farms in the Anderson Valley. We also have our first Sierra Beauty apples of the year, grown at Gowan's Orchards in Sebastopol.
Let's play a word association game with Sierra Beauty. If you're like me you're thinking John Muir, great granite grandeur and enormous skies where the only sound is a fresh hollow snap from your favorite apple. If you love these apples as much as I do, the sound of the crunch is just as important as the flesh in the bite - I try to taste the sound. The Sierra Beauty will wake up your mouth with a resounding snap, a light and crisp texture, and a gentle floral finish on the palette. Some Sierra Beauties are extremely tart and pucker-y, but in this lot Dan has found a truly succulent treat. What is it that creates that perfect fall "snap-crackle-pop" as you crunch deep into it? It's the fact that as much as 25% of an apple's volume can be occupied by air. As you bite into a crisp-textured apple, you are breaking the cells open and releasing the air pockets and pent-up juices trapped between. An overripe apple becomes mealy when the cell walls soften and become malleable; biting simply pushes the cells apart, instead of cracking them open. So think about it, when you bite the Sierra Beauty apple and hear that snap, you're really taking a breath of fresh Sierra-beauty air trapped inside each one.
The Rising Sun Fuji apple speaks for itself - it rolls over warm and mellow on the tongue, like the sun breaking through fog. Like differently aged wines, the flavor in these Fujis is much richer and deeper than the comparatively young and fresh Sierra Beauty. On a typical foggy San Francisco day this time of year, I can take one bite and am instantly glowing as the honey-sweet juices envelop my taste buds and bring color back to the world.


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