It’s amazing that I eat so many apples now—considering my early introduction to this fruit. I don’t remember my first food as a baby—that was over fifty years ago—but I’m sure it included some insipid tasting applesauce. My first memory of an apple is the poison one prepared for Snow White. (I was about three years old when I saw Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—my first movie.) All through my primary and secondary school years, my mother insisted on putting an apple in my lunch box. In those days there were two choices of “eating” apples available at our local supermarket—Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. (Pippins were available as “cooking” apples, but no one ate these raw for some reason.) The texture of these “delicious” apples generally bordered on mealy to soft. These were not the crisp apples I enjoy nowadays, and by the time I left home for college, apples were, in my mind, a forbidden fruit to be avoided in all forms.
Now when I travel to the market to purchase apples, I have many varieties from which to choose. And depending on the time of year, the apple I buy may be a world traveller. The same is true in France. On a recent visit to a hypermarché, I found varieties of apples from New Zealand, the United States, and Chile plus a few from France. Even a small corner market in Paris will offer a couple varieties of apples throughout the year. The French eat a lot of apples.
The French market value for apples in 2003 was 610M €. Almost 90% of the apples sold were in the form of fresh fruit. Eighty-six percent of French households purchased apples at least once during the year. The average amount bought by each household per annum was 18.3 kg (40.3 lb). The weight of the average purchase was 1.5 kg (3.3 lb). In fact, about one-fifth of all fresh fruit purchased was apples. (Oranges were second at 14% and bananas third at 12%.)
As individuals in France grow older, they consume more apples. People over 50 years of age consume twice as many apples, by weight, as those less than 35. (I guess the farther people are from their childhood, the more appetizing apples become.)
The results of a recent survey about apple consumption in France, shown in Table 1, found that apples are consumed most often in their raw form.
The “golden” variety, as the French refer to the Golden Delicious apple, is by far the most popular in France, accounting for more than one-third of the total production. The consumption of all varieties for 2004 is shown in Table 2.
Traditionally in France, apples have been baked and served whole, cut-up and cooked in a tart, and cooked to the point where they are very soft and served as a puree. The classic dish, tarte tatin, consists of large pieces of apple which are first cooked in caramelized sugar and then covered in the same cooking pan with a piece of pastry and baked in an oven. The finished tart is inverted for serving. The recipes accompanying this article include traditional baked and pureed apples, but other, less traditional methods are presented as well. (When I chose the recipes to test for this article I did not included an apple tart because I thought that I had already presented one on the web site. It turns out that although I have tested a couple of versions previously, I never published them. Sometime in the future I will.) The recipes are mostly for desserts, but there are a couple designed for serving as appetizers, first courses, or side dishes. There’s even one garnish based on apples. All the recipes are listed, and linked, in Table 3.
In many of the recipes, a specific variety of apple is listed in the ingredients. This is only meant as a guide because the availability of apple varieties in France may be different from where you live. Also, you may prefer one variety over another. I don’t like the texture of raw Golden Delicious apples, but I love them when they are pureed. Apples considered “cooking” varieties, such as the Granny Smith, hold their structure better when cooked. “Eating” apples, such as the Gala variety, can loose their shape very quickly when cooked. I encourage substitution, but do so wisely.
Apples are one of the earliest fruits known to humans and exist in hundreds of varieties. The sixteen recipes in this article, even when added to the twenty or so already on the site, comprise only a very small portion of the French repertoire of apple recipes.