Thursday, July 26, 2012


Lodi apples with pre-split fault lines

The summer of 2012 has become endless as I wait yet another week for building permits and my gluten-free facility bakes in the sun, unused. I’m sure that in a few weeks I’ll look back on July with envy, ‘cause once that permit is in my hands, I become  the sole full-time employee as well as product developer, packaging expert, data flow manager and complaint department. 
Waiting - always hard for me - I’m learning to temper by seizing small pleasures, such as the arrival of summer’s first apples.
That would be the Lodi, an excellent cooking variety not usually mature until mid-August. Like so much else in the US Northeast this year, it’s ripe an entire month early.
Lodi apples bring not only great flavors but strong memories. Both my mother and father loved Lodis, though they discovered them late in life. When Dad was in his 80’s he could be found many a summer afternoon churning applesauce from these tart fruits, and Mom liked nothing better than feeding a bowl of his product to her beloved granddaughter, my niece. 
Scraps from a coring-peeling session
They were true apple devotees, Mom and Dad. We always had a small orchard in the back yard, and what Dad didn’t or couldn’t cultivate he sought out, trying whatever varieties the farm stand of the moment had for sale. It was in this way he discovered the Lodi, which was not an apple he or my mother had grown up with. (That would have been the Yellow Transparent, a hard variety to find anymore.)
Apple memories always make me segue to deeper family thoughts, especially this summer as I stand on the verge of becoming a capitalist. Capitalism was Not Done in my family. Dad was an agitator and a genuine socialist (I can just imagine him ridiculing the idiots who think Obama is one), and although Mom came from a religious family, she moved leftward after the de-industrialization of their home city, Youngstown Ohio. 
Mom is still alive at 91. Her bit of anti-capitalism these days consists of worrying  I’ll lose all my money entering business. I have to imagine what Dad would say - he died in 2007 - but I don’t doubt he’d be aggrieved, and not surprised. He knew that radical leftism never fit me. I went as far in other directions as I could: to University to study science, then to art school, finally settling on a career teaching photography - all of these being fundamentally apolitical acts.
I don’t intend to become political now. I’m happy voting democratic and willing to get into verbal dust-ups with republicans, but that’s as far as it’s going to go. My joining the capitalist class is a purely economic act. OK - it is personally liberating to discover an inner drive to succeed in the marketplace. And joy. I haven’t sold a single bag of flour blend, but the testimonies I’ve gathered, to say nothing of strangers' well-wishes, make me almost delirious with joy. 
8 Lodi apples yields this bag of dried slices
But back to apples.
I know I’ve written about Lodi, Gold Rush and Northern Spy - the holy trinity of cooking apples - before. And while it is true that none of these are found world-wide, and also true that in the heat of the summer the concept of cooking anything is faintly repulsive, I want to extol their loveliness one more time. Lodi are crumbly and very tart - the perfect sauce and Brown Betty apple. Northern Spy are ugly and fast-browning, but will knock your socks off in a pie. And Gold Rush are gorgeous and lush, combining well with cream for perfect tarts. 
As it turns out all three keep well in the freezer. They’re easy to prepare:  peel and slice and toss into thick plastic bags. I’ve got a nice stack already, hiding under ice cubes and sprained wrist packs.
When I saw Lodis last week I did what I always do: bought more than I could use. This was a problem for two reasons: the freezer is full, and Lodi do not keep well in the refrigerator. In fact they are notorious splitters - after a few days at 40 degrees they literally explode. 
I had Apple Crisp on the brain when I bought them, having just seen a tasty-looking recipe in the King Arthur Flour catalog. As soon as I got home I adapted it for two small gluten-free appetites, but I still had more than a dozen apples left. My solution was to dehydrate them.
Shreds of dehydrated Lodi are fabulous scattered in a salad. They can be rehydrated in water, cider, cream or wine. Or they can rest in a refrigerator drawer, a safeguard against 2013, when who knows what summer will bring.

Which is a mental strategy I know would make my father smile. He was, in the beginning, a farmer, so he knew what it meant to anticipate lean years.
Apple crisp

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp
Adapted from King Arthur Flour 

Note: King Arthur’s recipe is perfect as is, provided you’re baking for a family of six, none of whom have celiac disease. My adaptations include a reduction in portion size, a substitution of GF pastry flour for all-purpose wheat flour, and substituting walnut chunks for instant rolled oats.
366 grams sliced, peeled Lodi (or similar) apples
23 grams apple juice, water or rum
42 grams brown sugar
11 grams melted, unsalted butter
7 grams boiled cider (optional)
8.4 grams featherlite blend or similar gluten-free pastry blend
large pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch powdered ginger
pinch xanthan gum
35 grams featherlite blend or similar gluten-free pastry blend
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
46 grams cold butter cut into pats
40 grams chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. 

Grease three, 4 1/2” diameter by 2” deep pyrex pans. Prepare apples. 

Using a medium bowl, add dry ingredients for filling and mix well. Add melted butter, juice/water/rum, and boiled cider, if using. Stir to blend well. Add apples and toss until they are well-coated.

In a separate medium bowl, add dry topping ingredients and mix well. Add butter and, using a pastry blender or two knives rubbed together, cut butter into dry ingredients until pea-sized lumps form. 

Press apples into pans. Divide liquid equally among pans.  Add topping and press into an even layer over apples. Bake @ 45 - 55 min or until ingredients bubble and turn walnut brown.
Yield: three, 4.5” diameter, 2” deep bowls.


Anonymous said...

I think your mother's fears are not unreasonable. In this economy,
when SO many businesses owned by expert and experienced business
people are failing, instead of going it alone, it would be (or, if
too late, would have been) a better idea to seek out a venture
capitalist or small business loan, so that if you do lose money, it
won't be your own. Being retired, you'll have a hard if not
impossible time trying to recoup any losses. In addition, it sounds
like you have no business experience whatsoever (not counting the
defunct website which you said failed and sold only one photograph in
several years of operation); I think you'd be better off (or would have
been better off) teaming up (and again, sharing the risk) with a
partner experienced in the business you're entering. It sounds like
you're taking a HUGE risk, and with all due respect, I'm not sure you
really know what you're doing.
Good luck.

Charles Luce said...

Thank you Christy for your comment. Some corrections: as my "about us" web page indicates, I do have a business partner. As far as venture capital or bank loans, it's a myth of pop culture that these folks are just waiting to hand over oodles of bucks. They want to see positive cash flow first, and then want things I'm unwilling to promise, including access to my intellectual property. You are right that I have no business experience but my partner is very experienced and my mother, bless her heart, is both totally without experience and neurotically afraid. Capitalism offers no promises of success, but I'm unwilling to fade away without trying. And I do have adequate capital.