Anderson Valley, Apples and Apple Cinnamon Loaf

Traveling south along Hwy 1, after three beautiful days exploring in and around Fort Bragg, my sister Gwen and I decided to take yet another backroad detour off the main highway. Backroads can be beautiful and enjoyable experiences, sometimes they are just the opposite. This time we would try a road headed inland from the coast through the tiny town of Comptche, then south to Hwy 128 just west of the town of Navarro in the Anderson Valley. It turned out to be both beautiful and enjoyable.

The Anderson Valley occupies an area about 25 miles long, extending northwesterly from Hwy 101 towards the Coast along Hwy 128. Early  European settlers described it as “a long valley stretching to the northwest, surrounded by dense woods on the southwestern side, and grassy hills to the northeast. There was abundant meadow grass, and water. Deer, elk, bear, and small game animals are abundant and roam the valley and surrounding hills.”

The settlers started arriving around 1850 and with them came the changes that transformed this wooded valley into the thriving agricultural community it is today. From what I can find in the histories apple production here began just before the turn of the century. Today apples still grow in this region but many orchards have been replaced by vineyards. Since 1964 winegrowing and winemaking has become a big part of the economic landscape of the valley. But then that’s another story for another day. Today it’s about apples.

DSCN6633 As we entered Anderson Valley I remembered a historic fruit stand that I had visited many years ago and wondered if it was still there. Much to my delight Gowan’s Oak Tree was still there, unchanged and best of all it was open. I had to stop.

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DSCN6634Gowan’s has been around since the 30’s when Grandma Gowan would sit under the oak tree, that now shades the building, and sell apples to travelers passing by. Around 1950 they built the fruit stand and have been selling to travelers and neighbors ever since.

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They had a nice variety of apples and pears to choose from but no persimmons even though the sign said they did. During the summer months they sell peaches, plums, berries and home grown vegetables.

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Oh, and they had Arkansas Black apples. One of my favorites and not always easy to find.  To link to a recipe for Fresh Apple Cake and more about these beauties see my previous post Arkansas Black Apples.
DSCN6637This little basket of Lady Apples intrigued me, begged me to try one. So I did. It had a semisweet flavor and was crisp and juicy. The sad thing about these little gems is that they aren’t widely available.

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From what I could find about them, they were first cultivated by the Romans and are the oldest apple variety known. The French, it is said, loved them and considered them as royal; early American colonists thought of them as a symbol of wealth. Pretty impressive history for such a tiny fruit.DSCN6684

Always looking for something new to try and having a nice variety of fresh apples on hand, I decided to try this recipe for Apple Cinnamon Loaf by Sharon Whitley posted on Just A Pinch Recipes. The perfect recipe for brightening a cold winter morning. The only thing I changed was to add 1 cup of chopped walnuts with the apple and use mini loaf pans instead of the 9 x 5. The aroma of this loaf will drive you crazy when it’s baking. Is there anything better smelling than cinnamon and sugar? Quick to fix and yummy.

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Fabulous Fuyus

This morning I took a bike ride down the River Road, a paved two-lane road sitting atop the levee adjacent to the Sacramento River that doesn’t get much traffic, especially on weekdays. As I rode I could see the river lazily wandering on its journey to the San Francisco bay and beyond to the ocean off to one side and off to the other farmland, most of which is fallow now, dotted with a few houses and out buildings. This is one of my favorite rides and I don’t seem to tire of the scenery even when I have ridden the road for consecutive days. I usually see something memorable or unusual on these rides that cover 10 to 15 miles. And today was no exception.

As I was riding I was looking down towards one of the small farm houses admiring a beautiful persimmon tree heavily laden with fruit that was growing not far from the house when I noticed a couple of the low hanging fruits seemed to be moving. This was odd since there was no wind to speak of, so I slowed down, stopped and took a more focused look. What I saw was wild turkeys gathered beneath the branches pecking the fruit. I’ve seen turkeys many times on my rides but I’ve never seen them foraging fruit. The turkeys must have known that they didn’t have to worry about being chased off from their bountiful find since this farmhouse doesn’t currently have a dog in residence  and they were taking full advantage of the situation.

Turkeys aren’t the only ones who love fresh persimmons. A year ago I wrote about persimmons and what the term “true berries” meant and how I have grown to love these deliciously, crispy fruits. I have been buying them at the Farmers Market for weeks now and so far I haven’t tired of them. Sometimes I  chop them into small pieces add some chopped walnuts and a sprinkling of cinnamon and add it all to my morning bowl of oatmeal, but last night I used them in another favorite way, in a salad with baby spinach leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds all topped with a tasty little vinaigrette I had made using some Prickly Pear Cactus Syrup I picked up when I was in New Mexico in November. If you don’t happen to have any Prickly Pear Cactus Syrup vinaigrette available you could use vinaigrette made with pomegranate syrup or your favorite raspberry vinaigrette. You could also add any of the following to the salad; sliced red onion, pomegranate seeds, chopped Hazelnuts or candied pecans, sliced roasted beets or some goat cheese. They’re all delicious additions.

Poking around on the Internet I found the following recipes and uses for persimmons. They sounded too good not to share:

From KQED – Bay Area Bites

Fuyu Persimmon, Pear and Walnut Rolled Tart

Persimmon, Fennel and Almond Couscous

Fuyu Persimmon, Pear and Pine Nut Salad

From Destination Food

Pulled chicken salad with persimmon, witlof (endive) and avocado

and

WikiHowHow to Eat a Persimmon

Since finding a loaded tree that I can forage from hasn’t happened it looks like I’ll be picking up my fresh Fuyu this Sunday at the Farmers Market.

From Wikipedia – Persimmon

A persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family (Ebenacae). The word Diospyros means “the fire of Zeus” in ancient Greek. As a tree, it is a perennial plant. The word persimmon is derived from putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, from Powhatan, an Algonquian language of the eastern Untied States meaning “a dry fruit”. Persimmons are generally ligh yellow-orange to dark red-orange in color, and depending on the species, vary in size from 1.5 to 9 cm (0.5 to 4 in) in diameter, and may be spherical, acorn-, or pumpkin-shaped. The calyx often remains attached to the fruit after harvesting, but becomes easier to remove as it ripens. They are high in glucose, with a balanced protein profile, and possess various medicinal and chemical uses.

Kumquat Digestif – The Perfect Ending To a Party!

Are you one of those people whose  friends are always giving a little bag of this or that? I am. My friends know that I don’t like to waste anything and so often their excess becomes this weeks project on how to use what ever it is they have given me.  Such was the case when a friend gave me a small sack of kumquats. I knew that they were a type of citrus and I had heard that the rind was edible and tasted sweet, but that the flesh was quite acidic and sour. Acidic is not one of my favorite flavors but I thought, there must be something I can do with these outside of making marmalade, which I don’t really like.

The answer came amazingly not after an Internet sleuth but after digging around in my recipe clippings, Kumquat digestif. A digestif, for those of you who might not be familiar with the term, is it is a drink that’s imbibed as an aid to digestion after a meal and is often more alcoholic than an aperitif which is served before. Armagnacs, cognacs, scotch, brandies and whiskeys and some heavy and sweet wines such as, Madeira, port, and sherry, all of which I like, are digestifs. So based on how much I like all of the aforementioned,  I thought the Kumquat version would be perfect. I also had a party coming up and thought it would be fun to try the Kumquat digestif on my friends.

The recipe is from Sunset Magazine, November 2009 and I find it interesting that I had clipped a recipe for a fruit I had never tried and one that I knew to be acidic in taste. Funny how some things happen.

 

Kumquat Digestif

Makes 2 ½ cups

Time About 20 minutes, plus infusing time of at least 3 weeks

½ cup sugar

2 cups vodka

10 kumquats cut in half lengthwise, plus 5 to 6 whole

Several branches fresh thyme

In a medium saucepan, heat sugar with ½ cup water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

Stir in vodka. Pour mixture into a decanter or jar and add kumquats (halves first) and thyme. Chill at least 3 weeks. Serve ice-cold, in shot glasses.

I’d definitely try this again and my guests gave it a “two thumbs up” rating too. The article said that this was good over ice cream too.

A little history: There are several kinds of kumquat, round and oval. The kind I was given was the oval variety. Kumquats come from trees that are native to south Asia and the Asia-Pacific. The earliest historical reference to kumquats appears in Chinese 12th century literature. They were introduced to Europe in 1846 and to North America shortly thereafter. The English name “kumquat” derives from the Cantonese word kam kwat, which translates to “golden orange”.

An interesting article: Here’s an interesting story written in 2008, by Susan Russo for NPR, Kumquats: Discovering the Sweetness of Sour. It contains a lot more information and some tasty sounding recipes.