An urge to search for traditional recipes with apples resulted because of a walk we took last week near our cottage. We came across a familiar old apple tree still standing next to the ruins of a house. It has never stopped producing apples yearly for more than six decades now as my mother remembers, with no gardener’s care - just running water from a spring on the property. We hadn’t explored this corner of the village for a couple of years and we were pleased to find that the tree was still productive and that there were still some apples left for us by the birds who had already taken their share. I love that sense of déjà vu under a tree like this, imagining the repeated ritual of harvesting its fruits.
Though apples have been cultivated in Greece for many centuries yet, as far as I know, there are no recipes in Greek traditional cuisine like pies and cakes, which call for apples. They have always been the most popular year round fruit in every house pantry, but have been appreciated uncooked as a tasty fruit and a healthy snack.
Firikia (φιρίκια) a local variety of small, oval shaped apples with an intoxicating, sweet aroma and wonderful taste are the only exception to this rule. Firikia are peeled, halved and seeded, and then slow cooked in vanilla syrup with blanched almonds. This way their taste and aromas get richer and more intense. I love them as a quick dessert, paired with yogurt which balances their sweetness.
Apples cooked in vanilla syrup
1 kg of peeled, seeded and quartered, cooking apples
1kg granulated sugar
1-2tsps vanilla extract
50gr blanched raw almonds
Juice from a lemon
In a cooking pot over high heat put the sugar and water. As soon as the sugar dissolves, add the apples and vanilla extract, turn the heat to medium-low and let them simmer for 40-60min checking on the thickness of the syrup so it is neither too running or too thick. (I cooked 2 ½ kilos of apples and it took 60min of cooking time, for a perfect syrup)
If you happen to have a cooking thermometer, then the right temperature is at 104 C ( 219 F).
Just a minute before you remove the pot from the heat add the lemon juice and almonds to the cooked apples.
When still hot, pour (carefully not to burn your fingers) the apples with their syrup into sterilized jars, and store them for up to a year.