Before “farm-to-table” was a culinary craze, it was simply the way everyone ate. Today’s discriminating eaters may be hyper-aware of where their food comes from, but do they know how it got there? How do farmers select their crops? Why do chefs choose a particular variety of fruit or fowl? In this occasional series we talk to producers and chefs to see how food gets from Farm to Restaurant. In this installment: Mutsu Apples.
The Mutsu apple is “sort of like a Midwestern Granny Smith,” explains Peter Klein of Seedling Fruit, one of the apple purveyors at the Green City Market. The apple, a cross between a Golden Delicious and the Japanese Indo apple, is one of the more tart varieties of the 28 different apples he grows on his southern Michigan farm. Klein likes to use the Mutsu in an apple and cabbage cole slaw, but it also works well when baked, since it holds up its texture even after some time in the oven.
Cary Taylor, Executive Chef at Chaise Lounge
“I chose that apple because it’s a good baking apple and I’m working on apple tarte tatin recipes. I’m thinking of putting a tarte tatin on our menu. I’m not an apple expert. I went and asked them for a good slow baking apple. It’s a tarter, firmer apple. I took a bite out of one raw and it was a firmer taste. It’s meant to be stewed down. I think it has less water in it so that makes it less juicy.
“For the tarte tatin, you take butter, sugar, and apples, and then you really slowly cook that down until the caramel is a thick syrup with the apples. You lay a dough over the top of it — just water, flour, salt and butter — finish baking that, and let it sit in the pan. Then you invert it. It takes a pretty good while to make them. I might do an apple upside down cake too. Make it Southern style with cornmeal and cake batter.”
Paul Fehribach, Executive Chef at Big Jones
“Mutsu apples have a firm texture that holds up well during cooking, and we also like the bright and crisp flavor that they have — slightly tart, but not too tart. I’ve worked with Mutsus before. They’re one of my favorite apple varieties. I like Red Corts for salads, Williams’ Pride for salads, and for both baking and salads the Mutsu mountain apple, a Japanese heirloom. I like Winesaps for cider.
“We do a couple of things with them. We bake them with sage and serve them with a quail with cornbread stuffing. For that, it’s really good that they hold up texture as well as they do when they bake. We also just bake them. We serve baked apples for brunch. We scoop out the core, fill it with brown sugar and butter, and eat them with clotted cream. It’s a big Creole thing. And we make an apple pancake on weekends. That’s the classic Dutch apple. It’s almost like a popover batter, and you bake it with caramel and it poofs up into this big thing.”
Suzanne Imaz, Pastry Chef at the Sofitel
“I’m preparing for a demo at the Green City Market. I’m making a Mutsu apple crostata. It’s like a rustic apple tart. Instead of being baked in a pie or tart pan, it’s sort of free form. You roll it out like a pizza dough and put the fruit in the middle and fold in the edges. I’m going to pair it with Burton’s maple syrup ice cream that they sell at the market, and I was looking for an apple that wasn’t too sweet. [Seedling] usually has a great variety. I use their cider a lot too. For the demo, I want to make something that I thought people that go to the market might be able to duplicate at home.
“At the hotel, for room service, we do an apple tart with caramelized apples and puff pastry. It’s getting pretty popular right now. For that one, we use the Granny Smith.”