Steve and I were invited to Sunday lunch today. I was asked to bring ‘anything made with apples’. As we move into autumn, apples are a bounty freely given from the many orchards here in the Westcountry. These beauties are on one of the cider apple trees in the orchard near my bus stop.
One of my favourite goddesses is Pomona, a goddess of growth and abundance. When I walk through an orchard, I love the order and symetry and I feel so much good energy from the trees whose sole purpose is to provide fruit.
This tapestry designed by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones depicts Pomona, the Roman goddess of plenty, of fruits and harvests, who personifies Autumn in this piece. Her name comes from the Latin word, pomum, meaning “fruit.” Pomona was the keeper of orchards and fruit trees. Unlike many other agricultural deities, Pomona is not associated with the harvest itself, but with the flourishing of fruit trees.
Pomona doesn’t appear very often in mythology, but she does have a festival, a Thanksgiving for the first harvest that she shares with her husband Vertumnus. In Roman mythology, Vertumnus was the god of seasons, change and plant growth, as well as gardens and fruit trees. Vertumnalia was celebrated on August 13. I’m a sucker for love and courtship stories, so had a look into who this Vertimnus chap is. He turned out to be a bit of a tricky one, but I think they had a very fruitful union.
Like the seasons and the fruit trees, Vertumnus was a shapeshifter. In Ovid’s writings, Pomona is a virginal wood nymph who rejected several suitors before finally marrying Vertumnus. Vertumnus, the god of orchards, desired her passionately and tried various ruses to enter her garden. At last, disguised as a very old woman, he is granted admission, where he begins to woo the nymph by praising her beauty and her fruit.
Passionately he compares his plight with an elm tree which was intertwined with vines bearing grapes. If the tree stood alone, Vertumnus argued, the vine would have nowhere to go and the grapes would be trampled under foot. “You shun marriage and do not care to be wed,” so he the god of the orchards cannot bear fruit without her help. His words melt the nymph’s heart and they are united. The two of them are responsible for the prolific nature of apple trees.
In François Bouçher’s painting, the symbol of deception, through which love achieves its fulfillment, is the mask held by winged Cupid at his feet. The features of the beautiful nymph are those of Bouçher’s patron Madame de Pompadour.
So this was the perfect opportunity to make the real Dutch appeltaart recipe given to me by Mirjam Pet-Jacobs, a Dutch textile and mixed media artist via Facebook.
For this recipe, I used some cooking apples given to me from my former landlady who owns a farm in the Teign Valley.
Lunch was at 1:00, so I got up around 7am to make my tart. Oops! No butter, so I had to wait until 9am, when the Co-op opens. The only unsalted butter they carry is Wheelbarrow which is quite appropriate and I entered the competition for a trip to Holland.
Then I had to go back to the store for raisins and there was a huge, friendly cat who had come in to meet and greet the customers.
- 300 flour
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 185 g cold hard butter
- 150 g white caster sugar (normal will do too)
- 1 egg
- 8 apples
- 3-4 tbs sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 100 g raisins
Butter a 24 cm springform pan. Preheat oven to 175 C/350F.
Put the sifted flour, salt, baking powder, the butter cut into pieces, sugar and 3/4 beaten egg in bowl. Knead it quickly into a dough. Roll out 3/4 of the dough, cover the sides and bottom of the buttered springform pan. Cut the apples into small pieces, mix with raisins, cinnamon and sugar, put into the springform pan. Roll out the leftover piece of dough, cut it into strips and cover the top of the apple mixture in a grid. Brush the remaining egg on the strips. Put the pan in the pre-heated oven and bake for about an hour. After baking, let it cool in the pan. Remove the ring of the form and enjoy it. Even better with whipped cream.
The appeltaart pastry was made with all butter. I didn’t chill it before rolling it out, so it was a little bit tricky to make the lattice top, but it had a divine melt in your mouth texture.
Served with whipped cream, it was a huge hit at the end of our lunch. We each took a moment to think of the harvest in our lives at this time of year, the fruition of our hard work and the seeds gathered to be planted for the future.
The next apple desserts I plan to make are a Dutch Jewish kosher apple cake and a good old American apple pie.