IF WILLIAM TELL lived in Germany today, he could get a lot of target practice.
In an area twice the size of Maryland and Virginia combined, Germany is expecting an apple crop this year almost eight times larger than the one in this area. If the per capita consumption holds steady at 80 pounds, it'll be the first time in a very long while that Germany won't need to import any apples.
The same warm spring and fall that has given the Rhine Valley one of its most prolific grape crops has laden Germany's apple trees with such heavy burdens that tree limbs are propped with as many as 15 stakes.
Space is not wasted in Germany. Laws restricting building subdue any temptation toward suburban sprawl, so the population of 60 million-plus tends to live in clusters. Land is not wasted -- gardens, not lawns, surround homes, providing plentiful flowers in addition to vegetables and fruits. Large and small orchards of apple, pear and plum trees span the German countryside. In some places, apple trees are pruned so low that they resemble large tomato vines, with big green globes more prevalent than leaves. Fruit trees grow along country roads as elms and maples do in this country. All this in addition to the seemingly ubiquitous and yellow deliciousapple, which Germans grow commercially.
Driving through the German countryside, a visitor can spot the old varieties of apples -- from greenish-yellow grafensteins to the deep scarlet boskops. The boskop is a "Christmas apple" because harvesting occurs very late; it keeps a long time once it's picked and traditionally is paired with candles to bedeck German Christmas trees.
Germans are prepared for the crop with a cuisine that requires apples ad infinitum. With the famous tafelspitz, or boiled beef, comes applesauce, sometimes laced with a sinus-clearing dash of horseradish. Apples and pork are a classic combination of German origin. Apples arrive in soups, paired with potatoes or cabbage and wrapped in pastry -- the incomparable apple strudel.
And they come in pies, called kuchens, or cakes; and tortes, which could mean anything. But Americans have applied kuchen to such foods as coffeecakes. In any case, it all translates into delicious food made with abundant fresh regional produce. APPLES AND HORSERADISH 1 cup applesauce 2 to 3 tablespoons horseradish, or to taste
Combine applesauce and horseradish and serve with hot, roast or boiled beef. APPLES IN BLANKETS (8 servings) Rich pie pastry for 2-crust pie (see recipe below) 3 tablespoons sugar 2 teaspoons cinnamon 8 small cooking apples 1/4 cup raisins or chopped nuts 1 egg, beaten with a little water
Roll pastry on floured board to about 1/8-inch thickness. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Peel and core apples. Fill with raisins and divide the sugar-cinnamon mixture among the apples, being careful to keep it inside the core. Cut the pastry in 4- or 5-inch squares, or big enough to enclose the apples completely. Wrap the apples and brush all over with egg mixture. Place bundles in ungreased casserole and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degress; reduce heat to 350 and bake 20 to 25 minutes more. Serve warm, with cream, ice cream, whipped cream, vanilla sauce or custard sauce, if desired. APFELKUCHEN (6 to 8 servings) Rich pastry for a 1-crust pie (see recipe below) 5 tart apples, peeled and sliced 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon cornstarch 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional 1 cup sour cream 2 eggs, beaten 2 tablespoons brandy 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Roll pastry to 1/8-inch thickness and place in a 9-inch pie plate. Place apples on top of pastry. Combine sugar and cornstarch and cinnamon, if desired, and sprinkle over apples. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. Beat sour cream with eggs, brandy and powdered sugar. Pour this over apples, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until set, about 20 minutes. LA TART POUR JIM (1 10-inch tart)
This exquisite recipe of Simone Beck's was created for James Beard and with almonds, apples and sweet pastry crust, is the best of all possible worlds. Sweet pie crust (recipe follows) 6 tablespoons apricot jam 4 egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup pulverized almonds* 1/3 cup raisins 1/2 lemon 2 large or 3 medium tart cooking apples 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 4 tablespoons melted butter
Roll the pie crust to about 1/8-inch thick and line a tart pan with it. Paint it generously with apricot jam and refrigerate.
Beat egg yolks and add sugar gradually, beating continously until eggs are thick and lemon colored. Add pulverized almonds and raisins. Peel the apples and rub with cut lemon. Grate them onto a paper towel, then bring the towel up around the apples and give them a press to remove some of the moisture. Add them to the egg yolks along with cinnamon. Fill the pastry shell and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and prick the top of the pie in several place and pour the melted butter over it. Return tart to the oven and bake 20 minutes more. Serve warm if possible.
*To pulverize almonds: Add blanched almonds to blender and spin at full speed about 30 seconds; or add them to food processor and give them several quick punches.
From "Simca's Cuisine," by Simone Beck. Sweet pie pastry (For 1 9-inch pie) 1 cup all-purpose flour 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces 2 tablespoons sugar 1 egg yolk 1 to 2 tablespoons cold water
Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour and sugar until it resembles cornmeal. Beat egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water and toss this lightly into flour mixture. You should be able to press the mixture into a ball. If not, add a little more water. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and chill briefly before using. This recipe may be doubled for a 2-crust pie.