When Chef Diep Tran sang the praises of Arkansas Black apples on L.A. Weekly’s Squid Ink blog, there was no lack of enthusiasm: “The Arkansas Black’s siren song starts out bright and tart, then blooms with notes of nutmeg, coriander, vanilla and anise the longer it sits in cellar.” She points out that the apple is called the “Snow White” apple because of its “white flesh and ebony skin.” By the time I finished reading her post, I knew that if I ever saw Arkansas Black apples I would have to buy them. And sure enough, a week or two later, at the Atwater Village Farmer’s Market, I found them in a bin. I felt like I won the lottery.
Chef Tran makes pie with hers, but I decided to make a cobbler because (a) I’m terrible at making pie (despite years of instruction); and (b) I love cobbler.
Here’s a link to the recipe I use: it’s never failed me (though lately I skip the cider–a wasteful thing to buy since you’re only using 1/4 cup–and squeeze in juice from a navel orange after zesting it into the apples, along with some lemon zest too). Here are my Arkansas blacks on my cutting board:
And here they are all cut up, tossed with the filling mixture (the sugar, the zest, the juices) and dotted with butter.
How did they taste raw? I can see why Chef Tran was so enthusiastic: they really do have a special quality to them. They’re firm and tart like Granny Smiths, but much more perfumed. They taste the way you want an apple to taste.
So you top the whole thing with your cobbler topping and pop it into the oven an hour before you want to eat it. It’s best served hot with vanilla ice cream.
What did my dinner guests think of the Arkansas Black Apple Cobbler? “Wow,” said Craig’s uncle, though I’m not sure if he was wowing the cobbler itself or the unique qualities of the Arkansas blacks.
But, at the very least, the cobbler came with a story. So if you ever see Arkansas Black Apples at your farmer’s market, do yourself a favor and buy ’em.