I have been waiting for a decade to be able to wake up every day in an orchard. Maybe I inherited my passion and love for gardening and fruit trees by my gens.
I remember my grandmother, ‘Mami’, when she told me about the time, when she finally had her own orchard. It happened in the 1960’s when my grandfather, ‘Papi’ and she were able to buy a small plot near my home town, Veszprém, on the top of the Csatár mountain. There was no tap water- still there isn’t- only electricity and a completely empty and bare plot of land. Each one’s plot was selected by lot, so when they knew which one will be theirs, they drove there and sat down on the ground and looked at the lights of the town far away. And they thought: this is it, this is our land.
This bare plot of land would become completely different when I was a child: it was an orchard with a little cottage. Mami and Papi would plant fruit trees, set up kitchen garden where they would grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and all kind of vegetables that my grandmother would use up in her tiny kitchen. At the fence pine trees would give a little privacy and under them lily of the valley would grow that we would pick for a flower bouquet.
Next to the parking lot of their old Wartburg car a flower bed would be set up and a sand box for us to be able to play. It was a real paradise.
My grandparents would spend almost all of their weekends there in summer. I love listening to my grandmother when she tells how she would wake up at dawn and walk barefoot in the dewy grass. I can almost see her walking gracefully and elegantly in a dress she saw for herself. I am with her in her memories.
In my memories, Csati- as we call this place- is always connected with food. I remember picking peaches from the tree and the way its juice would run down on my face. When my grandmother would give us little baskets to pick raspberries and red currants. She wouldn’t mind that we would fill our stomach more than our baskets. That would be her aim actually.
We would climb trees, put cushions under our bottoms and eat cherries while watching the birds and sky.
Finally, after decades when I became the owner of my own orchard, I realised that it will be a long learning process to understand nature and its rhythm.
When is the best time for harvest? How do I know when to pick sour cherries, when it already turned red? How to pick them: with stems or without? What is better: waiting for apricots to fall and collect them quickly or pick them from 3 meters height and realise that they are still not ripe enough? How to store apples? Do I put newspapers in between and can I put two rows of them in a crate or only one? How often do I need to check them during winter, so they don’t become rotten?
I had so many questions like these. There were some I asked from Mami, and others I just learnt by experience. Mainly by failures, I must say. I didn’t pay attention to weather forecast, and the strong rain resulted in cherry spinning. I didn’t check apples frequently enough and it became rotten during storing.
Something has changed this year though. I have been watching weather tendencies. I have picked cherries just right before a big storm and continued with the sour cherries later, which I tested every day do decide harvest time by taste.
And, since 2015 it was the first time we have had a real apricot harvest. I didn’t even mind to cook jams until midnight, because we finally have our own apricot jam, moreover, I have had enough for a pie.
Not just a usual pie.
The last time I ate this apricot pie with meringue was more than 10 years ago, at Bóbi’s place. Life led us into different directions, but I have been longing for this pie, its fluffy dough, the tangy apricots and the sweet, crunchy meringue since then.
I have tried several similar recipes of meringue pies throughout the blog’s history. All of them were attempts to reproduce Bóbi’s pie and bring back that unforgettable taste of summers at the river Danube. Without any success. All were nice, but not the same.
Until one evening when I couldn’t fall into sleep until I wrote a message to Zsuzsa and asked for her help to get in touch with Bóbi. Since our last meeting she moved to her beloved city, Rome, and we never emailed, so I neither have had an email address nor a phone number. With Zsuzsa’s help, my request arrived to her, and she replied on the same day, by attaching the desired recipe with helpful and detailed instructions.
With her permission I can share this recipe now, which – not surprisingly- turned out to be an old family recipe.
Tastes have a magical power. As soon as I bite into the first slice, it brings me to old places and times, but it is already connected with new memories: to an orchard to learn life-long, a tall apricot tree, a visit of a dear Danish photographer friend, and his family, and their requests for another slice of the pie for which I used our own apricots.
Yes, this is our garden, this is our land.
Apricot meringue pie
Following Bobi’s instructions I didn’t replace pork fat with butter or margarine. She explained it won’t be the same result. I added only the amount of apricots I used and set the oven temperature, all the remaining part is the original recipe.
20 g fresh yeast
100 ml lukewarm milk
1-2 pinches of caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
120 g pork fat
200 g powdered sugar
500 g fresh apricots
- Dissolve sugar and yeast in milk and let it rise covered for 5-10 minutes.
- Mix egg yolks with pork fat with a kitchen machine until it is a bit fluffy. (Keep egg whites for the meringue). Add flour and yeasted milk and knead it to flexible dough on a well-floured surface. I tried to knead it first with the machine, but the dough was quite sticky, and I realised that the perfect texture will be achieved by adding as much flour on the wooden board as necessary, while I am kneading. So I used my hands instead.
- Grease and dust with flour a baking tin ( 30x 25 cm). Roll out the dough to the size of the tin, place the pitted and halved apricots on top. Cover and let it rise for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200 ºC (with fan 190 ºC) and pre-bake the dough for 10-15 minutes.
- Reduce oven temperature to 160 ºC (with fan 150 ºC) Beat egg whites with powdered sugar until stiff peaks form and spread it over the apricots. Put the pie back to the oven for further 30 minutes. It should be more drying than baking, so the meringue will be crunchy outside and soft inside.