Have you ever read Joanne Harris’ book, the “Blackberry wine”?
In this wonderful book six bottles of fruit wines from the year 1975 – elderberry, damson, blackberry, raspberry, rose hip and jackapple- seem to come to life when Jay, the main character finds them in the cellar. They laugh, whisper, fizzle and make noise while they recall long forgotten memories as soon as he opens them one bottle after the other one. Memories from past summers when he met Jackapple Joe, the old men who created a paradise behind some brick walls in a shabby and abandoned quarter of an English small town. Kitchen garden with vegetables, greenhouses, healing plants, fruit trees and small red flannel bags filled with herbs to keep away bad energy from the garden. All these things were very far away from that life I was living at that time, when I first read this book 10 years ago. I was living in Budapest, in the centre, was working for a multinational company so in a world which is completely the opposite of all things I was reading about. I was thrilled and shaken by the story, by the idea and I still remember that feeling: an impatient craving and strong desire for a life in harmony with nature, having my own orchard, fruit trees and fruits from which I can make wine myself. Or máglyarakás, a special Hungarian dessert by using our own apples.
Life is wise and there are no accidents. A thought, a dream is like a seed that you plant into the soil. This thought will be in one corner of your brain, it will wait until the right moment comes. And if the time has come, this idea or dream is not absurd at all all any more, it becomes the natural way of living. Than 10 years after I read “Blackberry wine” I start making wine from my own apples and rose hip I picked in the forest. Being a chef and photographer I have absolutely no experience in wine-making but I am full of enthusiasm. I don’t give it up even if my rose-hip wine is pouring on the floor after weeks of fermentation. At least with apple wine I seem to be more lucky. Although it should have been fermented for 1-2 weeks, it takes much longer in our house, since it is a bit colder as normal. After weeks of waiting, stirring, observing I can finally strain it. Its taste is sweet in the first moment, then picks your tongue with its slight acidity, but this is only the start- its still needs time to mature. Now I have four bottle of apple wine, its colour is light yellow, and it is opalescent which should clear down in a couple of weeks according to my grandmother.
The Specials. This is how Jackapple Joe called his fruit wines. So this is our Special from the Bakony mountain, vintage 2016. By the way Joe’s wine were almost undrinkable in the book but after the first sip they recalled memories and the second sip seemed to be quite tasty. So I still hope in our wines…
We have to celebrate bottling our Specials. Making máglyarakás is a great way to celebrate since it is like the taste of autumn. You use apples, nuts and the kalács I baked in the last week’s blog post. Do you remember I promised to offer you a recipe that you can use if you have some leftover from the kalács. I soak the slices in vanilla milk, cover it with apples and top it with beaten egg whites which I mixed with my mother’s apricot jam. (From the 9 pieces of apricots we harvested this year I cooked dumplings not jam… But next year!) Máglyarakás is still warm when I cut a slice, and another one and another one. Áron says he needs to test it several times just to be sure it is good.
Meanwhile I imagine our Specials in the pantry and almost hear them laughing, whispering and chattering.
200 g day-old kalács or brioche
500 ml milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla essence
100 g + 2 tsp. sugar
30 g melted butter + a bit for brushing
100 g roughly chopped walnuts
500 g apples
3 tbsp apricot jam
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Slice kalács or brioche. Separate egg yolks and whites, mix the egg yolks with the sugar, vanilla essence, melted butter and milk. Put the slices into this mixture and let them soak for a couple of minutes. Butter a heatproof baking dish, put one layer of the kalács or brioche, sprinkle it with nuts, put another layer and top it with the nuts again. Peel and core apples, cut thin slices and cover kalács. Squeeze lemon and mix lemon juice with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Brush the apples with it and bake it for 30 minutes. Let it cool down a little bit. Whisk the egg whites until it forms stiff peaks, mix in the jam and top the apples with it. Reduce heat to 150°C and bake máglyarakás for 15-20 minutes until egg whites dry out and get a light brown colour.