Maybe it's not exactly my madeleine, but the sight of this homely little apple almost brought me to tears at the Greenmarket last Saturday.
At the far end of their one acre garden, my grandparents had a small orchard. One peach and one pear tree, neither of which ever did much, and about eight or so apple trees which produced an incredible number of these knobby, spotty little gobs. I can't count the hours I spent down in "the bottom" in an uneasy truce with the bees, leaving them to the sickly sweet rotting apple mush in peace, so long as they let me go about my Easter egg hunt for good apples unmolested. I can't even guess how many five gallon buckets of the things my grandmother and I carried back up to the house over the years, where we'd spread out newspapers and peel and quarter them till it felt like the paring knives were embedded in our fingers.
Once a year, she would make apple butter out of them, cooking them down in the crock pot with sugar, cinnamon candies, cinnamon oil, and who knows what else (she never did write down a recipe) for hours and hours and hours and then can it in Ball jars. Any commercial apple butter producer would have done very well to acquire my grandmother's recipe, if there was one.
More often she would make apple sauce or just can the quarters whole. Frequently she would slice them and fry them with butter and sugar until soft and we'd eat them with fresh hot biscuits.
I had never seen this kind of apple anywhere else, and presumed I never would again. I also presume that few outside of my immediate family have any knowledge of them, which is why I though it was appropriate to include them here. They're available from the Seriously Good Bacon folks (I think they're actually called Violet Hill Farm or something, but the bacon sign is much more prominent) at Union Square, where they just call them wild apples. I don't know what else to call them, so that will do.