In conjunction with Italian Notebook.
At the daily markets in the Autumn it seems that apples are everywhere; all kinds of them, big, bright, and juicy; pretty much alike, right? Wrong! Granted, some are red or yellow, sweeter or tarter, etc. Then . . . there is the annurca, the little one that looks like someone forgot in the back of the refrigerator.
Not many people know about this little jewel from Campania. An ancient variety (first mention is by Pliny the Elder!), the mela annurca is small, unattractive and unpretentious, but of delectable sweetness and unbelievable fragrance. Harvested in September while still green, mele annurche are then laid out in fields that have been prepared with ‘alleys’ of hay or sawdust. These rows are then covered with black netting set on poles to retain the extra warmth from the winter sun. Every 10 days the apples are turned by hand and after a couple of weeks the fields become a sea of yellow, green, gold, and pink, until eventually the apples turn a lovely ruby red on all sides.
While most apples mature happily even in the dark, the annurca apple requires space, light and an added human touch. For this reason they are more expensive than other varieties. However the annurcha apples will keep through the entire winter. They are perfect for baking, jams and many extraordinary liqeurs. . . not bad for the ugly duckling of the apple world.
From October to December Annurca apples are celebrated in local festivals at Benevento, Maddaloni and S. Agata dei Goti .