Exploring Estonia Part II: Apple-picking in the Baltics

After almost rolling out of my narrow bed and onto an even narrower stretch of floor, I sit up and look over at Oihana. Not more than two feet away, she also sits up. “Desayunamos?” Breakfast?
“Café”, I respond.  I stuff my arms into my jacket over my nightgown, since I didn’t bring a robe. Leaving the room under-clothed, or dressing before coffee are not concepts I embrace.
After fueling up on fruit, cheese and caffeine in the hostel’s common room, we rush to get ready and scramble across town to help Leonore with her apple harvest.
Oihana and Midwesterner Abroad Picking Apples Outside Tallinn
Just outside the city, the countryside is populated with tiny squares of land crammed with fruit trees and rows of vegetables. During the Soviet era, factory workers were allowed these gardens to grow their own fruits and vegetables. Leonore has inherited her grandfather’s land and the small shed built upon it.  
Leonore’s Shed
Now that the Soviet regulations prohibiting larger buildings and dwellings on the plots have been lifted, Leonore plans to build her dream house here. In the Meantime, the small plot is populated by fruit trees, upturned earth, a small makeshift greenhouse, and of course the shed.
Midwesterner Abroad and her freshly-picked Estonian Apples
We spend the afternoon picking and stowing apples in cardboard boxes lined with newspaper. Small, yellow-green orbs, crisp and blushed with pink, they are easily the best apples I have ever sunk my teeth into.  Leonore explains to me that they will keep the best apples in boxes for the Winter months, and with the rest they will make preserves, applesauce and juice.
Leonore’s Apple Trees, Just Outside Tallinn
When our fingers are stiff from the cold and twilight deepens into dark, we tuck tail and turn back to Tallinn, for dinner at the L’s (Lauri and Leonore) apartment. The building is ugly and Soviet-era block-ish, but the apartment is warm and full of light, color, and good company. Lauri explains to us, in his careful English, about our planned trip to a bog and the coast tomorrow while Leonore shows us around the kitchen. Since Leonore is not much of a cook (per her, not me) we’ve settled on a menu of fajitas and guacamole prepared by me (Mexican is fairly exotic in Estonia), and apple cake made with Leonore’s recipe (by Leonore), included below.
Leonore’s Apple Cake (serves 4-6)
½ cup softened butter
1/3 cup  brown sugar
1 medium egg
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
5-6 apples 
1 tsp lemon
1/3 cup butter
5 tablespoons white sugar
½ cup flour
a pinch of baking powder
tsp cinnamon.
Mix butter and sugar thoroughly. Then mix in the egg. Add baking powder, and salt to the flour, then mix in the butter mixture. Mix it all until you have a homogenous dough. Form it into a ball with your hands and refrigerate while you prepare the apples. Preheat your oven to 390F.
Seed the apples and cut them into small cubs. Line the bottom of your cake pan with baking paper and spread the dough on the bottom. Precook the base for 15 minutes.  Melt the butter for the topping. Then mix flour, sugar cinnamon and baking powder. Pour the melted butter on the flour mixture. Break up any large chunks with a knife. Spread the apples on top of the base,  sprinkle with lemon juice, then pour the topping on the the apples and bake another 30-45 minutes until the topping starts to brown.

Copyright 2010-2012 Chris Ciolli. All Rights Reserved. Do Not Reproduce Images or Text Without Written Consent. First Published in the Tipton Times unless otherwise noted.

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