By Mary Ann Ebner
Farewells bring on mingled emotions. Some signal “goodbyes” and others “so longs,” with hopes to stay connected even over long distances.
When the time came to farewell Hungarian friends last week, I wished them well. But the family was sad to leave and none of us wanted to overshadow the moment with the permanence of a goodbye. For my friend, Orsy, the thought of returning to Budapest brought on more anxiety than exhilaration.
I met Orsy and her husband, along with their two young sons, in 2016 when they arrived in New York with plans to spend about 15 months in the country for a work assignment. Even on its worst days, with flaws presenting themselves in many ways, America earned their admiration and respect. They made the most of an opportunity.
Moving back to Hungary will reunite an extended family, but life in their native country promises challenges, economically as well as socially. As a teacher, Orsy considers the job market unstable and the unrest of everyday Hungarians trying to prepare the next generation to be a concern. She’s not a worrier but a practical realist.
There’s nothing posh or pretentious in her nature or her kitchen. She’s that neighbor who makes guests feel at home when the menu calls for little more than a cup of mulled wine shared around a crackling fire in her backyard. The fare is simple yet blissful. Flatbread pizzas, salads and soups are fitting remembrances of my Hungarian friends, and with apple season near peak harvest in the Hudson Valley, Hungarian apple soup provides the perfect motivation to drop in on an orchard.
Don’t settle for any old apples to make this recipe. Fresh McIntosh softens up nicely and during the weeks ahead, they will be ready by the bushels across the Hudson Valley. The apple soup works well puréed or as a chunky stew. Try it in between, with a few pieces of apple offering a more structured consistency.
To sauté the apples, choose quality butter for best results. Orsy insists that European butter tastes far different than American butter. She didn’t say “better,” but I’ll say it. I found small tubs of Ronnybrook Salted European Style Butter at the Glynwood farm store. Its taste and texture, high in butterfat with less moisture than bigger commercial brands, makes it a perfect fit for the Hungarian apple soup ingredient list.
With local butter, Hudson Valley apples and a little dry white wine, the ingredients will produce a tangy taste with a kick of spice for a sweet fruit soup. For more savory soup, sauté the apples with potatoes and carrots and blend smoothly.
Best wishes to Orsy as she heads back to Budapest. Revisiting the Hudson Valley and the U.S. through her eyes helps me realize the good fortune to live easily in my own backyard, welcoming the splendor of simplicity.
Hungarian Apple Soup
Yield: 4 servings
6 medium apples
4 tablespoons salted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
3 cups water
1 cup white wine
½ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon flour
Peel, core and dice apples. Cook apples with butter over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring until apples soften. Add clove, cinnamon, sugar, water and lemon juice. Simmer 5 minutes.
Mix in wine, water and buttermilk. Whisk in flour, bring to a low bowl and cook 5 to 10 minutes to reduce wine. Remove from heat. Remove clove. For creamy texture, pulse mixture in blender 2 minutes. For a chunkier apple soup, cool and serve at room temperature.