Rosemary and Fruit

July 30, 2008
by Jack McNulty

rosemary apples_01

Quick…what’s the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of rosemary?

Ok, maybe the title and picture influenced your answer, but I am guessing most people did not quickly associate fruits with rosemary.

Rosemary is by its nature quite assertive. Its sweet pine-like fragrance can enhance a variety of full-flavored dishes – usually those involving meat or strong-tasting vegetables. It naturally mixes well with smoky grill flavors, in chicken or eggplant stews or in a variety of roasted dishes – particularly in its classical pairing with lamb.

Rosemary is also an herb that works well in baking. The well-known Ligurian focaccia bathed in fruity olive oil and perfumed with onions and rosemary is simply delicious. Lesser known, but equally delectable, are rosemary-flavored buttermilk biscuits or baked polenta gnocchi with chopped rosemary butter drizzled over the top.

But rosemary and fruit?

That is usually the response I get from the unsuspecting when I introduce one of my favorite late summer or early fall dishes: rosemary-scented apples.  

Rosemary’s piney flavor balances a fruit’s sweetness and acidic qualities – something that is especially important when considering early-season fruits. Rosemary also adds a certain sophisticated note to fruit dishes…something that gets someone thinking to themselves, ‘now what was that flavor?’

Infusions work well with a variety of pone fruits (apples, pears, quinces), bush berries (especially gooseberries) and grapes. There are a number of ways to impart the flavor of rosemary into a fruit. It can be finely chopped and mixed together with butter or flour in dessert preparations. Another effect method is to infuse cream or milk (like making a tea) then strain out the rosemary. Sugar can also be flavored first before mixing with a fruit. Blend together chopped rosemary with sugar, add a whole rosemary sprig to a sealed jar of sugar and allow the oils to penetrate for several weeks, or add rosemary sprigs to caramel during the cooking process and then strained it out. One final method is to mix the rosemary with the fruit directly and then cook them together (grilled, roasted or sautéed).

Rosemary-Scented Apples

To make rosemary-scented apples, start by selecting two apples, which are on the sour side. Use early-season apples like Boskop or Summer Reds. Slice the apples into eight wedges, removing the core but leaving the skin on. In a pre-heated non-stick pan, add about one tablespoon butter and a large sprig of fresh rosemary. Toss the apple wedges with one tablespoon of sugar and the juice of 1/2-lemon. Add the apples to the hot pan as soon as the butter is completely melted (be careful to avoid burning the butter). Turn the apples one as they begin to lightly caramelize. Remove the apples to a separate dish when they are slightly more than half cooked. Add 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary to the dish, cover with aluminum foil and allow the apples to absorb the aromas for about 30 minutes. Serve either at room temperature or slightly warmed from a hot oven. We like to serve these apples with game meats, roasted duck, pork dishes or simply mixed into a seasonal green salad.