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If you've seen or read Spice and Wolf, you probably remember that they had apples pickled in honey and spiced with ginger. That sounds delicious. In fact, this tumblr blog claims to recreated the recipe, and the results do look tasty.

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Those apples look delicious too, though I have to admit I'm not sure if they're the kind I'm talking about.

Spice and Wolf is also culturally based on Europe, though exactly when or where isn't revealed and the setting doesn't seem to exactly be Europe. It's probably based on some times in the medieval period but we can't really be sure.

Is there any evidence of this sort of technique being used in Europe in the correct time period for the preparation of apples? If not, is it inspired by any other techniques for preparation and preservation of fruits (perhaps from some other location and time period)?

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According to The Joy of Pickling (see page 75 "Pickled Apples"), there is a recipe for Pickled Apples, which originates from the area around Russia; this recipe involves the whole apple, unlike most recipes that require the apples to be sliced.

Pickled Apples

"Another Russian specialty, brined apples retain their crispness but acquire a flavor like that of sparkling wine."

Ingredients:

  • 3 quarts water
  • 1/4 honey
  • 8 teaspoons pickling salt
  • 2 or 3 handfulls of sour cherry leaves
  • 4 to 6 sprigs of tarragon
  • 3 pounds of small tart apples, such as Graventeins

In a non reactive pot, bring to a boil water, honey, and salt, stirring to dissolve the salt. Let the brine cool.

Spread some cherry leaves and 1 or 2 tarragon sprigs on the bottom of a 1-gallon jar, Add a layer of apples on their sides.

3 should just fit. Layer more leaves, tarragon, and apples, and then repeat for a third layer. Top with the rest of the leaves and tarragon.

Pour enough brine over the apples to cover them well. Push a freezerbag into the mouth of the jar and pour the remaining brine in to the bag.

Seal the bag. Let stand at room temperature for 5 or 6 days, until fermentation slows.

Remove the brine bag, cap the lid tightly and set in a dark place where the tempreature dosent rise above 50 degrees (use a fridge produces good results)

Let the jar stand for 30 to 40 days befre eating the apples.

After you open the jar, the apples will keep for at least a week in the fridge.


This Ukranian recipe details fermented apples to be a regional specialty of central Ukraine and are typically used as a relish or an accompaniment to roasts, poultry, and game.

They are somewhat similar to apples cured in sauerkraut but of a more delicate flavor although they are considered a delicacy by the old country gourmets, one has to be accustomed to them to enjoy their piquant taste. Ukrainian Canadian homemakers seldom, if ever, make the, but the recipe is worth preserving. When trying this recipe, select undamaged apples of a good quality and tart in flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 5 lb apples (select ripe, undamaged apples with a tart flavor.)
  • 5 qts water
  • 2 cups rye flour
  • 4 tbsp sugar or honey
  • 2 tsp salt

Wash the apples thoroughly and remove the blossom ends.

Place the apples in a crock. If cherry or currant leaves are available, arrange the apples and leaves in alternate layers.

Bring the water to a boil. Pour half of the water over the flour and stir briskly until smooth. Add the remaining water and strain the mixture.

Stir in the salt and sugar. Cool to lukewarm. Pour over the apples, allowing enough liquid to rise several inches above the apples.

Cover with a plate and weight down with a suitable weight to keep the apples completely submerged. Keep at room temperature for 1 week and then store them.

It will take 5 to 8 weeks for the apples to ferment, depending on the variety used. During the process of fermentation, a scum will form on the surface.

It should be removed and the plate washed as often as necessary. Store in a cold place.

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  • This is a great find, but do you know when the techniques originated? And also, is there any evidence as to which of these (if any) inspired the apples in Spice and Wolf? – Logan M Apr 2 '13 at 19:48
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Spice and Wolf is also culturally based on Europe, though exactly when or where isn't revealed and the setting doesn't seem to exactly be Europe.

The scenery and period is based on England if you are actually curious, this is why the show includes sheep and thatch roofs and some other characteristics. However most of the characters are given German names, so it's a bit all over the place, of course it's a fantasy anime (not a documentary).

The plot of the anime itself though is not based on Europe. Most of the characters are European of some form, Holo herself is likely not meant to be European though, she is a wolf deity and not even human. Plus her daughter has a Japanese name.

However, most of the other human characters in Spice and Wolf are meant to be European, hence their katakana names and German type romaji names. In the manga quite a lot are drawn very stereotypical to be a westerner. Whatever studio did the anime however, drew them a bit more generic, however despite this, they are indeed meant to be European.

As far as your original question, it's probably too hard to find a traditional recipe and like many elements of this anime, the creators likely just made it up.

Assuming that elements within it would be historically accurate is unrealistic - it's about a wolf-girl goddess, after all.

Honey was used in old Europe as a sweetener, because Europeans didn't know of sugar yet. However there is no record of a dish with honey+apple+ginger historically. That doesn't mean it didn't exist though, it may have existed and just wasn't recorded in any book.

It's likely that the anime creator just made this up. Just like many of the other elements within this anime that are fantasy-based and not historically based on anything. In fact most anime are packed full of pure fantasy, it's the whole point of it.

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    The tradition of brined apples does exist as far back as the 19th century in areas of eastern Europe, such as Poland, and certain Soviet block countries, especially northern Russia, though ginger is not used, peppermint, honey and rye sourdough seem to be the standard ingredients used in fermentation. – кяαzєя May 13 at 9:34
  • So you can see it's mostly made up, of course honey was used as a sweetener in Europe before sugar was introduced, and Apples were introduced to Europe a very long time ago, first being introduced to Greece and Rome, and then the Romans made an effort to plant them all over Europe. Therefore there are likely many recipes with honey and apples in Europe, however as you pointed out, the ingredients are different than in this anime. The oldest recipes with apple and sugar are likely from China, where apple domestication started. The specific recipe in this anime is made up though. – Michael Irving May 14 at 0:58
  • There are a few misconceptions here. Ginger is not mentioned in the volume that the concept is introduced. The recipe in given by the OP is self perscribed . It's possible that the novel, and subsequent adaptations is just portraying an artistic abstraction of how pickled apples are made, with little to no historical reference. Furthermore, it's apparent that the recipe does not actually "pickle" anything. So it's more like spiced apples in syrup. – кяαzєя May 14 at 4:23
  • The setting most likely not England and most likely. The time periods is likely late Middle Ages or Renaissance era. The large number of independent states and climate suggests possibly the Holy Roman Empire. The names of towns are mostly German but the architecture and the way the people dress seem more Italian. The biggest historical inconsistency is with Paganism. Since in the afforementioned era the last pagan nations lived in the Eastern and Northern Europe. However as this series is a work of fiction. Those settings and themes were likely mixed in for added effect and flavor. – кяαzєя May 14 at 4:33

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