Sometimes, life gives you apples. A couple of weeks ago, in fact – a friend left them on our back porch. A few of them were starting to look a bit sad. They needed using up.

Saw this recipe for Tarte Tatin, essentially a French apple upside-down pie. You need butter, flour, sugar, fresh ginger, an egg, and a cast iron skillet. Check! I made my crust with equal parts all-purpose flour, almond meal, and curly dock (Rumex crispa) flour. It turned out a bit darker than the photo in the recipe. In truth, I may have let the caramel go on a bit long. And it was absolutely delicious, and didn’t (mostly) stick to the pan. (Special thanks to K for kitchen duty.)

I imagine if cooked on an open fire, the apples and caramel would take on a bit of that smokiness. Next time, I’d add ground spicebush (Lindera benzoin) berries and sumac. And a dash of smoked chili powder.

Also saved my apple and ginger scraps to make vinegar. You add water to cover, plus one tablespoon sugar per cup liquid. Stir, cover with a cloth, and wait a bit. It will first turn to alcohol, then to vinegar. I’ll either use it to cook, clean, or diluted as hair conditioner. (If you harbor the least interest in making vinegar or doing fermentation of any kind, I cannot recommend Sandor Katz highly enough.)

All of this cost me nearly nothing. The apples were free. I had sugar, flour, and an egg. We buy whole fresh ginger very cheaply from an Asian market and freeze it until we need it. The curly dock flower was free (foraged), and I bought the almond meal at 40% off when the store had its big anniversary sale.

And by spring, I’ll have scrap apple and ginger vinegar – a gift to my future self, who might be feeling a bit harried one day, and might perhaps enjoy rediscovering a jar she’d completely forgotten about between work and family and feeding woodstoves, and then taste it and remember the day she first made tarte tartin, and the friend who gave her apples in winter.