Incredibly easy to make, this comforting traditional German dish is perfect for winter dining. My friend Nancy Crooker from Belfast told me about this, and with leftovers of Thanksgiving mashed potatoes still on hand and a jar of my own homemade chunky apple puree, plus temperatures dropping like a rock outdoors, it was pretty obvious that now was the time , I should try it out.
Lots of Heaven – Heaven – and Earth – Earth – recipes require equal parts apple and potatoes. The apples represent the sky because they grow on sky-directed trees and potatoes come from the ground. When Nancy manages it, she doubles the plot by adding mashed turnips, a kind of Himmel und Erde und Erde. But I did not have turnips.
Caramelized onions usually adorn the top of the combination, making a great accompaniment to sausage like bratwurst and, for many Germans, blood sausage. Go ahead and make it a main course if you will. Vegetarians can take it well, and vegans can too if you use vegetable oil to brown the onions.
Basically, you only need equal amounts of apples and potatoes. If you are starting from scratch, choose an apple and a potato that are roughly equal in size. That will be enough for two. Or for several servings weigh them: a pound of apples and a pound of potatoes. Add a medium to large onion and fry it slowly in butter so that it turns golden light brown. Onions cooked this way are a fabulous item to have on hand in your fridge to add to many dishes. My friends prepare a large pan full for the weekend and add a spoonful to omelettes, or on top of burgers or stirred with green beans.
Personally, I think chunky apple sauce is ideal in this dish, but if you have the smooth kind, don’t let that stop you. Try a pretty sour apple and if you do not peel them, you will see a beautiful pink color in the mixture. If your apples are sweet, lighten them with a little lemon juice. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper. I saw transient references to boiled, crumbled bacon or bacon fat added, and a suggestion that once apples and potatoes were mashed together, they could be browned a little before serving.
This dish can of course be made with leftovers. I like to have apple sauce on hand so I can eat with breakfast granola or on my oatmeal so I always have some. When remnants of mashed potatoes appear, it is straightforward to make Himmel und Erde. You may not even need the instructions below, except maybe the first time you do it.
Having never made this dish before and thinking that potatoes and apple sauce are pretty bland, I was really so surprised by the wonderful taste of the combination, especially with the onions on top. So toothy.
Heaven and Earth
Make four servings
1 pound of potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
Potato boiling water
Salt and pepper
1 pound of sour apples
1 large onion, cut into slices
3 tablespoons butter
Peel and boil the potatoes, and let them drip off when done, saving some of the boiling water.
Mash them with the 2 tablespoons butter and just enough boiling water to make them smooth.
Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Peel the apples and cut them into pieces. Add a few tablespoons of water and cook over medium heat until the apples are soft.
Stir them vigorously to mash them enough to add them to the dish.
Mix potatoes and apple puree together.
In a heavy saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons butter and add the sliced onions.
Cook over medium heat, 15-20 minutes, stirring often, and add a little more butter if they start to dry out until the onions get a golden color. Remove from heat.
Serve the apple puree and the potato mixture with the onions on top.