Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting Techniques

applecut1-500.jpg

Apples are such great fruit - available almost any time of the year, inexpensive, and handy. While simple apple slices or even a whole apple are welcome additions to a bento box, if you just spend a few minutes cutting the pieces in decorative ways, they can really perk up your bentoscape, as Tracy showed us in the last post.

We sort of grow up in Japan knowing how to do some fairly simple apple cutting techniques. (Or at least, I remember my mother and aunties doing this sort of thing when I was little.) Here are some that you could use, from the basic to the more complicated.

The equipment and supplies you need

applecutting-mise.jpg

All you need to cut your apples are shown here. A cutting board, a sharp small knife (here I have a serrated one, but a smooth bladed one is better really), a toothpick, and a bowl filled with acidulated water (cold water with some lemon juice in it) to dunk the apple slices in to stop them from turning brown.

Basic technique: Apple bunnies (Usagi Ringo)

Apple bunnies, or usagi ringo (うさぎりんご)are the most commonly seen decorative apple cut. It’s also one of the most simple, so while I’ve already written a tutorial on how to make them (way back in 2004), and there are several other tutorials out there, but I thought I’d go over it again to establish some basics of decorative apple cutting.

First, cut out a wedge from the apple, and cut out the core. Score the skin with a V shape with your knife, as shown.

applebunny1.jpg

Carefully lift out the center V point (the part you’re going to cut away) with your knife. This helps to make a clean point there.

applebunny2.jpg

Cut under the outer points (the ears) fairly close to the skin. Cut them all the way down to the center V point.

applebunny3.jpg

Peel away the center skin, taking care not to cut into the ears.

applebunny4.jpg

Voilà, your apple bunny! You can cut eyes in, stick in cloves there, or just leave the ‘face’ bare, for a modern minimalist bunny.

applebunny5.jpg

After you’ve finished cutting, dunk the apple wedge into the bowl of acidulated water. You might want to dip the wedge while you’re working on it, if you see it turning brownish. This will also make the bunny ears stick up and curl up a bit.

applebunny6.jpg

So to review, here are the basics of decorative apple cutting:

  • Cut out a wedge and cut away the core.
  • Score the surface with a sharp knife.
  • Cut away the parts you don’t want, working from the corners first.
  • Dunk in acidulated water to stop it from turning brown.

Intermediate: Checker pattern apple (Ichimatsu moyou ringo)

A two-color checker pattern is called ichimatsu moyou (市松模様)in Japanese. It’s a decorative cut that’s appropriate for any bento. You can make the pattern as small or as big as you want. This cut is not hard, but is a bit fiddly.

Start with a fairly wide apple wedge. Score the surface with your knife in a checkerboard pattern. Make the checkerboard as evenly spaced as you can.

applechecker1.jpg

Then all you do is to cut out and peel/pry off alternate squares of skin, using your knife or (if the checkerboard is very fine) the tip of a toothpick.

applechecker2.jpg

Keep going, taking care not to cut into the ‘on’ square skins. You can tidy up any rough edges later.

applechecker3.jpg

Here’s a finished wedge. Looks rather modern doesn’t it?

applechecker4.jpg

Here are two thin wedges with one big checkerboard cut into each (so you have a cross pattern). The wedges are skewered together with a toothpick. This is even easier to do than an apple bunny.

applechecker5.jpg

You could use this basic score-and-cut-away technique to make all kinds of decorative surface patterns.

Advanced: Apple leaf (Konoha ringo)

This is a more advanced cut, that may take some practice, but the results are rather spectacular. If you have the time and patience these are very nice as party-buffet type decorations.

First, cut out a wedge of apple. Carefully score the wedge about 3mm / about 1/10th of an inch from the edge.

appleleaf1.jpg

Cut along the score, parallel to the sides of the apple, down into the wedge in a V. Your aim is to cut out a smaller wedge, like so.

appleleaf2.jpg

Cut two more smaller wedges into the apple, so that you end up with 4 nested wedges, as shown here. (Pro chefs can cut out even more and thinner wedges, but 3 is enough for us amateurs.)

appleleaf3.jpg

Carefully slice back the wedges, staggering them. You’ll end up with this, which looks a bit like a 3-D leaf with prominent veins. Dunk in acidulated water.

appleleaf4.jpg

Apple Boat (Fune ringo)

This is a variation on the apple leaf.

Cut out the inner wedges as for the apple leaf, and slice them out of the outer wedge.

appleboat1.jpg

Cut both ends of the inner wedges.

appleboat2.jpg

Re-assemble the inner wedge ends inside the outer wedge as shown, to form a sort of boat shape. You could put some things inside the boat - how about a little row of blueberries for example?

appleboat3.jpg

Each of these techniques can be used on other thin skinned yet firm fruit, but the results are most striking when there’s a strong contrast between the color of the skin and the flesh inside. I hope you try them out - remember, practice makes perfect! (For what it’s worth, the apple bunny took me about 3 minutes, the checkerboard apple 5, and the apple leaf and boat about 8 minutes each.)

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

15 comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

What is acidulated water? I'm guessing it is water with lemon juice, but what is the ratio of water to lemon? I don't want to make my apples too sour!
This is awesome, by the way! I'll have to try it out. Thanks so much!

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

A friend of mine uses 7-up, Sprite, or Sierra Mist for this purpose (especially when making trays of apple slices and dip for an evening party, as she can drink the rest). Pretty minimal aftertaste, and any aftertaste there is is sweet. Works well.

I typically use lemon juice but her way is easier.

Acidulated water

Acidulated water is just plain water with something acidic added to it, usually lemon juice. It can be lime juice, or vinegar, etc. too. It stops apples and other fruits from turning brown by slowing the oxidization process. The water itself actually does that, by reducing the surface exposure to oxygen, but the acid also helps since it lowers the pH. Just a little bit of lemon juice etc. would do, to turn the water acidic. The more you add the more lemon you'll taste on the fruit dipped in it.

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

So cute! thank you for sharing! i especially like the bunny~ ^^

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

Thanks Maki! I've been wondering how to make that checkered pattern apple. I've made bunnies before but your technique is much better than the one I've been using. (-;

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

Wow, thanks!
It worked awesome!!! I just whipped up a quick bento using this tutorial and it looks great! Thanks! (Hopefully I put enough lemon juice in my acidulated water :P)
Heres a pic of my bento:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chiyosbento/3344662361/
Thanks so much for the tutorial, I love this site!

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

I've never heard them called うさぎりんご. I first saw them in the summer, when the cicadas were buzzing, so I guess for that reason I thought they were せみりんご. Doesn't sound quite as appetizing, does it?

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

Hmm, they could start cutting cicada apples in the Provence (where cicadas are like the regional symbol and seen everywhere in all kinds of forms - as door knockers, ceramic objects, even cicada plushies)

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

I may very well curse this article one day if family members refuse to eat their apples unless they've been carved into these shapes! :D
I'm sure it won't come to that, and I'm delighted you shared this tutorial with us. Thanks!

A few years ago a friend in Tokyo prepared some peeled apple slices for us. I noticed that the taste was a little unusual and that the pieces didn't brown. When I asked why the apple tasted 'different', he explained that he'd rinsed them in salted water.
I rather like apples this way (I've also picked up the habit of adding a little salt to watermelon from Japan). Perhaps if anyone doesn't have any lemon in their kitchen but wants to try these cutting techniques they could use brine instead. Not sure if it stops the apple from browning for as long as the acid does though.

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

Here in the states there's a product that I keep in my pantry to prevent browning of fruits. It's used a lot in canning and freezing fresh fruits. It's called FruitFresh. I just sprinkle a teaspoon or so into about a cup of water and dip all my fruit. Works on bananas, avocados, apples, all that stuff that turns brown including guacamole. You can sprinkle it directly on to the fruit or guacamole as it doesn't add any flavor. I usually prefer to mix with water and dip apples and fruit. There is no taste whatsoever.

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

julieone wrote:

Here in the states there's a product that I keep in my pantry to prevent browning of fruits. It's used a lot in canning and freezing fresh fruits.

That's interesting. I just found the ingredients for this:
Dextrose (which is glucose/sugar), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Citric Acid, Silicon Dioxide (Anti-Caking, stops the ingredients going hard)

I happen to have a packet of Nestea powder I don't like very much. Since the ingredients also include Sugar, Citric Acid and Vitamin C I'll give it a try. It would be nice to find some use for the stuff! I should do a side by side comparison with the lemon juice and water method - I can't help but suspect there will be little difference... the active ingredients are pretty much the same. I'll be impressed if it keeps avocado green for a few hours.

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

I usually I skip on apples bunnies and such because I don't have the space to put them in my bento, but... I just couldn't resist trying out the beautiful leaf cut ^^p . (http://www.flickr.com/photos/celine_leliel/3353147659/)

Thank you, I 'll remember those !

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

ohhhhhh, I gonna cut me up some apples!!!! Thanx for the tutorial.

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

thanks for shwoing the technique

Re: Apple Bunnies and More: Decorative Apple Cutting ...

Great :D I was looking for something exactly like this :D

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.