Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Apples, Apples and More Apples
Autumn and apples just go together. Like pumpkins and Halloween. I don't think about apples all that much during the rest of the year, but when fall comes I can't seem to get enough. My dad loves anything made with apples, so this time of year is when I like to take him his favorite treats. During the summer I brought him freshly made apple fritters from the Farmers Market in Omaha's Old Market. They were made by a Greek family from Lincoln, they own a restaurant there called The Parthenon. I've never seen apple fritters that big before, when I brought one home it took us 3 days to eat the darned thing! I have lots of apple recipes, but this time I made an easy batch of applesauce because I was pressed for time this week, and that big bowl of apples sitting on my countertop were losing their shine and needed to be dealt with. I will happily share more apple recipes another day.
We had two apple trees in our backyard when I was growing up. Red Delicious. Our neighbors had an apple tree that supposedly grew seven varieties of apples. I don't know if it did or not, but it made for good conversation. It was fun to chomp into a fresh picked apple right off the tree.. sometimes we even ate the green ones. The worst part though, was when my dad mowed the lawn. He would always send us out to pick up the apples that dropped on the ground so he wouldn't chop them up with the mower. I hated picking up the nasty brown mushy rotten ones or finding one with a hidden treasure of either an icky, gross worm, or even worse, a honeybee. I always seemed to manage to find the ones with the bees, after which I would run into the house and have my mom take care of my latest beesting.. which turned out to be a sort of mixed blessing because it got me out of helping my brothers finish the work of picking up the fallen apples.
When my own kids were younger we would load up in the fall and head to one of the many orchards found in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. There was one over near Oakland, Iowa that I remember well. We would come home with 3 or 4 of those big brown grocery bags full of all kinds of different apples. I would then put on my Domestic Goddess hat, get out the canning supplies, and put up pints and quarts of applesauce, apple pie filling, apple jam, apple butter, and more applesauce. Okay, I confess I only attempted to make apple butter. I am many things, but patient is not one of them when I'm waiting for a big pot of applesauce to cook down into apple butter. Apple butter never really happened in my kitchen. I really tried though. Really. I love apple butter, I even put it in pumpkin pie sometimes.. but I am content to buy jars of thick, delicious apple butter made in someone else's kitchen.
I don't really have a recipe for applesauce. I tried to find one online, but the ones I saw were for small batches, and I had a lot of apples.
So, I got out a big pot, and started to heat up some leftover apple cider. I had about 3/4 of a half gallon jug, so I dumped it all in. Water works just as well though. Be sure and use good cooking apples. I had McIntosh and Cortland apples, but Jonathans would work as well.
While the liquid is warming, cut your apples into quarters and remove the core. You can peel them too if you like, but I leave the peels on because I like the pinkish color the peels give the finished product. Add your quartered apples to the pot. Leaving the peels on is good to do also if you are making jam or jelly because apples have natural pectin.
Some of the apples disintigrated and some of them still clung to the peels even though they were nice and soft. This is what they looked like:
I used a large slotted spoon to move the cooked apples to a big bowl to cool. It was taking longer than I wanted for them to cool, so being the impatient person that I am, I dumped them all into a big, rectangular pan. They cooled much quicker in the big pan. When they were cool enough to handle, I removed the peels. Some of the peels were already separated, and some I had to scrape the pulp off. I had thrown in some Gala apples that I needed to use up, but ended up throwing them out because they didn't cook well. They were still hard after cooking, and I couldn't even get the peels off. Now, if you have one of those stainless steel food mills, you can just run everything through that and be done much more quickly. You will get a much smoother applesauce if you use one. Of course, then you have to clean that thing up. Good luck with that. I have become much less of a gadget person because I hate cleaning it all once I'm done with it.
I prefer a more rustic, chunky applesauce, so once I got the peels off, I squished up the remaining apples with my hands until I got the consistency I wanted.
The pan full of applesauce then went back into the big pot of apple cider cooking liquid, and I added some Splenda, a little sugar, and cinnamon. Taste your sauce, because the amount of sugar you use depends on the type of apples you have. My apples were sweeter, so I'm guessing I added about a cup of Splenda/sugar to the whole pot.
I turned the heat down to medium-low, and let the applesauce simmer down for a couple of hours to let some of the liquid cook off so it wouldn't end up a runny, drippy mess. If you are canning, at this point, you can fill your jars and proceed according to your instructions for water bath canning. I filled a few Ziploc containers and am storing them in the refrigerator.
My dad will be happy to see me tomorrow morning when I drop off another of his favorite apple treats! I love you Daddy.