Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mom’s Applesauce

Large Bowl of Mom's Applesauce
Mom's Applesauce, Smooth Texture

Recipe by Mom

Dull November brings the blast, then the leaves are whirling fast.

Sara Coleridge, only daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, wrote these words in 1834, part of her poem “The Months.” I remember reading this in my childhood almanac, and it inspired my lifelong interest in changing seasons throughout the annual cycle. Indeed, November has stripped our fruit trees and even weeping willows of their leaves. Cloudy, cool, and grey, today is what my sister Chris calls an Applesauce Day. November is usually full of these, as is February.

On Applesauce Days my sister, when she was raising her kids, would make a huge pot of my Mom’s applesauce recipe. I too remember days like this from my childhood, apples simmering into sauce on Mom’s stove, wafting the delicious scent of cinnamon and fruit throughout the house on an otherwise bleak day. When the applesauce was ready, we filled our bowls while it was still hot for a warming treat, sometimes stirring in a few cinnamon candy hearts for added fun and flavor. The candies partially melt in the hot applesauce--especially good near Valentines Day!

Food Mill, Large Bowls, Rubber Spatula, and Applesauce
Milling the Applesauce
Mom cooked down the apples complete with skins and cores, then ran them through a hand-operated food mill. This thrifty old-school method makes maximum use of the apples, discarding only tough skin, seeds, and fibrous seed husks.  The result is not a chunky applesauce like my Rustic Applesauce. This applesauce has a smooth, even texture, and comes out slightly pink if red apples are used.

Mom’s favorite applesauce apples were Macintosh, and my sister prefers Macoun. I will use any apple, but prefer a combination of green and red for a more complex flavor. Different types of apples contain different amounts of water. The idea is to use as little extra water as possible, but some apples produce quite a bit of liquid once they cook down. If there seems to be too much liquid, remove the pot lid and keep simmering. You may double this recipe, but use only 1/3 – ½ cup of water.

Making this applesauce is a slow, imprecise process for a long dark afternoon. You only need to stir and crush the apples occasionally. Flavor will become more concentrated as the apples cook down. The idea is to allow enough time to enjoy the process rather than rushing through it.

Apples Cooking Down in Pot
Cooking the Applesauce: Early Stages
Mom’s Applesauce
makes ~3 ¼ lbs.

12 medium to large apples
¼ - 1/3 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp. sugar (optional)
2 dashes cinnamon or apple pie spice (optional)

Wash apples and cut in quarters, removing any bad spots. Put into saucepan. Add water and cinnamon sticks. Cover and bring to boil (this will take about 2 minutes).

Lower heat to low simmer. Every half hour or so, stir the apples and crush using a hand-held potato masher. Cook for  2 ½ - 3 hours, till apples are very soft and uniform.

Remove cinnamon sticks. Set food mill over large bowl. Ladle applesauce into food mill in batches and turn handle till each batch is pressed through the mill, leaving only seeds and hard parts. Most applesauce will drop into bowl, but scrape any accumulated applesauce from the underside of the food mill into bowl with rubber spatula.

Add sugar and spice to taste.


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