And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. After Monday’s uplifting entry about our poor puppers let’s get back on track with that I had really planned on writing about for the next eternity it seems: apples. Perhaps you will recall that a few weeks ago, in mid-October, I went apple picking out in Warwick, NY for a lovely afternoon and returned with roughly fifteen pounds of apples. This is a rough estimate, but given that I had to force The BF to carry the bag for me because it was too heavy, I’m thinking that estimate is pretty spot on, if not a little low.
Now the orchard we were at, Masker Orchards if you’re curious, is pretty neat. You drive your car in among the apple trees, park and then go on your merry way. The plastic sacks they give you to carry your apples in have a map of the entire orchard and even tells you which trees are ripe at what time. You pay by the sack on your way out, and they have a cute little “village” at the end where you can buy preserves, fresh pies, apple cider and apple cider doughnuts. Why you would go pick apples and then buy a pie there is beyond me (though after my latest attempt at wrestling with pie dough maybe I understand), but it seems to have been a pretty popular choice. Our group decided to go the cider route and we all had a cider doughnut and a cup of burn-off-your taste-buds-and-possibly-mortally-wound-your-tongue hot apple cider. Both of which were incredibly delicious.
They also offered “pony” rides, which was clearly an incredibly loose term given that half the “ponies” were actually donkeys. I mean, I didn’t grow up on a farm and I only rode horses once a year at summer camp for approximately ten years, and I am by no means a country gal, but holy Christ you’re going to call donkeys ponies and forever scar these poor children who think horses are all stubborn and smell and not majestic? Shame on you. [On a semi-related side note, Louis CK, a comedian, has a really great skit about wild ponies that is impossible to find on the internet apparently, go do your own trolling, but believe me when I say it’s hilarious. Also, apparently if you search “Louic CK Italian Pony Experience” in youtube, the second hit you get is Rick Astley’s “Never Gunna Give You Up.” Apparently even youtube is in on the rickrolling meme.]
So, anyway. We went apple picking and it was pretty glorious, except that it was so late in the season all the good apples were approximately 20 million feet up in the tops of the trees. Little known fact about me: I’m terrified of heights. Like piss my pants scared of heights. And why is it, that from below when you look up and see the perfect apple, you think, “Oh, pssh, I could totally climb that branch half a foot and grab that apple.” And then as soon as you get up there the ground is suddenly miles below you and that apple is still nowhere near your reach. It’s a conspiracy and I think the apple trees have minds and actually extend their branches subtly when you’re climbing them. I almost considered sorting through the apples that had fallen on the ground because I couldn’t reach any of the ones in the trees.
But The BF came to the rescue and I took to commanding him around the orchard like a willful toddler, stopping under trees, pointing and shouting “ANOTHER GOOD APPLE! GET IT!” And then when the bag was too heavy I pulled a nasty trick. “Here hold this while I attempt to climb a tree I’m terrified of so my apples don’t all spill out of the bag.” Climb half a foot, panic, climb back down and walk away with no apple, thereby leaving The BF holding the bag of apples. He was a good sport though and will soon be reaping the benefits of too many apples.
The first recipe I made was applesauce, because I heart me some applesauce and there is nothing quite like fresh applesauce to make you realize that the stuff they sell in the store is really just soggy sawdust. Seriously. Also, this recipe is so easy and hands off you could cry tears of joy. The most time consuming part is peeling and dicing (or coring and then dicing if you don’t want to waste any little bits) the apples. Then you toss them in your crockpot or stock pot and simmer away for a few hours. Violà, fresh applesauce to go with tasty pork, or to mix in a crumb cake, or to eat by the bucketful for lunch. Whatever your little heart desires.
About 15 medium sized apples, peeled, cored and cut into large cubes (about ½” thick); for a really good applesauce use a mixture of apples, for mine I used half Macintosh and half Golden Delicious
¾ -1 cup water
½ cup sugar
juice of one lemon and zest from half (these keeps the apples from turning brown and only imparts a light citrus flavor)
1 cinnamon stick
Place your apples in a crockpot or a large heavy bottomed sauce bottom. Pour the water over the apples (you only want about an inch of water, so if your sauce pot is wide but not tall you may need 1 cup water, but if it is tall and not wide you may only need ¾ cup). Sprinkle sugar, zest and lemon juice over the apples and give a quick stir with a rubber spatula. Nestle the cinnamon stick in the middle, making sure one end of it is firmly planted in the water at the bottom.
Cover the crockpot/sauce pot with a lid and turn the heat to high. When the mixture starts to bubble and boil turn the heat to low and let simmer until the apples are soft all the way through. This took about four hours in my crockpot. Every now and then I gave it a turn with a rubber spatula so all the apples had a chance to infuse with the cinnamon stick.
When the apples are completely soft and start to break when pressed with a spatula, they’re done. Remove the cinnamon stick. If you prefer chunky applesauce, simply stir it vigorously with a wooden spoon. If you like yours smoother puree it in batches with a blender or use and immersion blender right in the pot.
At this point I’m done, I don’t like my applesauce overly sweet, and I generally season it differently for every serving. However you can add up to ½ cup more sugar and 2 – 4 tsps of cinnamon, and/or a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, cloves and/or allspice, depending on your preferences.
Applesauce can be frozen in small portions for up to three months, canned for a longer shelf life (I’ll explain canning in my next post), or refrigerated for three weeks.