September has come and gone, without a post from me. I apologize, but it was beautiful. The summer’s rain had finally stopped and every day was warm and sunny. We took every minute we could to enjoy it, spending time with friends and family, taking plenty of long walks, enjoying the festivities of the Rutland and Fryburg Fair, and picking plenty of wonderful local apples. I’m up to my ears in apples, and every time I finish up my half bushel, I find myself going to get more. Surprisingly, I’m not sick of them yet! I don’t think I ever could. And so, wonderful, beautiful, delicious apples are the topic of this long awaited post.
First, the orchard. Wellwood Orchards is right down the road from us- the same place we picked our strawberries this summer. It’s a huge place that really blooms in autumn. They sell their apples that you can pick yourself, pies, cider, home items, and of course apple cider donuts. They also sell tons of pumpkins- large carving and small pie/sugar ones- and all kinds of squash. All three times we’ve been up there, rain or shine, it’s been packed. It makes me very happy to see all those people up there, supporting one of their local growers and reducing their ecological footprint by buying produce that doesn’t travel thousands of miles before ending in their bellies. My husband had never been apple picking before, and he really enjoyed himself. Really, I think what pleased him the most was that the tree branches, under their heavy load, bent down to his level, where he didn’t have to work very hard to pick them.
So what do you do with all those apples you end up with? Well, you can eat them as is, you can cook with them, bake with them, mash them, smash them, dry them, and the list goes on and on. I like cooking them with squash, adding a natural sweetness to them. I’ll be sure to do some of that soon. I’ve made a couple batches of apple crisp that haven’t lasted long enough to think about saving, and should probably make another this weekend when my in laws come down to visit. Today I tried making a pie, surprisingly the first double-crusted pie I’ve ever made, as a surprise for my husband when he gets home from work. It looks beautiful, and hopefully it tastes good too! I don’t see why not, I trust my old plaid Better Homes and Garden Cookbook all the way. I just wonder about the crust. I didn’t use my mother’s tried and true crust that I typically use, but tried my father-in-laws, as request from my husband.
But my most favorite way to enjoy apples is in the form of homemade applesauce. As a side dish to a meal, it’s super, but a cup full of that for a snack is even better. I remember my grandmother making it when I was a kid, and the first time I tried it, I was hooked. Every fall, like clockwork, there would end up being a Tupperware dish full of it in my fridge. No one ate it like I did. My sister isn’t an apple person, my mom was always too busy to stop for a snack, and my step-father wasn’t much on anything sweet. So it was always all mine. What a pleasure it was. Even when I went to college, when I came home on fall break, she’d always have two batches for me- one to enjoy that weekend I was home, and the other to take back with me to school. It was borderline sacred to me during those four years, pushing every last bottle of beer out of my dorm mini-fridge just to make room for it. Ha!
With something so special, so sacred, so reminiscent of fall, it only makes sense that I had to learn to make it myself. I tried last year, and it came out great, but I had to borrow my grandmother’s chinois set to make it, and was only able to use it once. This year, I was going to make sure that would be different. It was time to start a tradition of my own, so I bought a chinois set of my own, and a couple batches later, I can’t imagine not making it this time of year, and neither can my husband who asks for it every week!
And so, what better place to share the enjoyment of making homemade “pink” applesauce than here? If you’re interested, follow the link below for a simple and photo packed process of making my Thurston-Violette-Giroux applesauce.
Step One: Wash your apples well. You are not going to need to peel them, so make sure you wash well!
Step Two: Core and slice your apples. Don’t worry too much about pulling out all the inedible parts, they will not end up in the end product. Throw all apple slices into a large pot, fill to the top, then add a cup or two of water. Cover, and start to simmer on medium heat.
Step Three: Don’t forget to stir occasionally. Get down under the pile, and turn the apples on the bottom up on top of the stack. Once you can hear the water underneath bubbling, turn down the heat to medium-low to continue simmering.
Step Four: Continue stirring and as the apples break down, add more water a little at a time. Once it starts to get more soupy and the mush begins to bubble, turn down to low to continue simmering. Be careful when you take off the cover to stir! The sauce bubbles thickly and can splatter on you! And it hurts a lot- trust me!
Step Five: After about an hour of simmering (give or take) you’ll see that it’s pretty much all mush at this point and the only stuff left whole are the skins- but even those start to look thinner and drained of their color. Turn off the heat and let cool for ten minutes. Now you can add some sugar and spices. On average, I add 6 Tablespoons of sugar, then add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Be careful with adding sugar and spice and testing. The sauce will still be hot! What I tend to do to check sweetness and then the level of spice is to take the spoon you are stirring it all with and tap a little of the sauce onto the counter. Let it cool a second, then scoop it up with your finger, and test. Some times the apples will be more sweet or tart, add sugar to your liking- you can even use artificial sweetener like Splenda if you want. Don’t be afraid to try things with it!
Step Six: Time to strain! This is my chinois set. It comes with a metal strainer and a wooden pestle of sorts. If you don’t have one, try a regular strainer you might have and the back of a ladle to work the sauce through. Just remember, if you are using a plastic strainer instead, make sure the sauce is plenty cool before putting through!
Step Seven: Add the sauce mixture one cup at a time to your strainer. The sauce will immediately start to go through. Take your pestle and work it in the strainer to push all the sauce out.
Step Eight: Keep playing with the strainer. Once you think you’ve got just about all of the sauce out, keep playing with it just a little bit more.
Step Nine: You’re done with that batch when you have nothing but skins and non-edibles left behind. Use a spoon to scoop all those skins out from the strainer and off the pestle. Toss that in your garbage or compost or whatever- you don’t need it here. Add another couple cups of sauce mixture and start again until you are all out.
Step Ten: You’re done! Look at that beautiful pink apple sauce you made! Not only do you have the apple flesh, but you’ve simmered out a lot of the good for you vitamins that are found in the skin. Enjoy warm and it tastes like apple pie filling. Or enjoy it cold. Store in the fridge up to a week and eat before it starts to go bad- really, it won’t mold, just lose flavor and start to ferment.