These past few days have been uncharacteristically summery. As my mom likes to say, her favorite season is Indian Summer. The rising temperatures outside make us strip our sweatshirts and open the windows, that squeak open in relief, screens were already replaced with glass in preparation for winter. We've had one last glimpse of summer, an adios, or as I prefer to see it, an hasta luego.
Tina, our yoga instructor, says that winter can be a sad time, a time that represents death, letting go of summer, and watching it wane away. We wait with anticipation as the nights get chillier, piling on more layers each week.
Indian Summer has left us bittersweet, craving comfort food, but at the same time missing the eternal evenings when the sun never sets.
I've decided to make applesauce with the Cortlands I bought at Owen's; they turned out to not be suitable for pies. Dad and I had been to the orchard a couple days ago, and although we arrived before opening hours, the amiable owner opened the door for us, greeting us on the fresh morning.
First, I pick out the prettiest apples with firm, shiny flesh. Then I place the apples on the scale, in sets of two because they are large and my scale won't fit them all. Two make about a pound.
I place them in the colander with care, caressing the red and green, gently removing dirt. Cold, I then move them to my cutting board, the one mom bought me at King Arthur Flour last summer. It seems ages ago. I methodically peel them (y-peelers work best), appreciating the crisp sound as the blade cuts away at the skin. Apple foam oozes out, and soon my hands are sticky; I don't mind.
In one swift motion, my apples are cored and cut into eighths with the slicer-corer. I plunk them quickly into the water that awaits them in my new stockpot. They splash, finding a different home. One by one, the fruits disappear from the cutting board, no longer the colorful produce of fall.
They simmer and spit, swimming in a hot frothy bath. The house is filled with an incredibly intense apple aroma. I feel like I've been doing this my entire life.
At last, off comes the cover to the stockpot, steamy air hissing upwards and apples bubbling and puffy. A quick stir with a long-handled spoon and they're mush, delicious mush. In go the cinnamon and ginger, sprinkled, and then swirled, leaving a muddy trail behind them. The honey I'm using was crystallized, but melts generously in the warm mixture. The smell of spices penetrates my nostrils and I'm urged to bring the sweet sauce to my mouth; alas, it is to hot to try, but I don't mind waiting.
Chunky honey-sweetened applesauce
Makes just shy of 3 quarts
Adapted from Canadian Living
6 lbs sauce apples (see here for apple types; I used 12 large Cortlands)
2 cups water (or substitute natural apple juice)
½ cup honey, or more to taste (buy local honey; I used local wildflower honey)
1 TBSP ground cinnamon, or to taste
1 scant tsp ground ginger, or to taste
Peel apples, core, and cut into 8 equal pieces (I find one of those apple slicer-corers are helpful here). In a large saucepan (I used 8 qt), bring apples and water to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover saucepan, and simmer about 20-25 minutes until mushy.
For chunky applesauce, just stir up the apple mixture to break up the larger pieces (this is pretty easy). If you want a smoother applesauce, you can use a potato masher, a food mill, blender, etc. Stir in the honey, cinnamon, and ginger, adjusting honey and spices to taste.
I used quart jars to store the applesauce in the freezer; you can keep it in the fridge up to 5 days or can the applesauce if you wish.
*Note: for smaller batches, you can easily halve this recipe.