A few days of fall in the land of summer. It looks like fall - the light is different, everything sharper, the sky bluer. My apartment is freezing. Scarves! And they have Macintosh apples at the farmstand. We have terrible apples down here in summer. Nothing but Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Fuji. Bleck. Macintosh are only the beginning of the apples I used to eat in the north, but they were enough to inspire applesauce.
This is a total comfort food for me. My mother used to make it when I was a kid - she still does, actually, although she tells me she's moved on to some pear apple ginger variety - and I thought it was magic. Homemade applesauce is seven zillion times better than what you buy in the store and it's really easy.
Well. For most people. I have complicated it for myself, which I will explain, but that doesn't mean you have to follow me there.
6 apples (5 Macintosh and 1 Granny Smith in this case), cut into eighths
2 c. apple cider or water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/4 tsp salt
one: clean and cut the apples. i leave the peels on, which is also step one of the complicating part. the easiest thing to do is to peel the apples beforehand.
two: put the pieces of apple in a large, heavy saucepan with the 2 c. cider or water and place over medium heat. cover and bring to a solid slow boil. add the salt. turn the heat down to low, open the lid a crack and continue to simmer for 45 minutes. or so. keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn at the bottom, but it needn't be a too watchful eye. when it appears to be the right consistency, your idea of applesauce, remove from heat.
three: also known as step three of the complicating. here is where i remove the peels, so if you peeled, move ahead to step four. the easiest way to do this would be to strain the applesauce - and you can find devices specifically made to do such a thing - but i like my applesauce a little chunky so i refuse to push it through any sort of sieve. instead, i use a fork to fish out the apple skins, which all of the apple has more or less cooked off of by this point. this is kind of a pain in the ass, but i think it's worth it.
four: add the sugar and garam masala and stir well. taste and adjust.
Here's the deal with the peels: you don't need them, and like I said, it's easier to just get rid of them before you even start, but there are vitamins and good things in the skins, and they can also add a nice pink tone to your sauce. I like to use as many parts of everything as possible, so I cook the sauce with the skins to get at their good stuff. But in the end, I want them out because I don't like the texture they have, even chopped up small. Like the husks on corn kernels. Things that stick between your teeth. No.
As for the Garam Masala, to be honest, I've just been putting it in everything because I have a ridiculous surplus. It's not a spice mix one would normally use on a daily basis - outside of Indian cooking - but I hate to let things go to waste. Among other spices, such as cardamom, which is one of my favorite sweet-appropriate spices, it contains cinammon, so I thought it would be reasonable to sub it in for cinnamon when that's the standard, and so far so good. It adds a more complicated 'spiced' flavor to the sauce, but feel free to go back to good old cinnamon. Or plain. If you like that sort of thing.
I think this applesauce is best hot, so I often heat it up before eating. Also good mixed with plain yogurt and honey or on bread with a nice sharp cheese - cheddar (real cheddar), asiago, mahon, or the chef's choice.
Happy New York fall.