Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Apple of my eye: Maida Heatter's homemade applesauce

And we're back!

It's funny that after a week of the stomach flu (during with we were sustained only by turkey broth, toast, and Mott's applesauce) I would crave this. But homemade applesauce, like many things, is a completely different animal than the store-bought kind. It's brightened with a touch of lemon and not too much sugar. Chunks of fresh apples have a pleasant texture—a bit of a bite. I used a mixture of local ones from the farmer's market—huge red Romes and some hard green apples whose name I didn't recognize. Today I just used a bit of vanilla extract, but the lovely flecks of real vanilla bean make this superlative. Soon, soon—Shiv and I just made quite a purchase here. (Any suggestions of what sort of trouble we should get into with those? What do you do with a hundred and twenty vanilla beans???)

I copied down this recipe a long time ago from a funny old dessert cookbook my mom has. The pages are yellowed and the spine is broken, so you have to remove a bunch of rubber bands to open the book. I'm not actually sure any of the other recipes still get used, but the applesauce is a staple in my parents' house. I think, though, that tonight's version may be even better than the one I remember from home—perhaps it was the mix of green and red apples, which were particularly flavorful and almost floral in scent. I just ate a second bowl for dessert. (Addition: and a few spoonfuls with cornbread for breakfast.) It's worth making a bunch—applesauce freezes well and is perfect with pork chops or brisket . . . Stay tuned, more to come on that later.

Maida Heatter's Applesauce

12-15 Apples
Juice of one lemon
2 cups water
1/4-1/3 cup sugar
1 each cinnamon stick and vanilla bean
optional pinch nutmeg or mace (I did the nutmeg, not the mace, and added a quick shake of ground cinnamon, too.)

Peel, quarter, and core apples. Place in heavy pot with lemon juice. Slit vanilla bean, scrape, then add pod too. Add cinnamon stick. Add 2 cups water, stir.
Cook covered over medium heat 5-10 minutes until apples begin to soften. Uncover, and with a heavy wooden spatula (or potato masher) stir and break up the apples. Leave some chunks. Continue cooking and mashing until tender but not completely mushy. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar, stir, taste, add more if needed. Add nutmeg/mace/cinnamon if desired.


Jessica@Foodmayhem said...

120? Holy Cow! I love apple anything.

Heather said...

Simmer a few in good bourbon and you have homemade vanilla extract for baking. Puree a few with sugar for vanilla sugar (great for oatmeal). Make a vanilla buerre blanc for pork tenderloin.

That's all I got. I keep mine tightly saran-wrapped and in a freezer bag in the freezer.

maggie said...

In the freezer? That's brilliant.

AnticiPlate said...

I love that you used a potato masher to mash the apple sauce. Genius! I also like the idea of using it as a side dish to pork chops. When I was little, my Mother used to make me "dessert" of warm applesauce and graham crackers! YUM!

Lo said...

Chunky applesauce is a lovely idea. I'll have to keep it in mind for when I'm under the weather.

As for the vanilla beans, I'll second Heather's suggestions. If you have patience, you can split a couple of beans and just let them soak in a bit of bourbon for a few months for a nice extract as well.

I also like to make a bit of vanilla bean custard or icecream when I have fresh beans lying around.

biz319 said...

You just reminded me that I want a potato masher for Christmas!

Looks delish!

Rebecca said...

oh, my favorite! a warm bowl with a little pat of butter--heavenly!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

You know, my MIL swears that apple sauce is one of the foods you should eat when you don't feel well. So maybe there's some biological craving for it. Who knows? I just love a good homemade apple sauce like this.