26 September 2010

26 September - John Chapman; Applesauce

Weather: The last Sunday of the month indicates the weather for next month.
Quite warm and overcast. 

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, woodchucks hibernate now.

I wish Wendy could hibernate now.

Today in 1774, John Chapman, aka 'Johnny Appleseed', was born in Leominster, Massachusetts.  At the age of eighteen he started his wanderings to the northwest frontier, which at that time included Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.  Rather than just scattering apple seeds, he was a nurseryman, planting and caring for seedling trees, which could then be sold or bartered to incoming pioneers.

However, for my generation, Johnny Appleseed goes along wearing a tin pot for a hat, befriending animals, planting seeds, and singing "Oh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need - the sun, the rain, and the apple seed; the Lord is good to me."

Apples have been known for centuries in Europe, but they is so much a part of our social history, that we can still say "As American as apple pie".  They can be sweet for dessert; savory, sauteed with onions to  accompany pork roast; the main ingredient in salads; added to bread dough; poached, frittered, baked, and scalloped; dried, to eventually form the basis for "Schnitz und Gnepp" (apples and dumplings); mashed to form applesauce and apple butter; and really mashed to become apple juice, apple cider and apple jack.

Right now, on a cool evening, it is good to sit down with a glass of mulled cider, or a cup of hot cider stirred with a cinnamon stick.

And yes, tonight, Apple Pie is in order.

Try making your own applesauce.  It keeps for a long time (I freeze mine.  It will last up to a year; just in time for the next apple season).


Select your apples.  If you use all sweet varieties, you won't need much - if any - sugar.  I don't care for really sweet things (even chocolate is better bitter), so I use a mix of 3 sweet to 1 tart.  Last  year I used 1 pound each of Red Delicious (sweet), Fuji (sweet), Yellow Delicious (sweet) and Granny Smith (tart) for each batch of sauce, and no sugar.  This year I might try a 2:2 ratio on one batch and see how that turns out. (You will weigh it at the store, but a pound is roughly 3 apples.)

Wash, peel, quarter, and core your apples. Put in a large pot with a cinnamon stick and a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (both are optional) and 1 cup of water.  Cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until apples are soft, stirring occasionally, and adding small amounts of water if needed to keep the apples from scorching.

When the apples are soft, remove pan from heat; take out the cinnamon stick.  Mash in the pot with a potato masher.  This will produce 'chunky' applesauce, which is how I like it (although more mashing = less chunky).  If you want really smooth applesauce, you will need to put it through a sieve or a food processor.  If it is not sweet enough, you can add up to 1/2 cup of either white or brown sugar (or 1/4 cup of each).  You can also add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg (or to taste), either before cooking or after.  Raisins also make an interesting addition to the cooked sauce.

Serve hot or cold, and freeze the rest.