30 December 2010

Applesauce, again

For the second year in a row, we purchased the bulk of our apples after Christmas and spent a long, steam-filled day in the kitchen making applesauce. Last Sunday we bought about one hundred thirty pounds of apples and spent the rest of the day (and into the wee hours of the next) making and canning just shy of 50 quarts of applesauce. Had I not lost two jars to breakage in the canning pot, leading to messy delays, we would have reached that milestone. We're lucky because there's also a pot of ready-to-be-eaten-but-uncanned sauce in the fridge, as well as a bag of apples in the hallway that are waiting to be turned into tarts and pies. We used two varieties this year, Haralson and Fireside, and the tart Haralson is my favorite for both eating and cooking. The Fireside is a sweet eating apple, but its taste is a little too green for me, so I used the Haralsons at a 3:1 ratio.

This was the first year we didn’t core the apples; instead, I simply chopped them into pieces and tossed them into the pot. To prevent scorching, I put a little water in the bottom of the two stainless steel pots used to cook the apples; I’ve had problems when I’ve used a thin-bottomed aluminum pot, so that one is now used beneath the chinois to collect the about-to-be-jarred sauce. We cooked the apples just long enough to mash the pulp easily, after which we put everything through the chinois, which purees the pulp, giving it a smooth, even texture while trapping the seeds and skins. Pushing the hot, pink pulp through the chinois, as my son is doing in the picture, is hard work, but we're richly rewarded for our efforts.

Our recently cleaned and reorganized fruit cellar now holds an entire shelf of jars, and during the course of the coming year the kids will make frequent trips into the basement to retrieve the jars one by one. It’ll be served as a topping for pannukakku, brought to school for a lunchtime snack, and eaten plain while sitting at the kitchen counter. We’ll serve it with pork roasts and chops, and sprinkled with wheat germ or fragrant Vietnamese cinnamon. And finally, we enjoy giving applesauce to friends, a simple gift that is the distillation of an entire growing season in Minnesota and a single, steamy day in December.

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