Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Gateway Fruit

Fall has arrived here, that much is certain. Cooler nights, windy days, and a renewed need to wear a sweater and slippers around the house during the day. And of course, there are the apples. At our local farm, they have lined the shopping area with huge wooden boxes and filled them with all kinds of locally grown apples. If you are looking to "go local" with your food shopping, think of apples as your gateway produce. They can be found just about anywhere. They are cheap. And, in my experience, it is hard to find a bad apple.

Now that I think of it, every place I have lived in my adult life has had local apples in the fall. In New York City, I used to grab a bag at the Union Square farmers market on Saturdays or at Fairway on a weekday walk. In DC there were several apple stands at Eastern Market just a few blocks away from our place on Capitol Hill. And here in Philadelphia there are farmers markets, farm stands and even local produce in the big chain grocery stores. My sister in law and her family have their own "Apple Guy" who not only sells delicious fruit, but makes pretty accurate long range weather predictions.

I took my kids out to Maple Acres Farm on Wednesday and we had lots of fun running around inspecting the many pumpkins and gourds for sale. It was my intention to just buy a sampling of apples to see what is tasting good this season. But I was distracted by the big basket with a sign on it that read, "Baking Apples $.50/lb." ("Baking apples"  = bruised and battered apples that no one will buy.) And when the owner agreed to sell the bunch to me for $6.00, I knew that there was an applesauce project in my future. By Friday night our cheapo box of galas, McIntosh and golden delicious apples was transformed into 5 quarts of applesauce. It is so yummy and it made our whole house smell like apple pie. A perfect fall treat.

Making applesauce is so easy, it barely requires a recipe, but here is the basic idea:

  • Peel and core apples; cut into small chunks.
  • Put chunks in large pot and add a little water or apple cider to help them get steamy.
  • Cook on medium heat until they are soft and mushy. You can add sugar or spices if you desire. I usually don't add a sweetener, but I do add cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg.
  • You can easily preserve applesauce in jars. Here are some good instructions from Pick Your Own, a great website for guidance on how to preserve all manner of produce.
  • If you don't want to go through the canning process, you can freeze the applesauce and/or it will keep in your refrigerator for several weeks. 

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