Friday, November 7, 2008

Comfort Food (+ a little nostalgia)

My mother is a terrible cook. Or rather, she's just not a cook at all. I grew up on a diet of microwaved meals and sauceless pasta. And I ate a lot of pasta. I must have eaten enough starch for several lifetimes by the age of five. But as far as I can tell, it didn't really hurt me.

Slow food enthusiasts may disagree.

My mother likes:

Math. Computers. Dogs and classical music. She also likes to take out her frustrations on unsuspecting weeds in the garden.

My mother dislikes:


As with most rules, however, there are a few exceptions. Applesauce is one of them. I suspect it was, at first, just an attempt to use up the overflow of apples from the orchard. Fortunately for me, it quickly became an autumn staple. And I must say, I do loves me some applesauce. Well, real applesauce. Not the gross watery stuff you buy from the store. Does that make me an applesauce snob?

I don't know if the recipe works just because it's so simple and forgiving, or because I've been brainwashed by biology to love those foods associated with childhood—no matter how terrible they really are. I'm hoping for the former.

The way we make applesauce is less of a recipe and more of a guideline. It turns out great every time, so I don't bother to measure. (And I'm the sort of girl to measure, it must be said.)

It goes something like this:

Lots of apples
Brown sugar
Granulated sugar

Peel and core apples; cut into 1-inch pieces. Place in a large pot with water—about halfway to the point of covering the apples completely. Add small amounts of sugars and spices. As a rule of thumb, start gingerly. You can always add, but you probably don't want to cut more apples just to balance out too much cinnamon.

Cook over low heat for several hours, stirring occasionally. Continually add water as it boils off—the apples should be simmered, not pan-seared. When apples begin to break down, test for sugars and spices and add more to taste if needed. Continue cooking until only about one third of the apples remain as chunks. Turn off heat and crush remaining apples with a potato masher. (For chunkier applesauce, which I prefer, you can skip this final step.)

Serve warm.

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