Spiced Applesauce

Raise your hand if you delighted in watching September walk out the door and October walk in. The tenth month is one of my utmost favorites of the year! Tart, crunchy apples piled high.  “New Crop” and “Local” signs calling my name at each turn. I like apples every which way. I eat them in my oatmeal for breakfast or spread with peanut butter for a snack. Last night’s dinner was a rendition of this sheet pan concoction that included bratwurst, brussel sprouts, potatoes and apples. My post dinner treat? Crisp, fresh apple cider served piping hot. Yet, one of my all time favorite ways to enjoy the season is by making applesauce. The apple chunks simmer just long enough to relax into a softer, slightly sweeter version of themselves. Adding a few spices to the pot round out the flavors and remind us that this applesauce is something all together different than the runny, bland variety.

Another reason I love October? My husband and I commemorate another year married. We gave up exchanging gifts or cards years ago but still take ourselves out for some delicious food and drinks. A quick search online informs me that the traditional gift to celebrate 18 years is porcelain. Surprisingly, toilets were NOT on any gift suggestion lists. Ha!

Also, I’m happy to say that my preschool cooking class is up and going again now that fall has begun. Last week we made this spiced applesauce in class. I know that applesauce doesn’t really need a “recipe”. The whole process in its simplest form is:

  1. Cut apples
  2. Add water
  3. Add seasoning
  4. Cook on medium until tender
  5. Mash

Yet, if I walked up to my 12 year old and gave him those directions – he would look at me with the most bewildered of expressions and (understandably) have a million questions. Though making applesauce is quite simple, if you want a walk through – I’m your girl.

Ready to get started?

Spiced Applesauce

Using fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick and star anise, this applesauce is lightly spiced and reminiscent of chai seasoning. Three pounds of apples creates a hearty 3-4 cups of applesauce. We ate it for most of a week. I like to check the bulk section for cinnamon sticks and star anise. This enables me to purchase exactly the amount needed and have the freshest products at a much lower price. Score!

Supplies:

Colander, cutting board, vegetable peeler, knife, bowl for compost, medium-sized stock pot (mine is 4 quarts), large spoon for stirring(I used a wooden one), liquid measuring cup, tablespoon, slotted spoon, medium bowl, potato masher

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds apples (I prefer honeycrisp)
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Steps:

Start with washing hands. Safe food handling is really important.

Prepare Apples:

  1. Put apples in a colander.
  2. Put the colander in a sink and run cold water over the apples to rinse off dirt.
  3. Transfer apples to cutting board.

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Cut & Peel Apples:

  1. Hold the apple firmly in one hand and the peeler in the other.
  2. Work the peeler around the apple, being sure to keep fingers out of harms way. I like to leave a little peel on each apple to add to the pretty color and chunky texture of the finished product.
  3. Set peeled apple on the cutting board and de-core by slicing the apple into quarters, leaving behind the stem and seeds.
  4. Chop each apple section into quarters.
  5. Put apple pieces into pot.
  6. Dispose of peels and core

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Prepare Ginger & Add Spices

  1. Cut a 2 inch knob off a large piece of ginger. The ginger should be firm and cream colored on the inside (not greenish).
  2. Slice the skin off with either the peeler or knife.
  3. Add ginger, cinnamon stick, star anise and kosher salt to the pot with apples.

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Add Water & Sugar

  1. Using a liquid measuring cup, fill with 1 1/2 cups of water. The most accurate way to measure liquids is to set the measuring cup on the counter and then crouch down to view it at eye level.
  2. Pour water into the pot
  3. Scoop three tablespoons of sugar into the pot with the apples, spices and water.
  4. Stir to combine.

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Bring to a Simmer & Cook

  1. Turn the burner onto medium and bring the mixture to a simmer. The liquid won’t cover the apples and that is ok.
  2. Once the liquid is bubbling, stir occasionally so that the apples at the top move to the bottom for even cooking.
  3. As the apples cook, they will turn opaque and soften. Keep going until it mushes easily with a fork; 15-20 minutes.IMG_1507

Strain & Mash

  1. Transfer apples using a slotted spoon, to a small mixing bowl. The one pictured is an XXL cereal bowl. Make sure that the ginger, cinnamon stick and star anise are removed and discarded. Keep liquid leftover from straining.
  2. Let cool for 5 minutes. Use a potato masher to mash into chunky applesauce.
  3. Taste! Add back in leftover apple liquid for a stronger spiced flavor or thinner consistency. I added a 1/4 cup liquid back into my applesauce, but there is no wrong answer here. IMG_1509

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Serve

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  1. Lots of options here! Spoon into ramekins and serve warm or cover and transfer to the refrigerator and serve cold. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 10 days.

 

Apple Oatmeal – Day 2 Tastiest Bite

Oatmeal has a special place in my heart. I find it tastes best when made slowly on the stove top, preferably stirred gently with a wooden spoon. I conjure the spirit of Laura Ingalls Wilder as I divide the thickened oats into bowls. I’ve tried desperately to bring my love of oatmeal to my children. One will tolerate oatmeal if offered twice a year. Any more often and it is flatly refused.

I thought we were having a break through a couple of years ago when the littlest was in preschool. His class made the cutest of cookbooks for Mother’s Day. One morning, Kai brought me the cookbook and asked to make the recipe from his friend for oatmeal with apples in it. Elated, I grabbed the pot and we poured in the old-fashioned oats, water and salt. Kai stood on a stool and stirred the oatmeal. I added the chopped apple, spoonful of sugar and dash of cinnamon. We covered the pot and waited expectantly for the apples to soften and become infused with the spices. I spooned the apple oatmeal into each bowl and added a stream of cold milk. The oatmeal was eaten with pride and enjoyment.

I have tried a couple of times to replicate this experience, yet somehow it doesn’t live up to the memory of the first time. Kai will halfheartedly eat a few bites and leave the rest for me to eat the next morning. Yesterday, I bypassed the stove and went straight for the instant Nature Path Apple Spice Oatmeal and was pleasantly surprised by the creamy texture and hint of spice. It was slightly sweet and the apples were minced and dried, which created the illusion of apple flavor without having to bite into chewy chunks that are often a part of packaged mixes. Maybe, tomorrow I’ll make two bowls instead of one.

How do you eat your oatmeal?

Stove top Apple Oatmeal

Serves 2

This recipe is adapted from the cookbook “Good and Cheap” which I highly recommend. I threw in a peeled and diced apple and used water for the liquid instead of apple juice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small apple, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar (more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a small pot on the stove. Stir occasionally. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to low. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Spoon into bowls and top with milk if desired.