Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Apples, Apples Everywhere

Although I prefer to cook with locally-grown food, we Floridians have an apple deficit. A few apples, especially ones bred to grow in the Middle East, will grow here, but after about seven years they tend to succumb to diseases brought about by our heat and humidity.

So I have to find apples elsewhere. For a few years I was lucky enough to get a case of freshly-picked North Carolina apples delivered by my parents, but unfortunately that stopped last year with my Dad's death.

This year I bought retail - it was tough knowing that although the fruit was organic, that it had to travel cross-country, using lots of fuel. Harry's Farmer's Market, in Roswell/Alpharetta Georgia, offered a bounty of apples from Washington State, Oregon and New York - Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, Paula Red, Braeburn and Macoun. Whole Foods in Orlando had a fresh batch of Stayman Winesaps from West Virginia.

Before I started cooking, I tasted each type. The Ambrosia were the sweetest, but without much flavor, depth or character. The Honeycrisp were sweet and crispy, with a more complex sweet-tart combination. Paula Red and Braeburn offered classic apple flavor, with less sweetness, while the Macoun and Stayman Winesap had a full fruity flavor, not as sweet or crisp as the others, but with subtle flavors that gave them real character.

To make sugarless applesauce (although it is so thick, you can put it on toast)I used Ambrosia and Honeycrisp with just a couple of Braeburn and Macoun for more flavor and depth. I cut the apples into quarters, skins, seeds and all, dropped them into a pot, squeezed a lemon over all and added enough water to almost cover them. I cooked them until mushy, cooled slightly and pushed through a fine sieve to create a smooth liquidy sauce, that I then cooked about 8 hours to a thick, sweet, rich sauce. From 6 quarts of apples I canned 7 cups of applesauce.

Next up, applebutter with sugar and cinnamon. I used all the remaining apples, prepared in the same way - I started with 12 quarts of apples (yes, I have two really big pots),cooked them down, added 1 1/2 cups of sugar and about a tablespoon of cinnamon. I ended up canning 16 cups of applebuuter.

So now there are no apples in the house - now we need some fresh bread to make toast so we can eat applebutter - yum!