Apple Season Ending Soon
Now that the dominant Northeastern color scheme is evergreen with red and white accents , instead of orange and gold and brown; now that there is Christmas music in the supermarket (gaaak), and the scent of holiday baking has replaced the scent of autumn leaves, it’s tough to stay focused on making sure you’re ok in the apple department. But this is the about the last chance to do it. Any minute now, specialty orchards will close; the last of the local oddcrops will be gone and although there will be apples galore; there will not be many – if any – northern spies, winesaps, Jonathans, Greenings…
Stock up if you have a cool spot to store them: it’s best to keep apples in a humid place that hovers around 34 degrees and does not have any onions, potatoes (or flowerbulbs being forced) in it. If for some reason you don’t have such a place, make and freeze a large batch of Chunky Roasted Applesauce. It isn’t just that homemade tastes better than boughten, it’s also that homemade from new crop, local apples tastes better than homemade based on supermarket fruit.
CHUNKY ROASTED APPLESAUCE
Cheesecloth/ aluminum foil/ plastic freezer bags
Enough apples to fill a 3 inch deep , non-reactive roasting pan that’s at least 12 x 14 inches. Choose an assortment for best flavor and texture: Spies, Winesaps and Cameos, for instance, or Rome Beauty, Baldwin, Jonagold and Macs.
A glug of cider, a little salt, (maybe sugar, but probably not)
1. Heat the oven to 325 . Peel and core the apples, reserving about a fourth of the debris.
2. Cover the bottom of the roasting pan with a generous ¼ inch of cider. Cut the apples into rough chunks about ½ inch square. Tie the reserved debris in a square of the cheesecloth. Put the apples in the pan and bury the cheesecloth bag in the middle.
3. Cover tightly with the foil and start baking. Check and stir at 15 minute intervals until you have a mixture of very tender apple chunks and fallen apart apple mush ( proportions of each will depend on the varieties of apples, their relative age, and the year’s growing conditions). You may need to add more cider if all the apples are dry-fleshed bakers, but don’t add any more than necessary to prevent burning. If the apples are swimming after a half hour, remove the foil and roast uncovered until things thicken up.
4. When the applesauce is done, in anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half or more, take out about a half cup of it and leave the rest to keep warm in the turned-off oven. Stir a tiny pinch of salt into the half-cup and chill rapidly (outdoors or in the freezer) until it’s at room temperature. Taste. If it absolutely screams out for sugar, now is the time to add some to the warm applesauce. Otherwise, just stir in a bit of salt. ( Salt is optional, of course, but it does a lot to bring out the fruit flavor.)
5. Let the applesauce cool, then fish out the bag of peels and pack the sauce in the freezer bags, allowing plenty of headroom. Put the bags on their sides on cookie sheets and smooth the sauce so it makes flat packages of even thickness. Freeze. The flat packages mean quick freezing, which is better for flavor and texture, and they thaw quickly too, which is handy. But they are also vulnerable to breakage (and getting lost). Once they’re frozen, pack them in a larger bag.