Thursday, March 4, 2010

Homemade does not have a barcode

For years, I looked for an applesauce that could rival what I remembered as a child. My grandparents' neighbor in Coney Island, Minnie, would bring over a jar during the (Jewish) holidays. That, with my grandmother's latkes, was a great way to celebrate whatever it was we were celebrating. We (or at least I) wouldn't wait for the pancakes to cool; she would just hand them over in a paper towel - used to soak up some of the oil - I would spoon on a little applesauce and enjoy. This is not idealizing the memory; this is the memory.

The search for an adequate replacement began in college. There are a wide variety of permutations - chunky style, home style, homemade, big brands, small brands, store brands, organic, conventional, etc. At best, it was a mostly uniform applesauce with chunks thrown in as an afterthought. At worst it was... Mott's.

And so I decided to try it on my own. This is part of an overall desire to have more homemade and less store-bought in my refrigerator. Last night I made a mess while making tomato sauce. If I haven't quite matched Minnie's applesauce, I at least think that I have come close.

It starts, obviously, with the apples. I go with 2 red delicious and one rather large granny smith. This produces just enough applesauce to fill a mason jar.  I peel the apples, but not completely - a little skin is part of the experience - and cut them into roughly one-inch cubes. Into a medium-sized pot they go with 1/3 sugar and one cup of water. Over a low-medium heat, I bring it all to a boil, lower the flame a little, cover it, and walk away for about 20 minutes. Here is what I believe to be the key - I mash the apples with the back of a large spoon and not a potato masher. I leaves bigger chunks and less of the mealy applesauce one finds in store-bought jars. I keep it going for another 5 minutes or so, jar it, cool it, and run out of it within a few days. And that is how I know it is the memory of Minnie's applesauce, and not idealizing the memory.

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