Most of us know applesauce as something mild and nondescript to be spooned out of a bottle--or, if you're a kid, from a little plastic container in your school lunch bag. Me? I associate it with pork chops and potato latkes. I know. I know. But our family was never the most observant Jewish household in L.A.
If you've never attempted to make your own applesauce you should give it a try. First of all, it's ridiculously easy and tastes so much better than the jarred stuff. Second, by adding flavors you'd never have associated with so humble a dish you can elevate it into something actually memorable and irresistible. How about rosemary? Or savory? Or horseradish? Okay, how about brown butter, cardamom, or a liqueur, such as Calvados or Cointreau?
That's where I went. I had a refrigerator bin filled with a variety of traditional and heirloom apples--Caville Blancs, Golden Russets, Winesaps, Granny Smiths, Honey Crisps, and this gorgeous vibrant Hidden Rose--all of which I thought would be perfect for applesauce.
|The Hidden Rose variety is grown at Dragon Berry Farm in Oregon and sold in San Diego at Specialty Produce.|
What better dish to make on a chilly stormy Sunday when comfort food was on my mind. The result was a smooth, rich, even complex sauce I can't stop lapping up.
The basics are, well, pretty basic. If you have a food mill, you don't even have to peel the apples, just quarter and core them, and chop into one-inch pieces.
Toss into a large heavy pot, add water, some cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, brown sugar, and a dash of the liqueur. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the apples are soft and mushy.
You'll have sugary leftover liquid, which you can toss--or find a way to use, perhaps boil down to a syrup. Remove the cinnamon sticks. Then use a slotted spoon to move the solids little by little into the food mill and grind away into a bowl. No food mill? Peel the apples, follow the other directions, and when they're all cooked, put them in a food processor. Brown the butter and swirl it into the mixture. Before you know it, you'll have a stunning bowl of soulful applesauce. Eat it warm, add it to muffins or cakes. You can even freeze it for eating or baking with later.
Cardamom and Brown Butter Applesauce
Makes about six servings
3 pounds mixed variety of apples, cored and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons Calvados or Cointreau (optional)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 sticks cinnamon
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoons butter
Combine all ingredients except the butter in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a boil, stirring periodically. Reduce heat to medium and continue simmering (and stirring once in a while) until the apples turn soft and mushy--about 25 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool. Remove the cinnamon sticks. While the applesauce cools, make the brown butter by heating the butter in a small saucepan or skillet on low to medium heat until the butter turns a soft brown--about three minutes. Remove from heat.
Using a large slotted spoon, scoop some of the apples into the food mill, set over a large mixing bowl. Turn the handle on the mill and work the apples through the mill, periodically scraping the sides to move the apples down to the blade and scraping the underside of the mill to get all the applesauce into the bowl. Continue scooping apples into the food mill and pureeing them until the pot is empty. Add the brown butter and mix well.
Applesauce can be frozen.