Apple of my eye: Maida Heatter’s homemade applesauce

And we’re back!

It’s funny that after a week of the stomach flu (during with we were sustained only by turkey broth, toast, and Mott’s applesauce) I would crave this. But homemade applesauce, like many things, is a completely different animal than the store-bought kind. It’s brightened with a touch of lemon and not too much sugar. Chunks of fresh apples have a pleasant texture—a bit of a bite. I used a mixture of local ones from the farmer’s market—huge red Romes and some hard green apples whose name I didn’t recognize. Today I just used a bit of vanilla extract, but the lovely flecks of real vanilla bean make this superlative. Soon, soon—Shiv and I just made quite a purchase here. (Any suggestions of what sort of trouble we should get into with those? What do you do with a hundred and twenty vanilla beans???)

I copied down this recipe a long time ago from a funny old dessert cookbook my mom has. The pages are yellowed and the spine is broken, so you have to remove a bunch of rubber bands to open the book. I’m not actually sure any of the other recipes still get used, but the applesauce is a staple in my parents’ house. I think, though, that tonight’s version may be even better than the one I remember from home—perhaps it was the mix of green and red apples, which were particularly flavorful and almost floral in scent. I just ate a second bowl for dessert. (Addition: and a few spoonfuls with cornbread for breakfast.) It’s worth making a bunch—applesauce freezes well and is perfect with pork chops or brisket . . . Stay tuned, more to come on that later.

Maida Heatter’s Applesauce
12-15 Apples
Juice of one lemon
2 cups water
1/4-1/3 cup sugar
1 each cinnamon stick and vanilla bean
optional pinch nutmeg or mace (I did the nutmeg, not the mace, and added a quick shake of ground cinnamon, too.)

Peel, quarter, and core apples. Place in heavy pot with lemon juice. Slit vanilla bean, scrape, then add pod too. Add cinnamon stick. Add 2 cups water, stir.
Cook covered over medium heat 5-10 minutes until apples begin to soften. Uncover, and with a heavy wooden spatula (or potato masher) stir and break up the apples. Leave some chunks. Continue cooking and mashing until tender but not completely mushy. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar, stir, taste, add more if needed. Add nutmeg/mace/cinnamon if desired.

In fall, fruit, recipe

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