Saturday, January 18, 2014

Apples to Apples

What's more fun that a sink-full of apples that need peeling? Answer: Pretty much everything
This year, part of J's gift basket from work was a bushel of apples. Fuj's and Galas and Granny Smith, oh my! I had been buying my weight in 'squeezy applesauce' from costco, and had seen that you could buy diy squeeze bags, so off to amazon my fingers flew. After researching, I realized that most of them were intended to be reusable, but let me tell you what I don't want to spend time rinsing out and sanitizing; yup, plastic bags with a teeny, tiny hole. I found this 50 pack of bags (single use) by Infantino and read the reviews, which mentioned you should spring for the 'squeeze station'-although you could probably fill the bags with a baster, but that would be ridiculously tedious. Spend the twenty bucks on the filling station. Between the bags and the filling station, it works out to slightly less than a dollar a bag (the squeeze station comes with ten bags), and the produce was a gift. It's still a bit more expensive than the GoGo Applesauce I was buying before but you'll only buy the station once, and you have greater control of your ingredients.

But first, before we get ahead of ourselves, you must make the apples into sauce. I've had a simple apple peeler, corer, slicer that you suction to the counter and operate with a hand crank for years, but for whatever reason it's not been working very well, so I got to move between peeling with a vegetable peeler and paring knife until I wanted to stab my eyes out. What started as a fun little Saturday morning project quickly morphed into what amounted to a pile of apples that reminded me of a giant plate of spaghetti; no matter how many I peeled and sliced; turn around and they're still there! 
Pretty much the only apple that worked correctly.

I cooked a batch of applesauce on the stovetop by filling up my beloved Soleil with mixed apples, one-half cup of water and some cinnamon, I let it bubble away on medium heat for twenty minutes (I only know that because I set a timer lest I forget about it while trying to organize my vortex of a closet) gave a stir then let it go for twenty minutes more and removed from the heat. After mashing and picking out the peel that I could-and burning my fingers-I read the directions for the handy squeeze station and went to fill my first three bags. Turns out, the applesauce needs to be really smooth, or you just get super hot apple sauce gushing back up from the plunger onto your hand and arms. Which feels awesome, thanks for asking. 

After the first round, I used the immersion blender to get it super smooth and all was well. My only other tip is to unscrew the 'filler' from the bag before pulling up on the plunger, or you'll suck some of the food back up into the cylinder, which is not where you want it. Even if you push down and pull up several times. Or slowly. Or quickly. Vacuums are sneaky little bitches. 

The second batch was all granny smith. I filled the crock of my 6 quart slow cooker to the brim and topped it with a glug of 100% pure maple syrup, then cooked it for about four hours on low. The two batches made about twenty-five bags of applesauce. Jack-attack was my taste tester and he proclaimed it delicious. 

(Because the bags are not insulated or airtight, it's important to remember that you're not preserving your food, but rather storing it. According to the packaging, you can store them in the fridge for about 48 hours and in the freezer for a few months. I plan to thaw them overnight in the fridge for lunches the next day. Or in a bowl of warm water the morning of when I've forgotten to pull them out the night before.)

Since I was already in stab-your-eyes-out-if-you-see-another-apple mode, (seriously, I would never make it in factory work) I decided to make three apple pies as well. My mom's (technically my mom's bestie's) recipe is still my favorite, mostly because imperfections only lend to its 'rustic' nature. Perfect for half-assers like me. 

Don't get too excited, this is for three pies. Only one stick of butter for each.

a little on the crispy side, but who has time to babysit the oven?

Heritage Apple Pie

6 c. sliced apples (granny smith work great!)
1/2 c. sugar
2 t. cinnamon

1 9 inch pie crust (unbaked- I like Marc Bittman's pie crust recipe the best)

1c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 softened butter (I used salted, if you don't, add about 1/2 t of kosher salt)

Line a pie pan with the crust and flute the edges. Mix together the apples, cinnamon and sugar and fill up the pie crust. It will be heaping. This is good. For the topping, mix the flour and sugar and then cut in the softened butter with forks, a pastry cutter, or by massaging the flour into the butter with your hands; pick your poison. Top the pie with the topping (duh) and then bake at 400 degrees for 50-55 minutes. I used my convection function so I do it at about 380 for about 40 minutes. Cover crust edge with a pie ring or tin foil to prevent it from burning. Enjoy a la mode or all on its own.


nyceone said...

and now that you hae invested in al of the squeezers and mashers and what not....look into Victorio strainers for apples and tomatoes. If you like chunky, it isn't good. but for smooth works wonders!!! No peeling, only quartering, cutting out stem and flower ends. Then cook w. a little water. I used to make and can about 49 QUARTS in one day w. mine. I still use it for sauce...tomatoes raw or cooked for sauce too! another kitchen
'gadget'! I love mine which is over 30 years old!

Crafty Mama said...

Peeling apples makes me super cranky. And rolling out piecrust turns me into a monster....I just cannot get a piecrust to come out well! Your pies are beautiful, and I do love applesauce.

Portlandia said...

Soooo... about the peeling.... No.

We (okay *I*) get over-ambitious and buy 2-3 40 lb boxes of apples every year and make a ton of applesauce (which I painstakingly funnel into tiny reusable squeeze bottles for lunches) and apple butter. No peeling. No cutting. No coring. I cook whole apples in a big pan with water, then strain them through a food mill. In fact, my kids have been put to use as food mill operators, and have a litany of complaints to show for it.

I think cranking an old fashioned food mill is somehow easier than peeling apples. It's at least soft stuff you're cranking, and for some reason my kids always willingly participate. The first few batches.

The food mill also gets used for jelly and tomato sauce, but maybe that's it.

Keep up the good work; I'm always learning from you!


Jeannie @ TMLP said...

I didn't even know that food system existed for babies until I saw this on your blog!! Oh my goodness that is going to save my life! I knew these things existed, and we even have a set of two pouches (but they were from a different brand and a completely odd, terrible design and kept popping open on the baby), but I didn't realize how far they had come in the last few months! I am absolutely going to have to find some way to afford the Squeeze Station and 50-pack of pouches since they are on sale with free shipping right now! Do you have any idea how much of our food budget would be saved each month to not have to buy the store-bought versions?! Plus it would be so much more fresh and I would know exactly what I was putting in my baby. Sometimes my baby turns her nose up at the store-bought ones, but she NEVER turns her nose up to Mommy's smoothies! Every parent should have this.

Sally HP said...

Sarah I got a food mill from kitchen kaboodle when I was in Portland and it doesn't really work-not sure what I'm doing wrong!