Our dear friends recently blessed us with 18 pounds of local apples; sweet, petite, and imperfect little jewels that were tough enough to survive the desperate drought that gripped Arkansas this summer.
Hope you like apple recipes because I've still got 15 pounds to go!
You may have noticed that I'm on a little "do it yourself" kick in the kitchen. Products that for years I've mindlessly swooped off of the grocery store shelves and into my shopping cart--chocolate syrup, graham crackers, almond butter--I'm realizing with great joy and zeal how simple they are to make at home. It definitely takes more time, which like most American moms of young children, I'm in short supply of. And frankly, my kids don't really even love all of these homemade things, which annoys me and attempts to injure my pride. Timothy (6) would much rather have Hershey's Chocolate Syrup then my homemade version. And because all I'm offering is my homemade version, he has been on a chocolate milk boycott for the last 2 weeks. But I'm pretty sure he'll eventually come around.
As the main shopper, cook and meal-provider in this house, I've made the decision (with my husband) to "COTC" (Cut Out The Crap). And believe me--it hasn't been easy on us as my husband, Chris, has had Kellogg's Frosted Flakes for breakfast every day for the last 10 years. He not-so-secretly mourns the loss of many of his food "friends" (Mrs. Baird's white bread, Welch's Strawberry Jelly, and Peter Pan Peanut Butter), but he agrees that we're doing the right thing for our bodies.
You don't have to search long to find large movements of people--across all political persuasions--getting fed up with a food industry whose highest priority is how quickly and cheaply they can produce food and how long they can make it last on the shelves. (I believe that capitalism is a beautiful thing and that people should take personal responsibility for what they put into their bodies. But there is a huge need for us to be informed about what we are eating. Until recently, even I--the cooking-crazed, make-it-from-scratch-woman--was clueless.)
It seems high fructose corn syrup is an ingredient that has initially taken the biggest hit by consumers who refuse to purchase products that contain it. You'll notice items from cereals to breads to juices and "fruit snacks" whose packaging proudly tout it's absence. Spend a little time researching how this sweetener is produced. Knowledge might be all you need to quit eating it.
A precious friend of mine is suffering with the exact (rare) form of brain cancer that killed my father. Want to know what ingredient his mainstream, conventional-medicine doctor told him to STOP INGESTING IMMEDIATELY? High fructose corn syrup. A UCLA study found that while tumor cells "thrive" on sugar, they "proliferate" on fructose. (Here's an article about a study that backs up that imperative.) That was all I needed to hear.
Are considering making the switch to "COTC" and eating more "real foods" and less packaged/processed foods?
Are you feeling completely overwhelmed and have no idea where to start?
My suggestion is START SMALL. Begin looking at labels. Don't buy food that contains high fructose corn syrup. And if the labels contains words you have to sound out, put the product back on the shelf. Have a long term goal in mind and take baby steps toward it.
Mutiny may break out among your household. My children literally started crying when I told them that we wouldn't be buying any more "soft white bread" from the store. I patiently and lovingly explained to the boys why we can't eat it anymore. I try to substitute plenty of "real" treats that they enjoy so they don't feel completely deprived and want to shoot "real food" the finger.
Like Mark Twain said, I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn't have time. It was not my intention to carry on for seven paragraphs...sorry about that. I'm in an awkward transition period here in my kitchen, taking to heart all of the information I've been gathering over the last few months and translating it into reality. I'm literally taking it one recipe at a time.
Do you want to join me in this pursuit of eating better?
If you'd like more information about taking the Real Food Plunge, this website is a great place to start. But if you get overwhelmed by looking at it, just go back to my idea of reading labels and cutting out high fructose corn syrup and the "unpronouncables". Baby steps, my friend. Baby steps.
And now back to the applesauce. You can find good applesauce at the store, no doubt. But when you are being stared down by 18 pounds of apples, making applesauce just seems like the right thing to do.
(And this was the absolute best applesauce I've ever tasted. Even my husband agreed. The kids...not so much. For real! Eating crap warps our taste buds. I'm having to "detox" the kids' palette's, allowing their little mouths and minds to enjoy real food. )
After it had cooked for about 20 minutes and the apples were tender but not mushy, I removed the apple peelings and the cinnamon stick. Then I put the apples into the food processor. I processed until they were velvety smooth. (The texture is up to you...depends on how long it's processed. You can also use a blender or just a potato masher.) I added a tablespoon of honey and processed for another 30 seconds.
This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
Here is the printable version of the recipe.
Makes 2 cups
3 pounds apples*, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2" slices
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 (3" to 5") cinnamon stick (or about 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
1 tablespoon honey
As you cut the apples, place them in a non-reactive bowl (glass or plastic). Place the lemon juice in the bowl and stir the apples with the juice as you add them to the bowl. This will prevent them from browning. (You can also lay a piece of plastic wrap on top of the sliced apples to lessen the amount of air they come in contact with.)
In a large saucepan over low heat, combine the apples, water, lemon juice (if you didn't add it earlier to the apple slices), cinnamon stick, and a few of the apple peelings, if desired. (If you are using ground cinnamon, wait to add it until you process the applesauce.) Simmer the apples over low heat, stirring often, for about 20 minutes.
At this point you can have "chunky" applesauce and simply mash the cooked apples with a potato masher or a large spoon. Or, you can transfer the cooked apples to a blender or food processor. Process until desired consistency is obtained. Then add the honey (if needed for sweetness) and the cinnamon. Stir until well-mixed.
Serve applesauce warm or refrigerate it for up to 3 days. This is a wonderful recipe to "can", if you are so inclined!
*You can use one type or a mix of McIntosh, Fiji, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, etc.