Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Beaverdale Homestead Exclusive - Smoked Applesauce

Nothing like starting off with a little self-deprecation... while my mother did spend several minutes trying to reassure me that I had not, in fact, ruined the applesauce, but had rather invented a new product, I'm not sure it's anything more than a mother's love tasting the applesauce.

Rewind to earlier in the season... we're members of the Iowa Food Cooperative and purchased several different kinds of apples towards the end of summer and into fall.  So many that my hubby made fun of me a little, although he did enjoy the apple butter that many of those apples turned into!  I primarily buy processing apples - apples that are smaller, irregularly shaped, or with slight blemishes - they're less expensive, and they still taste great.  I was still sitting on a half-bushel bag of honeycrisp apples from Berry Patch Farm, knowing I needed to do something with these delectable apples.  A few weeks ago, I finally had a Saturday morning free, so I decided I would make applesauce before we headed over to my parent's house to help them decorate their tree.  Minutes before I sat down to start peeling apples, I discovered simultaneously that not only was our kitchen sink leaking, but there was a mouse (or two, or three) living in the cabinet under the kitchen sink!  I'll leave out the gory details, but suffice to say that I was no longer interested in or able to do food preparation in our kitchen until my dear partner came home from the office and waved his magic wand to fix this.  (Sidenote: you may have noticed that my profile says that I am a feminist.  Let me just clarify that being a feminist does not prohibit me from turning to my husband to deal with rodent droppings.  A great thing about feminism is that it's all about choosing what works best for you!  I can be empowered to deal with this myself, or I can empower someone else deal with it!)

Anyway, this all led to me packing up my tiny car with all my canning supplies - 2 Graniteware pots, quart and pint jars, assorted canning tools, apples, apple peeler/slicer/corer - and hauling it over to my parents to work over there.  A good reason to live close to the parents - kitchen rescue!  While my mom made macaroons (naturally gluten-free - yay!), I washed, peeled, cored and sliced apples.  Luckily,we received one of these handy-dandy tools as a wedding present this summer, so even though it took a while, it was quite easy.  About the time I got all the apples into my largest pot, everyone arrived and it was time to start decorating the tree.  I must have been traumatized my the earlier rodent incident, because as I turned on the fire under the large pot of apples, I remember thinking "That's a lot of apples - I should turn the fire on high so they heat up faster."  Well, I may not have paid much attention in my physics classes, but you can probably see where this begins to be problematic.  The best part?  I turned the fire on high, started to help the family decorate the tree, but every 5 minutes or so, I'd run back into the kitchen terrified that I would burn the apples.  However, not once did it occur to me to TURN DOWN THE FLAME.

After a few trips to stir the apples, I noticed that there were dark flecks and spots surfacing when I stirred the apples.  Yep, you got it - I burned the apples.  Big shocker!
This is what the bottom of the pan looked like after I transferred the non-burned apples to another pan.  At this point, my mom commented that the non-burned apples looked beautiful!
And they did.  However, what we had not done at that point was to taste the remaining apples.  So we pulled out a couple of spoons, dipped them in to the lovely apples, scooped up a bite, and bit in..... oh my!  We looked at each other and burst out laughing!  They had a very, very strong taste of charred apples!  It was at this point that my mom suggested that like smoked cheese, smoked meats and the like, I may have just invented the next smoked food fad.  Ahh.... applesauce only a mother can love.

Not one to waste food (especially not honeycrisp apples!), I decided I would try making this applesauce spiced.  Like, VERY spiced.  I can't even tell you how much cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pumpkin pie spice and nutmeg I added.  The end result was a gorgeous looking applesauce.  It does still have some undertones of smokiness, so I didn't use it as gifts (my original purpose for making it), but it wasn't an entire waste.  I discovered that it works very well as a part of my new favorite breakfast:

Pumpkin Oatmeal
1/2 cup applesauce
1/3 cup canned pumpkin pie mix (you could use plain canned pumpkin - just add spices and sweetener as desired)
1/2 oats (I use gluten-free oats, which are not quick oats, but you can use either)
1/4 cup almond (or goat, or cow, etc.) milk
sprinkle of dried cranberries
sprinkle of sliced raw almonds

Mix together and heat on the stove or microwave.  Eat.

(Disclaimer - I don't actually measure the ingredients when I make this.  Frankly, I rarely measure any ingredients, unless I'm baking.  Just get a consistency that works for you - there's no right or wrong.)

So what have I learned from this whole "smoked applesauce" ordeal?  That I love my slow-cookers even more than I realized.  The slow-cooker has a very low burn risk, requires very little babysitting, and since nothing happens very quickly, you have plenty of time to avert any potential problems.  I'm all about keeping it as simple (and waste-free, and char-free) as possible!

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