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Simply put, I love food. I revel in everything about it: taste, texture, preparation, presentation, etc. The most favored aspect for me is the social aspect of food…learning to cook from one’s mother, preparing food with friends, grilling out, potlucks, dinner parties or simply meeting for dinner. I light up watching the people I love eat the food that I create. It still truly amazes me how food brings us together. So a little about me. Now in my early 30s, I’ve learned all I know about cooking from my mother and grandmothers. My Midwestern roots are definitely reflected in my cooking style and the recipes that I choose as I am very “meat and potatoes” centric and heavy handed with the butter sometimes. More later, but for now Happy Nomming!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Vanilla Applesauce

So apples are about the most perfect fruit on the planet, as far as I am concerned. They come in a multitude of varieties: sweet, tart, crispy, firm and soft.  Whatever your taste, there's an apple variety to suit it. 

Not only that, they're a perfect complement to any meal or food. Com'n does it get any better?  They are great as a stand alone, sublime in salads and don't even get me started on what they can do for a pork dish!  Seriously, some day I will post my sausage, onion, apple, rice dish thingy.  Everyone thinks I'm nuts when I set it down in front of them and then they eat it. I'm pretty sure that's it's changed lives before. Ok, well maybe not, but at least it's given a select few a new perspective on what this crisp fruit can do for a dish.

Fall in Indiana marks so many awesome things, but my favorite is probably the onslaught of apples that hit the Farmer's Market.  I have a lovely friend that helps out with THE apple guy at my local Farmer's Market.  I'd be completely remiss not to mention, Lee's Orchard from Columbus, Indiana, here.  After telling him that I turned his beautiful apples and pears into a vanilla sauce last week, he hooked me up with a whole bunch of 'seconds' apples this weekend.  You know, those apples that aren't as attractive as the others.  The sad, the lonely, the bruised ones at the bottom of the bushel.  Josh informed me that apples split or crack after the first heavy rain following a dry spell. Who knew?  Well, all the same, these blemished (still a strong believer that beauty is in the eye of the beholder) apples sure make a wonderful sauce.

Vanilla Applesauce
1-1 1/2 pounds of sweet pears
4-5 lbs of apples (any variety) cored, peeled and cubed
2-3 whole vanilla beans
juice from one lemon (approximately 2 Tablespoons)
1 cup water
1/3-1/2 cup brown sugar (reduce or omit based on the sweetness of the apple variety you use)
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon, to taste

First, turn your fingers into prunes by chopping up all of that fruit and throw it in a stockpot or big ol' saucepan.  For this round, I used Goldrush (crisp & tart) & Grimes Golden (softer and slightly sweet).  Last week, I used Lee's Fuji's and the sauce turned out pretty darn amazing as well.

Next, give your sweet dog a few bites of apple because she sat there and watched you diligently as you peeled and cut apples for the last hour. (and, well, because she's adorable!)

Then, split the vanilla beans lengthwise and combine them and the remainder of the ingredients with the apples.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  Remove cover and simmer until water all but absorbed, about another 15-20 minutes.   

It smells so good!!!  Remove the vanilla beans and scrape the good inside bits of them into the sauce. Now you have options, you can food process the cooked apples into a smooth sauce or use a manual potato masher and leave it chunkier.

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