A Chapter from the Autumn Almanac: Applesauce

Again inspired by a sudden excess of perishables, I learned something new last week:

Applesauce is ridiculously easy to make at home.

It’s so easy that I actually almost added steps just to make it feel more like I was doing something.  Granted, for my first applecookin’ experience I stuck with the bare essentials – but it doesn’t take much to spice it up!  Add garam masala for an eastern twist…or some berries for a tart touch!  I’ve also spent a good deal of time contemplating how to most efficiently incorporate bacon into my applesauce.

Whether you keep it simple or go nuts, I promise: if you buy yourself a bushel of apples, set aside an hour or two and do this, you’ll never go back to store bough applecrap again!

How to Make Yummy Applesauce in an Hour or Less

I used about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of apples bestowed upon me by the ancient heirloom trees out on my Aunt’s property:

I managed to enlist some assistance from my lovely boyfriend in peeling, coring and quartering the apples (thanks to a bribe of hockey and Chex Mix), which was the only real labor involved:

Just add 3/4 cup water (you could also use apple juice or cider), along with 1 clove and 2 star anise (totally optional, but classic add-ins), cover and heat!  Let the apples simmer for 15-25 minutes until they’re nice and soft.

Using an immersion blender, or via batches in a normal blender, combine the apples with 1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon and 1-2 teaspoons nutmeg until you reach your desired sauciness:

I prefer my applesauce unsweetened (aren’t apples sweethearts enough?!), but if you would like, go ahead and add any kind of sweetener you prefer be it sugar, honey, agave nectar…what have you!

I ate this stuff faster than a constipated grandpa, so I didn’t really have any left to preserve.  I stuck a small container of it in the freezer (it freezes wonderfully!) in case of emergency, but otherwise packaged it into small jars for snacks at work – yum 🙂

If you’d like to preserve, please follow the USDA instructions found here, processing in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes for half pints and pints or 20 minutes for quarts.

Happy autumn!

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When Life Gives You Lemons: Make Habanero Pickled Green Tomatoes

It’s amazing what having access to a high-yield vegetable garden has done to my life.  I’m not sure if it’s good or bad – but I’ve developed this squirrellish tendency to hoard produce and devilishly conceive of ways to keep it in my arsenal long past the originally predicted date of decay.  Maybe it’s the sudden abundance of my Aunt’s new vegetable garden, or maybe it’s the coming apocalypse…can’t say for sure.

The fact is that for better or for worse, my current tendency towards gardening and gardens partnered with an irrational/rational fear of impending doom has birthed a hobby: figuring out what to do when you have so much of something that it threatens uselessness and the thought of letting it go to waste induces nausea lest you encounter a future need for past excess.  Now that’s a torment worth prevention.

This week’s culprit: green tomatoes.While I personally like these tart, crisp little buggers on their own, they’re a hard sell fresh.

So on one of those devilish mental tears, I became inspired by the South Philadelphia Tap Room‘s unbelievably sour and spicy selection of pickled delicacies, and decided to attempt my own version of their fiery green tomatoes.And this is what emerged:Do they taste good?  Ask me two months from now.

Do they look good?  Yes.

Try it.  It’s fun!

Habanero Pickled Green Tomatoes

Makes 2 pint jars

  • 1-2 lbs green tomatoes
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion
  • 1 green chili
  • 1 habanero chili
  • 2 garlic cloves*
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp dill seed
  • 2 tsp celery seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tbs kosher salt
  1. If you’ll be preserving, prepare your jars for battle!*
  2. Core tomatoes, and cut into thick slices (horizontally).
  3. “Eighth” onion.
  4. CAREFULLY seed chilies and quarter.
  5. Prepare brine by bringing vinegar, water and salt just to boil.
  6. Once jars are warm,* pack em: stuff each full with tomato slices, a few chunks of onion, half of each chili, a garlic clove (smashed), 1 tsp dill seed, 1 tsp celery seed, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp peppercorns.
  7. Pour hot brine over tomatoes, removing any bubbles with the end of a spoon or chop stick – leave 1/2 inch headspace.
  8. If fridging, allow to cool, and refrigerate – they’ll keep for up to a month.
  9. If canning (in boiling water canner) – process for 10 minutes.*

*If canning, please follow USDA instructions found here!

Goodbye Summer, Hello Tamil-Spiced Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

After a weekend with these guys:

pulling up these things:out here:…not to mention my visit to Yellow Springs Farm for some tantalizing aged Nubian goat cheese or the upkeep I was forced to perform in my own garden or the grueling two hours of yoga practice.

I was exhausted.

But, I had emerged with two beautiful acorn squash – c/o the bounty of my Aunt Susan’s beautiful Chester County garden.

This, I knew, would help make Monday’s dinner easy peasy.

Soup!

My slippers made their first appearance since the winter recently, so I’ve been craving roast-y.  But who wants to wait for squash to roast after work on a Monday?  Not me.

So Sunday night I pulled that nifty “throwing shit in the oven for later” trick.

After chopping and scooping, I doused ’em with non-stick spray and shoved them in the oven:While I was waiting for them to do their thing, I decided to put my blender to work and make some raw beet soup and blueberry/banana/collard green/oat smoothie for lunch and breakfast the next day:Yum!  And then, they were ready:As an aside, I recommend that you always use your “throwing shit in the over for later” time wisely.  On this occasion, I added some rooftop eggplants and the seeds from the acorn squash themselves:Got it all packed away in the fridge and DONE.

When Monday rolled around, it was smooth sailing.

Gather:Chop:Brown:Simmer:Blend:Toast:DINNER IS SERVED (with greek yogurt, chive, and those poor acorn squash’s own seeds):This soup was even tastier than it looks.  Add that to gluten-free, nutrition dense, mineral rich and autumnally warm — what’s not to love?  Give this early onset slipper-season soup a go.

Tamil-Spiced Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

vegan, vegetarian, gluten free

Serves 2-3

  • 2 small acorn squash
  • 1/2 large sweet potato
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 small hot pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tart apple (I used Ginger Gold)
  • 2 1/2 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, turkey – pick your poison)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 tsp madras curry powder
  • 1 tsp toasted coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  1. ROAST:  Cut each acorn squash in half, scoop seeds (reserve), place on foil-lined baking tray, coat with non-stick spray (or olive oil, if you prefer) and roast at 400 degrees for between 30 and 40 minutes.  This can be done a day or two in advance – just store, properly contained, in the fridge.
  2. While you are roasting your acorn squash, throw their seeds in there as well.  It will only take these 5 minutes or so to become crunchy.  Reserve the roasted seeds for soup topping.
  3. CHOP:  Cut sweet potato into chunks.  Place in microwave safe bowl with a small amount of water.  Nuke until softened (2-4 minutes).  Scoop the flesh from the roasted acorn squash into the same bowl.
  4. Chop onion and apple (don’t worry about pieces being small or regular – as they’ll all be blended anyway!) and combine.
  5. Chop the garlic, ginger and pepper and combine.
  6. Combine the spices.
  7. BROWN:  Heat a large pot and coat with non-stick spray (or olive oil – practitioners choice).  Add onion and apple and saute until softened, about 5-8 minutes).
  8. Meanwhile, place your spices in a frying pan over low heat.  Keep them moving around until they become deliciously fragrant, then remove from heat (don’t wash the pan – you’ll use to re-toast your seeds!).
  9. Add the garlic, ginger and pepper to the onion mix.  Saute another 1 to 2 minutes.
  10. Add the toasted spices and combine.
  11. SIMMER:  Add squash, potato, almond milk and stock, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and leave, uncovered, for 10-20 minutes (or until it reaches a consistency you like).  Remove from heat.
  12. BLEND:  Two options here: I like to use my immersion blender (best kitchen gadget I have ever bought), but you can also puree in batches in a normal blender or food processor.  Keep going until the soup is creamy and smooth.  If it too watery, return to heat and cook down to desired consistency.  If it is too thick, add additional stock.
  13. TOAST:  Add your pre-roasted acorn squash seeds to the pan in which you toasted your spices.  Give a quick spray with non-stick, toss and toast until they begin to pop.
  14. SERVE:  As I’m a “ph-egan” who happens to have chives growing on my roof, I served the soup with greek yogurt, chives and the toasted seeds.  But soy yogurt, no yogurt, cilantro, etc. would all work here.
  15. ENJOY!