Saturday, September 06, 2008

Fruity Booty: What to Do With 25 Pounds of Apples

"I need you to think of what we can do with 25 lbs of apples."

This was the text message I received from Karl last Friday as I was on my way to have one last relaxing day at the pool before really settling in to my law school routine. What followed was a conversation on the phone, somewhat miffed on my part and unrelentingly jubilant on his, about where he had come by a garbage-bag full of apples, just who was going to peel and cut up all those darn things, etc.

Of course, I never really felt too annoyed that he had acquired so much free fruit. He had discovered an apple tree on Duquesne University's campus and simply helped himself.

A couple of days later, we both sat down (I was still pretending to be grudging about my assistance) and started peeling with the intention of making a big pot of applesauce. We had also scored some $1-per-pound strawberries at Stan's in the Strip District of Penn Avenue that were just past their peak (but all the sweeter for it), so we were also planning to make a strawberry-applesauce.

Making apple sauce couldn't be simpler...well, unless you prefer what I call "baby food" applesauce, which has the silky smooth texture. If you like chunky apple sauce, all you need to do is chop up your peeled apples, throw them in a large pot with a few inches of water, and cook away until they are soft. Add a little salt and the spices you like to taste (we added lots of cinnamon and a few pinches of nutmeg) and you are on your way! We used a potato masher to help break down our apples, but some apples, I am told, will simply break down on their own. If you have sweet apples like we did, you probably don't need to add much, if any, sugar. Tarter apples can handle more sugar (Disregard the latter two sentences if you like your applesauce super sweet). We added about 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar, which gave our applesauce a lovely golden brown color.

For the strawberry apple sauce, we sliced up the strawberries and began cooking them down separately from the apples. Then, when the strawberries and apples were soft, we added a few cups of the soft apples to the strawberries. We also added a little brown sugar to this, but I don't think we needed it. No spices necessary either! I must say, of the two, the strawberry applesauce is my favorite. We made buckwheat pancakes the next morning and put the strawberry applesauce on them, and wow, was that delicious!

We also set aside a good number of apples to make an apple cake (recipe courtesy of Karl's mother) and an apple pie. I haven't made the apple pie yet, and I may mix in some apples from the store because, though these apples from Duquesne are as sweet as sweet can be, they are completely devoid of any acidity. For my tastes, a little tartness in an apple pie is absolutely vital. I also felt that the applesauce was a bit lacking for this reason, but it still tasted great. There's nothing like "free" to make something taste better (I'm starting to sound like my sometimes freegan sister!).

The apple cake turned out wonderfully. I got to use my bundt cake pan finally (I have had the darn thing for 5 years and I've never once used it until this week). We put it out for my and my roommate Ruchi's No-Meat-Week potluck/recipe exchange extravaganza, and everyone who made it to dessert (we had a lot of food!) and had a piece of cake really enjoyed it. The cake is moist and just sweet enough. My sister said it needed a glaze of some sort (an optional one was included in the recipe, but I decided against using it at Karl's behest), though I had a slice with vanilla ice cream and thought it tasted just heavenly. I'll definitely be adding that recipe to my collection of keepers, and I hope you will give it a try, too, if you are of the baking bent.

Apple Cake
(from the kitchen of Helen Andersen)

1 & 1/6 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
4 medium-sized apples, sliced fine and roughly chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325˚F.

Mix the oil, sugar, and eggs together, and beat on low speed with electric hand mixer until well-blended. Fold in the apples and chopped nuts. Sift the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, then and stir in to other ingredients, also adding the vanilla. Grease and flour your baking pan(s). Bake in two 9-inch pans for 35-40 minutes, or 1-13x9 inch pan for 45 minutes. You may also bake in a bundt pan for 35-40 minutes. Test with a toothpick for doneness.

Side Note: I just noticed that Helen's recipe actually says to place your cake batter in a cold oven, set the dial to 325˚F and keep it in there for 45 minutes. I will be trying this method next time!

Glaze (optional)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla

Melt butter with light brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the evaporated milk and allow the mixture to come to a full boil for 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat, and allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes. Add vanilla and mix well. Frost cake.