Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Green Kitchen: Chunky Spiced Unsweetened Applesauce

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It’s penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

I'd like to take a moment to think on the lessons of zucchini.

I greet the first greenmarket zucchini with excitement – just like every vegetable's first seasonal appearance, this is a momentous occasion. Fresh and bright and less than $2 a pound, I take them home in big bundles, sauteeing them simply for the sweet zucchini flavor.

Fast-forward to August and we're like, Uggh, please, no more zucchini! I know you are cheap, summer squash, but I am sick of you.

Friends, let us not let the apple fall prey to the same late-season disenchantment.

We must take action now, at the start of apple season, to ward off an early winter apple fatigue. Apples, like zucchini, are cheap. They are delicious. They are healthy. But they also survive storage really, really well, and will still be around in cheerful piles come, like, February. Fruit in February! It seems amazing now, but the midwinter farmers market devotee looks at apples like cockroaches after a nuclear winter – their fortitude is admirable, but what you wouldn't give for a delicate berry.

So I say to you now, stop apple fatigue before it starts! Don't binge on raw honeycrisps for the next two months, only to fight tears and a slight gag reflex when they're the only non-potato thing at the greenmarket this winter. Bring to the start of apple season the creativity that usually marks the end of a fruit or vegetable's yearly time, but with excitement and ingenuity rather than bleary-eyed desperation.

We must take advantage of the autumn's apple bounty, lay in stores of this cheap, healthy, delicious fruit, and get creative with it!

Also I've come up with an apple sauce recipe that's really, really good. Like, I just had to take a break from writing about it to go get some from the fridge good.

Awesome things about this apple sauce, other than it being so tasty:
—No sugar! Apples are plenty sweet on their own.
—No milling, grinding, processing, or whatever! This sauce is nice and chunky, which also makes it more versatile than a smooth puree. I've been mixing it in with Greek yogurt all week.
—So cheap! I got my apples for $0.37/lb in a big 4lb bag. Applesauce apples don't need to be pretty, or even the tasty, crisp, sweet apples you'd choose for raw eating. Get 'em cheap.
—It freezes well! I spooned some into a quart freezer bag and used this method for rice-freezing to separate it into individual portions. Come March when the memory of fresh apples grows fond and crappy supermarket produce beckons, I'll have this tastiness stowed away, ready to defrost.
—You may feel like a prairie homesteader while making it, which is silly, because apples are not a prairie thing, but it feels good old-timey domestic. Or maybe that's just me. But it was fun.

(PS: Do plumped-up raisins remind anyone else of Danny, the Champion of the World? God, that book is the best.)


If you like this recipe, you may enjoy:
All Night Apple Butter
Maple-Ginger Applesauce
Autumn Apple Salad


Chunky Spiced Applesauce (Unsweetened)

makes approximately 1 quart, or 8 1/2-cup servings

4 lbs apples (about 10 cups chopped)
1 cup raisins
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
a few dashes cayenne
a dash of salt

1. Core and chop the apples. The larger your chunks, the chunkier your sauce. Unevenness is fine, too.

2. As you collect your chopped apples in a large bowl or whatnot, add a tablespoon of lemon juice every few apples. This keeps the apples from browning and is good for the sauce.

3. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the apples, stirring to get them all hot.

4. Once the apples start to release some water, add raisins and salt.

5. Cook 20-30 minutes, until apples reach your desired mushiness, stirring every so often. If things look dry, add a half cup of water.

6. Stir in spices; taste. Adjust as necessary.

7. Try not to burn your mouth.

Approximate calories, fat, fiber, protein, and cost per serving:
128 calories, 0.4g fat, 4.1g fiber, 0.9g protein, $0.35

4 lbs apples: 567 calories, 1.9g fat, 26.2g fiber, 2.8g protein, $1.50
1 cups raisins: 433 calories, .5g fat, 5.4g fiber, 4.5g protein, $1.19
3 tbsp lemon juice: 3 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.04
2 tsp cinnamon: 2 calories, 0g fat, 0.5g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
1 tsp ground ginger: 6 calories, 0g fat, 0.2g fiber, 0.2g protein, $0.03
1 tsp nutmeg: 12 calories, 0.8g fat, 0.5g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
a few dashes cayenne: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
a dash of salt: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01

TOTAL: 1023 calories, 3.2g fat, 33.1g fiber, 7.5g protein, $2.81
PER SERVING (TOTAL/8): 128 calories, 0.4g fat, 4.1g fiber, 0.9g protein, $0.35

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Debbie said...

Ooooh this looks yummy! I'm going to have to make this! Thanks for sharing!!

Christina said...

can you explain the freezing method you mentioned, please?

Jaime said...

Oh, sorry, there was supposed to be a link to the freezing method!

Basically, you fill a quart bag with, say, four servings worth. Lay the bag flat, and remove as much air as possible. (Some people do this with a straw - I do this by leaving just a corner of the bag open, and sucking the air out. Lovely and ladylike.) Press the applesauce as flat as possible. Then, using your fingers or a chopstick or something, portion the sauce into four quarters. Then freeze this flat in the freezer. (Once it's frozen you can move it.) That way you can break off one serving and leave the rest in the freezer.

(Sadly there are no pictures of this that I could find on the internet - let me know if you need a visual, and I can take some.)

Leigh said...

Link is fixed. Sorry gang!

Anonymous said...

Do you leave the peel on the apples?

Laura said...

This sounds very like the way I make applesauce. Mine has a few less ingredients though. (My hubby hates raisins.) I just chop the apples up, toss them in a saucepan on medium with a quarter cup or so of water to get things started, and then walk away. I stir once every 15-20 minutes until it's as soft as I want, add a dash of cinnamon (or a dash of spiced rum if I'm feeling festive), and enjoy.

It's great over pancakes. Or vanilla ice cream, especially if you added the rum!

Gwen said...

Great idea! Now to get a bag of apples...

Joan Voight said...

this sounds great and can use up lots of fresh fruit. Speaking of too much fruit-- how about this year's tomato crop. I'm drowning and so are my friends. Here's how we cope...your ideas?

Laura said...

I leave the peels on, that's where all the nutrition is after all! They soften up just fine. Just make sure you wash your apples first.

Jane said...

I do a really similar thing but I cook the applesauce in my slowcooker and don't have to worry about burning it when the little one needs me.

Claire said...

Plumped-up raisins ALWAYS remind me of Danny, the Champion of the World. Every time.