Autumn has all sorts of new sensory opportunities available. In the last few weeks, people have been visiting pumpkin patches and harvest festivals, enjoying hay rides, the smell of freshly popped corn, and the taste of candy. As we turn our attention to a season of dormancy, going quickly are the fresh flavors of summer. We ate our last fresh heirloom tomato of the year, this weekend, and the market’s bins of watermelons are becoming replaced by winter squash. Pantries begin making use of things that last indefinitely – dried herbs and spices, nuts, and fruits. It’s the beginning of the season for cloves and cinnamon, roasted nuts, and fruits and veggies that store well for extended periods of time.
When I was a kid, we’d work hard in the summer to can as much of the summer bounty as possible. We had homemade tomato sauce, jams, and applesauce. We dried our own fruits and veggies – lots of raisins, strawberries, apples, and banana chips. And when we got out to grandma and grandpa’s we’d press the apples from the apple tree to make cider. It seemed endless the variety of flavors one could embrace from one’s own garden, to capture summer in the middle of a cold, rainy winter in Oregon.
In California, the seasonal change is considerably more temperate, but with a surplus of nature’s bounty in the form of apples and pears, Holly and I saw a need to cook up something delicious this weekend. Since Holly is always asking for trendy squishable fruit (in little single-serving packaging that I dislike, from an eco-perspective), what better than pear-applesauce? If you’ve never made it, give it a whirl – quite literally. It’s ever so easy and inexpensive.
- Unless you have special antique tools to make applesauce (we used a sieve with a crankable blade on top, to crush and separate skins at the same time), peel the apples, quarter, and core them. If you want to use your antique tool, just quarter and core the apples. Do the same for pears. We like a 50-50 ratio of apples to pears, but any ratio works fine.
- Put the fruit in a pot with a lid.
- Add an inch of water to the pot. This will prevent the apples from sticking and caramelizing at the bottom of the pot. You can monitor the amount of water as you cook – add more if your pot becomes dry.
- Cover the pot and heat to a boil at medium heat.
- Stir with a wooden spoon every 10 minutes or so, to move firmer apples on the top of the pot towards the bottom and assess if more water is needed. Keep pot covered between stirring. There is a lot of starch in apples, so if the pot bubbles a lot and threatens to boil over, then turn the heat down to prevent this.
- Remove from heat when all of the fruit is soft and crushes easily with a spoon. Allow to cool for several minutes, so splatters from the next step don’t pose a burn hazard.
- Use an immersion blender or a blender to crush the applesauce.
- Add lemon juice and/or cinnamon to taste. You can also add sugar, but pears add a lot of sweetness, so you should not have to.
Also this weekend, I made a pumpkin soup, using a very similar technique – adding chicken broth in lieu of water, and some greek yogurt at the end. We have three other squashes (kabocha, butternut, and carnival) as well, so I may have to try this boil-and-squish approach for them as well. To handle tough fruits like the squash, I cook them partially in the microwave first (pierce the sides all over with a fork, then cook on high for 3 to 5 minutes), then let them cool a bit, before peeling and cutting them up, as in step 1. Potatoes, yams, and cauliflower, also autumn and winter staples, get similar attention, so we can have mashes at home to serve as a side dish or pave the way toward making latkes (like potato pancakes). Yum.
I keep watching the skies in anticipation of the rains of the season. We had an unseasonable rain in early October for Blossom’s Birth and Family Fair, but since then, it’s been pretty dry. Once the big raindrops start falling, my family can head out for another autumn tradition – puddle jumping and mud sliding. That should be some good squishy fun, while looking for frogs over at Picchetti near the ephemeral lake, or trying to spot slugs and salamanders at hilly hikes such as those at Los Trancos.
Good shishable fun, inside and out!
-Debbie (President and Founder), Holly (3), Max (7), and Andrew