October 14, 2005

Mmm, apples!

'Tis the season, around here, to pick apples. Yeah, you can go to the market and get them pretty much year 'round, but there's something nice about being able to go to one of the local orchards and grab a bushel of local apples. Besides supporting the local farmers, you can get a lot of heirloom or minor varieties of apples this way, varieties that're really tasty but don't necessarily transport or store well enough to be commercially distributed.

I'm a big apple fan -- apple pie, apple turnovers, applesauce, apple ice cream, apple fritters (yum!), apple jelly -- it's all good. One thing I've been looking for is something suitable for throwing over ice cream, something like hot fudge or caramel sauce, only apple. (This would be an apple sauce, rather than applesauce. The former has tasty goo with chunks of apple in it, the latter is mashed up apples)

My first try didn't quite work out. Almost, but not quite, and the kids really liked it, so I won't call it a failure, rather differently successful.

Thick Apple Glop

1 pound apples (probably 3) cored, peeled, and diced
2T butter
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4c water
1t cinnamon
1/2t nutmeg

Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet until it starts bubbling. Toss in diced apples and fry until they're soft. Toss in sugar, cinnamon, water, and nutmeg. Stir and cook another two or three minutes, until all the ingredients are incorporated, most of the water's driven off, and it's all nice and bubbly. The longer you cook this the more the sugar will caramelize and the apples will soften, so you've got some leeway here. (Don't burn the sugar -- it tastes nasty and will ruin the thing) You're not going to get a good caramel here, but that's OK.

Now, I'd hoped that between the melted sugar, butter, and liquid from the apples that I'd make up a nice sauce. No joy -- the result, when it cooled, was darned thick. Really tasty, but thick. Not what I was looking for, though it was really good.

I thought I'd see about reducing some apple cider (that is, simmering it until some of the water's driven off, leaving a thicker liquid behind) and throwing that in, but apple cider doesn't reduce. Instead the solids precipitate out leaving something that looks like brown miso soup. (And is, itself, quite tasty, but still really thin) No joy there.

Still, the glop tasted really good, it just needed some sauce around it. The reduction of apple cider didn't work by itself, but apples have a lot of pectin in them. Pectin, like gelatin, makes things thicker, so I figured that if I added more liquid into the glop, I'd have better luck, and I did, and boy is it good:

Thick Apple Sauce

1 pound apples (probably 3) cored, peeled, and diced
2T butter
1/4 c white sugar
2c apple cider
1t cinnamon
1/2t nutmeg

As before, melt the butter, fry the apples, and throw in everything else. Then let the stuff simmer until you lose about half the liquid. If you've never done this before, that means you use a medium heat, get the liquid simmering (that is, lots of little bubbles, not a huge roiling boil. A boil will burn things and turn 'em nasty) and leave it alone! That's the hard part, the not touching. You want to stir it every minute or so, but that's about it. When you've lost about half the liquid you're done. The sauce will still be thin, but that's fine -- pectin thickened sauces get more solid the colder they get, so as the sauce cools it will thicken. (If you've only done flour or corn starch thickened sauces this will be a little odd to you, but that's fine. Consider it a learning experience) This version uses white sugar instead of brown sugar, since there was a bit of a brown sugar taste to the glop and I wanted a cleaner apple flavor.

Note that a pound of apples gives off a lot of pectin, so if you want a thinner sauce, or more sauce, either add in more cider (I think the recipe can manage up to a quart of cider, but I've not tested that) or don't let it reduce as long. It still will need some time to pull the pectin out of the apples, so you can't just cook the apples, throw the rest of the stuff in, and decant it. You must simmer it at least a few minutes.

Do please note that both nutmeg and cinnamon, as they're powdered tree bits, take some time to fully hydrate and release their flavor. Fresh out of the pan the mix will feel a little gritty and taste OK. After it sits (preferably overnight) the grit will be gone and the flavor mixing in nicely. Mmmm!

No, there's no computer content here. Deal with it, this stuff's tasty. :-P

Posted by Dan at October 14, 2005 02:34 PM | TrackBack (0)

mmmm....I really miss all the 'pick your own' places back home. I adore and really miss a good, fresh apple butter. Everything is all about berries up here. Pectin chemistry is really pretty interesting as it's an art to know how much sugar and how much heat to use to get the consistency you want.

The apple cider is a bit dark and cloudy because it retains some of the pectin. You can reduce it as well. If you were looking for something more along the lines of a syrup consistency, try the following which I've made quite a few times for serving with pancakes. :)

cider syrup

In a small saucepan:

1 c apple cider
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the head and swirl in, piece by piece, 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces.


The lemon juice is the important bit here as it is used to lower the ph and thus keeps the pectin from gelling too much or too little.

You could try adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to your first recipe and see if that does the trick. Pectin wants a ph of 3 so the more tart the apples, the lower the ph so adjust the lemon juice accordingly.

Jellies, jams and syrups are really quite an art in kitchen chemistry that take a bit of getting used to. My mother was an ace though I'm nowhere near her level of expertise.

Posted by: hfb at October 16, 2005 08:40 AM

I love apples too. :)

Anyways, I know when I make apple pie, I fill it with layer of apple slices, a sprinkle of flour, a sprinkle of mixture of brown sugar/white, and a few pats of unmelted butter, more repeat. I think not melting the butter and layering it will be imporatant. This adds up to a lot of butter. You could try cooking that in a casarole dish. Assuming this is thats kinda of apple sause you want (plus spices of course)...

minute tapioca is a good thicker for berries, but just a litte flour does the trick for me for apples.

Again this is for pie, but I imagine cooked as a casarole it'd probably be tastey apple goop.


Posted by: Garick at October 17, 2005 02:42 PM

I think pie reciept is very good . Make mine the same way.Not so much butter, less sugar use
imiatation as am diebetic
garick must be good cook.

Posted by: vivian at September 11, 2006 08:35 PM