Criss-Cross

Homemade Apple Sauce

Right now at local farmer’s markets and in supermarkets, apples are in season!  My kiddos, likes lots of kiddos, like a good bowl of apple sauce.  I started making my own when my first was a baby.  It was the first homemade baby food I ever made!  I make it now because I can buy delicious, locally grown, organic apples from the ugly bin at a hugely marked down price (sometimes even 80 cents per pound!), cut out the random bad spot, and whip up a BIG pot of yum.

Making your own apple sauce is obviously a tad more time-consuming that opening a jar from the store, but it’s super easy, the result is very worth the effort.

Step 1: Cut your apples into cubes, removing any offending spots.  I leave the skins on.

step 1

Step 2: place your apple cubes into a cooking pot and add water until just over 1/2 of the apples are covered.  When the apples cook down, they will add a lot of liquid, and you don’t want the sauce too runny.  (If it does look too runny after boiling, you can drain a bit of the liquid before blending.)

step 2

Step 3: Heat until boiling and then simmer until the apples are soft enough to mash.  How long you ask?  Sorta depends how many apples you’ve got in your pot.  After they are boiling I test mine after about 10 minutes simmering.

Step 4: Mash those babies up!  I use one of my favorite kitchen gadgets that I can’t even remember the name of… At our house we refer to it as “the wand.”  I like it because I can stick this vicious little blade right in the pot, push the button and wah-lah.  You can use an electric mixer or even a blender though if you don’t have a magical-vicious-blade-wand like mine. (By the way–this doohicky is from Target.  Nothing fancy.)

step 3

Blend it until it looks like, uh, apple sauce.  In case you’ve never seen apple sauce before (I want to meet you.  Where in the world are you from?) here’s a photo I took and may as well use!

step 4

Step 5: ENJOY!

step 5

Tips: I also blend up some of this yum if I’ve purchased apples that taste mealy (I hate that, don’t you?) or have been sitting in my fruit bowl long enough to look sad.  Cold apple sauce is a great snack on a summer’s afternoon, and warm apple sauce is dreamy for breakfast in the winter.

I typically make sauce with 4 or 5 pounds at a time, to make the effort worth it.  It keeps fine in the fridge for days (if it lasts) and can be frozen for longer storage.

Pears or strawberries (if you have some lying around) can also be thrown in and will make the sauce even sweeter.  The berries don’t need to cook for more than two or so minutes.

Final tip (still with me?): This is a great kids-help-in-the-kitchen recipe for my 7 and 8 year-olds (5 year old soon!)

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Farmers Markets ROCK!

brussels before

OK.  So here’s where the “Minnesota” in me really comes out.  Do native Californians really understand how absolutely ridiculously over-the-top lucky they are when it comes to produce?  I think, perhaps, not.

Consider this, when I lived in Minneapolis years ago, I–along with thousands of other Twin-City’ers–used to count down the months (yes; months) till the farmer’s markets would open.  And then we’d scramble over to them every chance we got before the harvest season ended–usually 10 weeks or so–when the stands got packed up again till the next year.

Here in California, there is no such scrambling required!  We are soooo fortunate for the year-round-multiple-locations farmer’s markets in this state.  To find information about a California certified farmer’s market near you, click here.

So what’s so great about a farmer’s market?  Girlfriend, I could go on… Whereas produce at a big super market (Von’s, Ralph’s, etc…) is typically grown for uniform size, shape and color, farmer’s market produce is grown for a little something I like to call, uh, taste.

Not all farmer’s market produce is certified organic, but because it’s locally grown, it doesn’t need to be treated with all the junk that gets sprayed on produce at big markets to make it last on the shelf and look pretty.   Also, because the produce is grown locally, purchasing it means you get to do a little something I like to call “supporting the local economy” which is a darn nice thing to do.

Shopping at a farmer’s market it pleasant, friendly and inspiring.  Pretty much every smiling vendor has samples awaiting and will help in choosing a melon for today or for later in the week.

Farmer’s markets help me feel connected to the seasons too.  Why should I purchase a plum from Chile when right now is citrus season in So-Cal?  Apples are uh-mazing right now too at the local farmer’s markets and don’t even get me started on the winter vegetables…

Too late.  I’m started.  Brussel sprouts have become a favorite (yes, you read that right: favorite) at my house.  My three kids and husband inhale these little green “fairy cabbages” so quickly that I typically purchase at least three pounds a week.

Here is a photo of what these balls of yum look like after Michelle has waved her wand over them.

brussles after

I’ll put the “Calva-Despard Favorite Vegetable of all Time = Brussel Sprouts” recipe here for your convenience, and will also place it in the vegetable section of my recipe page for future reference.  I know.  I’m a giver.

Ingredients:  Brussel sprouts (you don’t have to go for three pounds…) olive oil, fresh garlic and salt.

Directions:  Set oven for 400 degrees.  Rinse Brussel sprouts.  Cut off think stem at the bottom of each sprout.  You can leave the sprouts whole or cut in half, depending on the size.  Most important is that all the pieces be pretty equal in size so they’ll be fully baked at the same time.  If you notice mine, some of the larger ones have been halved, but the smaller ones are whole.

Place sprouts on a cookie sheet with a rim.  Cut and quarter one fresh garlic clove per pound of sprouts and place the pieces in different places on the tray, amongst the sprouts.  Drizzle with olive oil and give a few shakes of salt.  Bake for 2o minutes.  Remove from oven and mix up the sprouts with a spatula to turn the browned sides over.  Test with a fork for tenderness.  Put back in oven for 5 -15 more minutes depending on the size of your sprouts.  They really do vary so it’s hard to say exactly.  Check after five minutes if you’re unsure.

The garlic serves to sort of infuse the sprouts with an aromatic presences of garlic.  I do eat the cloves too, but my kids say they’re too strong.

Enjoy!