I am packing for our week in the midwest and I’m a little stressed. We’re planning to spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws, and before you ask the answer is NO, they are not what is stressing me out. I can’t wait to see them as it has been too long between visits. What I’m worried about is if I’ve packed all the kitchen essentials. How to pack what I truly need vs. what can be improvised.
Our plan is to meet in Michigan at the house my husband’s grandfather built and have a big, huge, classic family holiday meal. Something along the lines of Cynthia Rylant’s fabulous children’s book When the Relatives Came. Only we’ll add turkey and cranberry sauce to the story.
There will be one Grandmother (my mother-in-law Judy), three siblings (my husband plus his brother and sister), their spouses (my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and me) plus all nine cousins. It’s not the number of people which has me concerned, since I agree with Rylant and think the more the merrier. Rather will the house have pots and pans big enough for the mountains of mashed potatoes, rivers of gravy, and vats of green beans? Or will we need to cook the food in shifts? To stave off my anxieties I’ve started cooking a few things to pack and bring along. Cooking is my therapy. I’ve also packed a few bottles of wine, which in a pinch, can be used as rolling pins after they’ve done their duty during cocktail hour. My stress level is dropping as I write this.
What I started with making was applesauce. This almost doesn’t qualify as a recipe, but perhaps there are a few people out there who don’t know how to make homemade applesauce. It couldn’t be easier or more stress-free if you live in apple country. The trick, as I have mentioned before when you are cooking with fruit, is to mix up your varieties – in this case apples. Then your only other decision is chunky or smooth.
50 Apple Applesauce
Buy as many different apple varieties as you can get your hands on. Trust me, there is no such thing as too much applesauce. If you want smooth you will need a foley food mill. If you prefer chunky all you’ll need is a huge pot and a reliable paring knife. The real difference between the two is prep time vs. clean up time. Chunky is all in the prep. Smooth will mean more time at the sink.
Wash as many apples as will fit in your pot (my giant cast iron enameled pot can hold a lot). Cut them into eighths add a splash of water and cover (that’s right, apples, seeds, skin and all). Cook over low heat (with your pot sitting on a flame tamer), stirring every once in a while to prevent the apples from burning. Cover the pot to help things along.
When the apples are soft and cooked down ladle everything into your foley food mill. The food mill will grind out the skin, seeds and stems while at the same time giving you a lovely pink toned applesauce (if your apples were red skinned). This applesauce is a thousand times better than jarred because it has a depth of flavor you can’t get with just one type of apple.
For those of you who may never have used a foley food mill be aware that they can often make noises of the rude, immature kind. Hearing applesauce burp, fart and squelch seems to cause giggles in children of all ages from toddlers to teens to middle age men. You have been warned.
Pretty much the same as for smooth only this time you peel and core the apples before cooking them. I can fit around 50 apples in my giant blue pot. Don’t forget the splash of water before you turn on the stove top. I always use a flame tamer to keep the heat well-distributed under the pot. This is what it will look like when things really get cooking:
A few stirs and when the applesauce is fully cooked it will “deflate”. Stop cooking when there look to be a few too many chunky apple pieces. The applesauce will continue cooking with it’s own heat and you should end up with a perfect chunky sauce.
Once the applesauce is cooked you can either ladle it into jars and process in a water bath* or you can cool it down and freeze it in portions. Or you can spoon it hot into dishes and sprinkle with a little cinnamon sugar. It just depends on how much you want to eat now and how much you want for later.
Next I’ll make cook up turkey stock so I can make the gravy while the turkey is cooking. Gravy prep is one of Tom Hirschfeld’s tips along with how to keep a turkey warm. I’ve never met the guy, but he appears to give some very sound advice in the kitchen. It’s going to be a very relaxed Thanksgiving.
Update *Do not think you can be lazy and just pour boiling hot applesauce into a sterilized jar and call it a day. I did that and then because I “heard” the jars seal them selves (they make a little tink sound) thought I was fine and dandy. Silly me. A week later at Thanksgiving we opened a jar and there was mold on top. You must either refridgerate the applesauce (for up to 10 days), freeze, or process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes if you want to store it properly. Or you could just eat it all up then and there, in which case I would recommend making a smaller batch.