Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's apple time

On our way home from a short trip to Lake Tahoe last week, we stopped in Placerville, a cute gold-rush town along highway 50. In addition to having a fun downtown, Placerville is also the home of apple hill, a collection of 50-some apple orchards. After one false start at an orchard with seemingly no employees, we found an apple-pie perfect orchard called Larsen's Apple Barn. There were cars in the parking lot (good sign), a working water wheel (better), and an on-site bakery (best). I could feel the promise in the air as we entered the apple showroom.

Just inside the doorway stood an outgoing young woman, paring knife in hand, ready to teach us the difference between a Delicous and a Jonathan by means of free samples and friendly apple banter. "My dad and his brothers run the place," she said. "Each one of my uncles grows different varieties; that's how we can have so many kinds."

My husband, Aaron, decided quickly that he wanted to take home a bag of Winesap apples. I liked the Mutsus, but I had more in mind than just eating them out-of-hand. I wanted to make homemade applesauce and apple butter. For these, first-quality apples are unnecessary, so I began peeking behind the displays, looking for the seconds bin.

Our friend the apple sampler noticed me prowling around and approached me. "Are you by chance looking for seconds?" she queried.

"Uh, yeah," I said.

"Follow me," she replied, leading us into a walk-in refrigerator the size of our living room. In back was box after box of less-than-perfect pommes. She located a 40-pound box of Mutsus -- a steal at $12 dollars -- and we were on our way.

What's followed has been sheer bliss.

I've made a slow-cooker apple "pie"...

Four pints of applesauce (recipe at the end of this post) and four of apple butter...

...As well as half-a-dozen baked apples which we have with breakfast or for dessert, and a carmel apple crisp that I'll be sharing tonight with friends.

Still to come are another batch of applesauce and a wonderful fresh apple bread that I've been making since I was in college.

Here's the applesauce I made. I found it years ago on the inside flap of a box of Celestial Seasonings
peppermint tea. They call it a chutney, but it doesn't have that sweet-tangy tension chutney provides. It's delicious just the same and contains no sugar or other sweetener. I had no idea that tea bags could deliver this much flavor!

Cinnamon Apple Chutney
from Celestial Seasonings

(Note: I made a double batch.)

6 Celestial Seasonings Cinnamon Apple Spice tea bags
2 c water
6 c chopped apples (no need to peel or core - not that I ever do anyway)
1/4 c raisins
1/2 c chopped walnuts
other dried fruit or nuts that sound good, optional (I used a bag of dried fruit bits)

Place tea bags in a heavy pan, add water and bring to a boil. Steep over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove and gently squeeze tea bags over pot, then discard.

Add chopped apples and all dried fruit and nuts to the pot. Simmer everything over low heat for at least 1 hour or as long as all day. Chutney should be thick and chunky.

Storagewise, I put up four pints of this to enjoy later in the winter and put a couple more in the fridge to eat immediately.

Topmost image of apples courtesy of the US Apple Association.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the memories. I'm orginally from that area, and miss the trips to Apple Hill. You did good with the Apples!