This applesauce has a lot to do with why I’m here. I mean that literally. And I mean it on as many levels as a person could possibly articulate while greedily spooning bite after bite of applesauce into her mouth, all the while fending off cries for More Applesauce from two small children. It’s a good thing this isn’t a video, I’ll tell you that much.
Although come to think of it, a live feed of my usually happy, always mildly chaotic home would be a fitting testament to this food. It’s the stuff that homes are built on. I mean that literally, too.
As a kid I never gave much thought to what makes a happy home—I just knew I had one and threw all my energies toward taking it for granted. That’s the business of the luckiest kids, isn’t it? But even I couldn’t have missed the central role of earnest, thoughtfully prepared food in our grand scheme. We’re real “you can taste the love in it” people. (Also people of normal weight, I might add.) Mom’s applesauce was our introduction to a life of being fed—and now feeding ourselves and our children—to nourish. To turn little hands into big, giving hands, and little minds into big, generous minds. It isn’t that those little hands never stole a piece of gum from a perfectly innocent store (though you didn’t hear it from me), or that those minds never butt against each other with a certain ferocity. They do. It’s the understanding that a good home—a good family—simmers slowly, tastes often, and corrects the seasoning when necessary.
Today we are celebrating my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary. Forty years! That’s a whole lot of simmering. Every day I learn a little more about how much work goes into that kind of an undertaking, and more importantly, just what kind of work it takes. The work—and the joy—is in the tiniest gestures. Letting the engineer load the dishwasher and the unsung hero have the final word on Christmas tree decoration, even if your 60-year-old paper chain consistently ends up in the back. Building an appreciation for vegetables floret by lovingly sautéed floret, and computer literacy photo by meticulously scanned photo. Occasionally counting to three before you speak. And when, once in a while, all hell inevitably breaks loose, changing these most-ingrained patterns with unwavering grace and strength. Knowing that in a good home, like a good house, patterns are just the decoration. If you have to tear them out, the foundation will still be there.
Dad, I’ve learned an awful lot from the way you load the dishwasher. We all have. I’m still working on it, and sometimes I still rely on you to do it for me. Mom, that’s one heck of a good applesauce. It’s Grandma’s Applesauce when I make it, too—and no one would stand for it any other way. Those aren’t the kinds of gifts a person could hope to pay back, especially when that person is a bit over-endowed in the forward momentum department. They’re gifts that are best paid forward—in time spent, attention given, and mouths fed with pints of frozen applesauce.
Thanks, Mom and Dad. Happy anniversary. To you two, and to all of us.
Talk to you soon.
Mom's Homemade Applesauce
Mom's note: For this recipe I use the 3-pound bags of Macintosh apples available in supermarkets throughout the year. Scrub the apples well and remove any dried leaves still attached. There is no need to peel the apples – the puree will be separated from the peel when the apples are placed in a food mill. This is a large recipe that makes about 12 cups of sauce. It keeps extremely well for several months in the freezer.
- 3/4 cup water
- A pinch of salt
- 6 pounds Macintosh apples, scrubbed, quartered, and core removed
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepot (8 quart) and add the salt and the apples. Cover and reduce the heat. The apples will start to release their moisture and the heat should be regulated to keep the liquid at a simmer. Cook the apples, stirring frequently, until the apple quarters have lost their shape and are extremely soft, and the skins have separated. Let the mixture sit for a while to cool before proceeding.
Set a food mill over a large pot or bowl and begin by pouring some of the apple mixture into the top of the mill. The liquid will flow through first, then begin turning the handle of the food mill clockwise to force the pulp through the holes. Reverse the direction of the blade occasionally to clear the mill. Continue adding apples and rotating the blade until all the apples have gone through and only the peel remains in the top portion of the mill.
Add the sugar and cinnamon and stir thoroughly. When cool, divide into storage containers and refrigerate or freeze as desired.
Update: I’ve entered this post into the Family Recipes event for this month. Wish me luck!