Digging around my refrigerator this afternoon, I turned up five abandoned, wrinkled apples and one bruised peach with a gouge on it’s side. These half dozen pieces of fruit spoke to me, pleading to be turned into apple(peach) sauce instead of taking a trip down the trash shute. Being that I was already in a bit of a nesting mood, I heeded and quickly peeled, cored and chopped them. Into a pot they went with some water, lemon zest/juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Then I just left them alone.
I first made applesauce at the Neighborhood Unitarian Church in LA when I was 7 years old. I don’t know why they decided to have our Learning Community class make it, but the image of that day is burned into my heart. I remember standing on a stool next to a window a white apron wrapped around me twice. I stirred that sauce with a wooden spoon every couple of minutes as the apples softened and surrendered their individual integrity. We used apple cider instead of water, I was told that it gives the sauce better flavor. That was the day when I first really found myself wanting to know more about food and how you cook it.
When my family moved to Portland in 1988, one of the wonders of the area that we rapidly discovered was Sauvie Island. It is a small agricultural island just outside of Portland. There is a museum there that is housed in an old farm house and barn, the home of one of the island’s original families. There is an antique apple orchard on the property and all who come are welcome to pick up the windfall apples off the ground. Every fall we’d pack a picnic and head out there to enjoy the feeling of being on a 19th century farm. We’d scour the orchard floor for useable apples and go home to make sauce. There were always Ziploc bags of frozen applesauce in the freezer while I was growing up.
After about an hour on the stove, my apples and peach had given up their edges and corners and yielded to the back of my wooden spoon. Had I been thinking, I would have thrown a couple of plums in as well. They wouldn’t have hurt a bit. Applesauce also has the benefit of making your home smell like much more complicated culinary adventures are being taken. I enjoyed the lingering scent of cooking apples and cinnamon for hours after I took the pot off the heat.