Thursday, October 20, 2011

Honey Roasted Applesauce

Okay, I may have gone a bit overboard lately with the apples and pears and honey.  I can't help myself.  Really.  They're everywhere I look- my CSA box, my front yard, the overflowing bins in the grocery stores and farmer's markets.  Mother Nature is indulging my ever-increasing desire for these fabulous fall fruits.  Even now as I type this I am dreaming of (and thawing out pie dough for) apple hand pies.  Maybe there's some 12 step program I can get into.  Apple/Pear/Honey lovers anonymous?  Then again, even if there were such a group, would I really want to join?  Would I really want to live without my beloved apples, pears and honey?  I don't think I'd make it through to spring and those first little strawberries...

So, as much as the rest of the world may thing I've gone bananas for the first fruits of fall, I'm going to keep eating them.  And using them in just about every meal.  Because who's going to stop me?

And I'm betting no one will when I serve them this applesauce.  Which for some reason reminds me of my mother-in-law.  And not in a bad way, thank you very much.  My mother-in-law isn't what you'd call a happy cook.  She doesn't really like to be in the kitchen.  But there are a couple of things that she does enjoy making and applesauce is one of them.  She always serves her homemade applesauce with dinner in little glass bowls.  With little spoons.  No matter what dinner she serves the applesauce with, I always take some.  It's impossible to resist the simple goodness of the slightly chunky sauce.

There isn't much that's simpler or better than homemade applesauce.  Sure, you can buy really good unsweetened applesauce in the stores these days.  But there's something to be said for doing it yourself.  If you and your family are purists you can make it simply, with apples, a bit of sugar and some lemon juice.  If you're more adventurous, the basic applesauce recipe can be fun to tinker with.  Let your creativity run wild.  Try different sweeteners like maple syrup, honey or brown sugar.  Go for spices that reach beyond the usual cinnamon.

This version may be the best I've ever made.  As I mentioned before (and many other times if you've been paying attention), honey is my favorite sweetener of the moment, so I swapped it in for the usual sugar and added cardamom and nutmeg in with the apples.  Cardamom can be a bit assertive if you're not careful, so I went light on it and used fresh ground from the pods rather than the pre-ground bottled stuff.  Both it and the nutmeg make you say "huh, what is in there?" when you eat the applesauce, which I consider a good thing.  And to really show off the honey and apples, I popped the whole pot of apples and spices into the oven and roasted them.  The applesauce that I ended up with has both a beautiful caramel-like color and flavor and my family and I can't stop eating it.

I promise you that when you try it, you'll be hooked too.  Maybe I'll have some friends in my Apple/Pear/Honey Lovers Anonymous group meetings!

Honey Roasted Applesauce
Makes 4 pint jars of applesauce.  You can refrigerate them and give them to friends or process them in a hot water bath for 15 minutes for keeping in the pantry for the winter.  I don't think they'll last that long, however.

9 lbs apples ( I have no idea how many apples that is, so use the scale sitting nearby in the grocery store.  My apples came from my front yard so I had to use the bathroom scale!)
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup unfiltered and unsweetened apple juice or cider
12 cardamom pods
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Peel, core and coarsely chop the apples and put them in a large, oven proof pot.  Add the honey and apple juice to the pot.

Crush the cardamom pods with the back of a knife and scrape the seeds from the pods.  You can coarsely grind them with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder or even chop them with a chef's knife.  Don't grind the seeds too finely or the flavor will be too overpowering.  Add the ground cardamom and nutmeg to the pot with the apples.  Mix all the ingredients until the apples are well coated.  Put the pot, uncovered, into the oven and roast for 45 minutes or until the apples are completely softened and have begun to break down.  Stir every so often to keep any exposed apples from burning.

Mash with a potato masher or run through a food mill.  Spoon the applesauce into jars and refrigerate or process for canning.

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