So many of my happy childhood memories revolve around apples — making apple pies, picking apples, apple cider, the Applefest my church used to put on every fall.
Nothing reminds me of growing more than applesauce though. And I'm not talking about the thin homogenized and overly processed gruel you buy in a jar at the store.
The apple sauce I remember often came out of a jar, but it was put in the jar by my mother. She made it herself over a hot stove after having picked up bushels of apples off the ground at the orchard she owned with my father before he died in a farm accident.
She made gallons of what I remember as tasting like sweet heaven and it would last all year long.
I missed apple sauce for a lot of years after I left home for college. In part because mom stopped making as much of it. It was a lot of work for one thing to make so much of it. So she would make a few jars full and then pull them out for special occasions. Eventually she stopped making it, I think. She'll call me and tell me after reading this blog if I'm wrong on that account.
Finally, though, about two years ago I got a real hankering for moms applesauce. I bought a couple different kinds thinking, surely some of the brands labeled natural would be good.
I was wrong. Nothing tasted like mom's applesauce.
It wasn't just something I wanted to taste either. I wanted to share that childhood experience with my girls. I wanted them to see someone make something fresh that tastes unbelievable.
So, I set out to make fresh applesauce — not as much as mom did, just a couple of quarts. Of course I didn't have any of the tools mom used and I remember it being a large job that took multiple days. I also didn't have access to an orchard where they would let me come in and pick the leftovers off the ground for free. The owners of the orchard mom used to own with my dad would let her do that, at least I think she told me they were free.
I bought a couple different kinds of apples and cut them up and boiled them just like mom. Since I didn't have the right kind of collander with a pestle I improvised. It didn't work. I just made a mess. And the applesauce didn't taste right.
So, I finally broke down and called my mom and told her what I was doing. She laughed and said I was overthinking. She used the collander and pestle because she made so much it would have taken way too long to peel and core all those apples.
She also told me I was waiting too late in the season because she always used Transparents and they were ripe at the beginning of July, not the end of August.
After that I made some decent applesauce with Granny Smiths. I just peeled them, cored them and boiled them in some applejuice until they were soft enough to puree with a stick blender.
This year, I remembered to go buy the Transparents and last night I made applesauce that tastes just like my childhood. Now maybe someday my children will call me and ask, "Dad, how did you make that applesauce again. I could really go for some right now."