Cheers to Change!

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MixologyYes, I realize we’ve had a brief interlude, but I’ve been a bit tied up working on this.  You’ll also notice that in addition to launching the new biz, the blog was also rebranded to have a similar look and feel. Please don’t be alarmed by that – the content here will still reflect my own personal musings. I’ve additionally been pulling artwork and creating some items for an upcoming Etsy shop, so stay tuned because it will eventually be linked under “Retail Therapy.” As far as food and drink interests go, I’ve once again signed up for my Good Food Collective summer share which will start in June. I’m sure my bags o’ farm market goodness will contain some obscure vegetables for further kitchen experimentation.  I’ve also submitted a few of my vegan recipes for a local event called Veg Out taking place at the end of May. Amidst all things “cray,” I’ve conjured up some new soups, cookies, and cocktails. I figure I’ll start with the booze since we should probably toast to new endeavors and I’ve declared it officially gin season. So if you’re thirsty for a new tipple, give these a whirl since they’ve certainly had a few quality control runs.

Let’s start with a drink based on Hendrick’s Gin with a few interesting additives.  I came up with this one a couple of months ago after a liqueur called Parfait d’ Amour piqued my interest.  Parfait d’Amour is a deep violet color and typically has a flavor profile of orange, vanilla, and floral notes. There are other brands available but I picked the Marie Brizard (link above) brand because it also boasts notes of orange blossom, almond, and rose (I’m also detecting a hint of violet) which I thought would complement the Hendrick’s well. It’s fun going to the liquor store and asking for it. No one knows what the hell it is, so you can certainly amuse yourself with expressions of general confusion from the staff. I decided to name this beauty after a classic perfume from the house of Guerlain due to the similar citrus, vanilla, and powdery floral notes and of course, its distinctive color.

Lady Sensory’s L’Heure Bleue Cocktail L'Heure Bleue

1.5 oz Hendrick’s gin

.5 oz of each:  Blue Curaçao (I use this, procured on my trip to Curaçao),

Parfait d’Amour, and freshly squeezed lemon juice

Dry Champagne (or any dry white sparkling wine)

Sparkling water, seltzer, or club soda

Lemon twist (garnish)

Chill a tall flute or large wine glass. In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, Hendrick’s, Blue Curaçao, Parfait d’Amour, and lemon juice. Shake and strain into chilled glass. Top with equal parts dry Champagne and sparkling water and garnish with a twist. This is simple, pretty, and very refreshing.

The next beverage evolved after researching several different gins I had yet to try. I decided to pick up some Plymouth Gin this past week, which is dry, aromatic, and very well-rounded. It makes for an excellent gin and tonic. In fact, I’m drinking one as I type this, and I’ll be experimenting with a Plymouth martini once I pick up some dry vermouth. Much like Champagne, Plymouth is both a style of gin and protected geographical location for gins produced in Plymouth, England. The only distillery producing it is Black Friars (owned by Pernod Ricard) and there is an image of a small friar on the back of the bottle. I really like this gin and find it to be very versatile. I whipped this one up with some ingredients I had handy and it’s both simple and amazing. This recipe will make two cocktails in rocks glasses.

Lady Sensory’s Oran Juice Jones Cocktail Oran Juice Jones

1.5 oz Plymouth Gin

.5 oz Grand Marnier

Juice of one lemon

1 tsp honey

2 slices and juice from one medium orange (I used a Valencia orange)

Sparkling water, seltzer or club soda

Angostura bitters

Fill two rocks glasses with ice, cut an orange in half and cut two wheels. Over a cocktail shaker, juice the remaining orange, the lemon, and mix in 1 tsp of honey. Add ice to the shaker, the Plymouth Gin and Grand Marnier. Shake and strain into the rocks glasses. Top with bitters and sparkling water. Garnish with an orange wheel.

Yep. I totally named it after this guy. What can I say? We’ve had a lot of rain lately and this tasted just like orange juice. This makes for an excellent brunch or day drink. Cheers to change and happy sipping!

 

Distilling My Thoughts

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Black Button Distilling in Rochester, NY

Black Button Distilling in Rochester, NY

I recently visited a brand new local distillery in Rochester for a tasting.  Black Button Distilling is located on Railroad Street on the way to the Public Market and adjacent to the Rohrbach’s Brewery and tasting room. The owner and chief distiller, Jason Barrett, provided a tour and was refreshingly down-to-earth and knowledgable. As he shared his story, we learned how he made the bold move of basically giving up his corporate job and house to pursue his dream of starting his own distillery. He also talked about the history behind the brand name (his family owned a button factory), the distilling process, and various tasting notes of the current product offerings. I recommend stopping in – it was a very educational and fun evening!

I sampled a wheat vodka (there were two and I had the one with the non-sake notes), the moonshine, and the Citrus Forward Gin. The bourbon is presently being aged in barrels with an anticipated release in 2015. Not surprisingly, the gin won me over with its distinctive flavor notes. The typical juniper bite is smoothed out with citrus and spices resulting in a profile reminiscent of orange spice tea. I knew I could have some fun experimenting with this. Thus, retail therapy occurred and I left with a bottle in hand. In addition to the booze, the Black Button shop also offers glassware, delicious maple syrup (really good stuff!), a variety of bitters, and simple syrups. I am 99% sure the simple syrup brand they offer is this one. However, I determined that I could make the lavender lemon syrup at home myself because as we’ve already established, I am that weirdo who has lavender on hand. If you are not as ambitious, feel free to procure a bottle of syrup in addition to the gin.

Let’s cocktail, shall we?

Lavender Lemons

Lady Sensory’s DIY Lavender Lemon Simple Syrup

Zest and juice of two lemons + enough water to total 1.5 cup of liquid

1 tbsp dried lavender (make sure it’s for culinary use – you can get it at Williams-Sonoma)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup vanilla sugar

I added a small amount of vanilla sugar to slightly round out the flavor because I have a fussy palate. No worries if you don’t have it on hand – you can omit or add a tiny drop of vanilla extract. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil for several minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is reduced in half (approximately 3/4 – 1 cup). Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer or tea strainer to remove the lavender and zest. The color will resemble pink lemonade. Syrup will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container (I used a mason jar). Use in cocktails, sodas (“cold pop”), or even over ice cream. Cocktail recipes from my mixology experiments are below.  You’ll note that I’ve incorporated some French names thanks to the lavender.

The Jacques Collins

Jacques Collins

Lady Sensory’s Jacques Collins

2 oz Black Button Citrus Forward Gin*

2 tbsp lavender lemon simple syrup (above)

Orange slice and 1-2 Maraschino cherries for garnish

Top with sparkling water/ club soda.

Chill a Collins glass or large rocks glass a few minutes in advance. In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, gin and lavender lemon syrup. Shake until well combined and pour into the chilled glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with an orange slice and 1-2 cherries. This drink is simple, refreshing, and will make you long for summer (especially in this extreme cold!)

 

Soleil Levant Martini

Soleil Levant Martini

Lady Sensory’s Soleil Levant (Rising Sun) Martini

2 oz gin (again, Black Button Citrus Forward)

1/2  oz St. Germain

1/2 oz Lillet (blanc)

1 oz lavender lemon simple syrup

Several dashes of Angostura bitters (will provide additional flavor and color)

Orange or lemon slice for garnish

Chill a large martini glass in advance and fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Combine gin, St. Germain, Lillet, lavender lemon syrup, bitters, and shake well. Pour into a martini glass and garnish with an orange wheel (or lemon – your choice). You can add another drop or two of bitters if needed (the drink should be apricot in color). You could also rim the glass with lavender sugar if you are feeling extra fancy. And no, I haven’t made lavender sugar yet, but I probably will soon.

Black Button products are currently available at the distillery, restaurants, and some liquor stores. The average cost is around $40 for the gin, and it is well worth it. Pick some up and support people’s dreams and local businesses. Gin season is almost upon us and you will definitely want the Citrus Forward on your home bar!

* If you aren’t local to Rochester, an orange or citrus-infused gin would probably work for either of these recipes until Black Button becomes more widely distributed.

You Say, “Expresso” and I Say, “Shut Up.”

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PrepOkay, I could have chosen a much more inappropriate version for this post title but can we talk about the mispronunciation/misspelling of the word, espresso, for a hot minute? This is not the expressway. This is not the express lane at Walmart. This is not Madonna’s, “Express Yourself.” This is coffee. This is espresso, not expresso. I have a friend who cringes every time she hears this, among other grammatical sins. Typically sipped and enjoyed at Starbucks and preferably other local cafes, those who need it for culinary purposes often use this:

Espresso

This is the only time I use instant coffee. It’s perfectly acceptable for baking and will last you for years. So now that I’ve gone off about the proper spelling and pronunciation of espresso, let’s get back to baking, shall we?

A couple of weeks ago I got blinded by some chocolate packaging in the baking aisle at Wegmans. I had heard of Guittard but could not find any locally (I generally play with Scharffen Berger bittersweet). So this made its way into my cart:

Guittard bittersweet

I was attending a Super Bowl party last night (much like the rest of the nation) and decided brownies would be a fun addition. I generally like my chocolate snacks dark, rich, and slightly bitter. Yeah, you can interpret that sentence any way you like. However, since my friend has three children I figured I should lighten up a bit and make my dessert a little more family friendly. Inspired by memories of eating coffee ice cream with crunchy Heath bar topping as a kid (I swear that’s how I learned to like coffee), I came up with this idea. I even made them easier to say.  No “espresso” in the recipe title below, especially (yes, it’s ‘especially’ and not ‘expecially’) since it only accounts for a small portion of the recipe.

Lady Sensory’s Coffee Toffee Brownies

Adapted from this recipe on CHOW for the chocolate purists (weirdos like me). I beefed up the espresso a bit and added a few extras.

6 oz package of Guittard 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or any brand bittersweet – 60-70% cacao preferred)

1 cup of Heath (or any milk chocolate covered toffee) bars, coarsely chopped

1 stick of unsalted butter, plus an extra tbsp for greasing the pan

2 eggs, beaten, and at room temperature

1 cup vanilla sugar (see how to make this and your own extract here)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp brewed espresso (I used instant but if you have an espresso maker, go ahead and use it!)

1 cup flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 tsp finely ground sea salt

1/4 tsp ground Saigon cinnamon

Brownies 2Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 ” square pan with butter and line bottom with a greased square of parchment paper (trust me – these get sticky and this will make your life so much easier). In a large saucepan, melt the stick of butter over low heat and combine the dark chocolate chunks until completely melted and smooth. Handy tip: I used my 4.5 qt Le Creuset which doubled as the mixing bowl. Remove from heat immediately and allow to cool. In a smaller bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt.  Once the chocolate/butter mixture is at room temperature whisk in the vanilla sugar, extract and coffee, followed by the beaten eggs. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until combined. Add half of the chopped Heath bar chunks and spread into the pan in an even layer. Top with remaining Heath bar chunks. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan once. Start checking at 25 minutes. My brownies were done right around the 30 minute mark (an inserted toothpick came out clean). Insert a spatula around the edge of the pan to release some of the toffee sticking to the edges while still warm. Allow to cool for at least an hour, if not more. When cooled, remove from the pan and cut into 16 squares. They look a little strange at first because the toffee melts in the oven. When cooled, the topping becomes a delicious, slightly crunchy texture that will please even the most discerning palates. Dare I say they’re almost as good as that random Prince appearance on New Girl?

Stop and Eat the Flowers

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Gourmet goodies!

Gourmet goodies!

I know what you’re thinking. That title should say “smell the roses.”  But we’re not talking about perfume or roses today. We’re going to talk about my herby/floral friend, lavender. I’ve previously covered lavender as a dessert ingredient here. This topic came up the other night and the highly intelligent convo went something like this:

Me: “I like lavender in food. You know, because I like French stuff.”

Other person: “I don’t like lavender. I don’t want my food to taste like perfume. Or soap. It can’t be the star player in the dish.”

I could probably recollect more of the conversation had we not indulged in so many cocktails, but I appreciate the perspective. Floral extracts (rosewater, orange blossom water, violet, jasmine and even my favorite St. Germain ingredient, elderflower) have the ability to become overwhelming if not balanced properly. And interestingly, the lavender-tinged herbes de Provence that I enjoy so much really didn’t become popular until the mid 1970s. In fact, I didn’t eat anything featuring lavender while visiting the south of France. I only found it in bunches or in soaps and other toiletries at the market.

So, while on holiday in Florida visiting Crazy Bob, his lady friend and I took a shopping jaunt over to Sanibel Island where we discovered the Sanibel Olive Oil Company in Periwinkle Place (online as Florida Olive Oil here). They had such a variety of unique oil and vinegar flavors that we thought our taste buds were going to explode. After several tastings, I purchased Lavender Balsamic and Key West Citrus Balsamic (I’ll be experimenting with the latter in the near future). She picked up the Habanero-Lime and Walberry (a combination of strawberry and walnut). Sadly, I’m not finding the lavender in their online store so I may call when I run out or try a different vendor. However, if you are in the Fort Myers/ Naples area, you could easily head over to Sanibel and visit the shop to sample yourself. The owner is quite the conversationalist and in addition to oil and vinegar, he also carries flavored salts, spices, sauces, and other “foodie” delights.

Among many other adventures, Crazy Bob and I managed to visit the Edison & Ford Winter Estates where I picked up some local saw palmetto honey in the gift shop. Both are used in the recipe below, but you could substitute with your own local honey and the balsamic vinegar of your choice if you aren’t partial to lavender.

Lady Sensory’s No Soap For You Lavender-Balsamic Glazed Chicken

Old-school mustard seed and spice-grinding

Old-school mustard seed and spice-grinding

1 – 1.5 lbs boneless chicken breasts (I picked up an organic pack of three medium-sized breasts)

2 tsp Herbes de Provence

2 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

2 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressedChicken

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup lavender balsamic vinegar

2 tsp honey (I used saw palmetto, but use what you have)

With a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, combine and grind the mustard seeds, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper together. Apply to the chicken breasts as a dry rub and pop them back in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or while you get the rest of your ingredients ready. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm oil a large pan (that can transfer from stove to oven) on medium heat. Place garlic in and cook until slightly golden. Put the chicken breasts in the pan and brown on each side until you see the breasts just turning from pink to white (about 7-10 minutes, depending on thickness). Remove the breasts from the pan and place on a plate temporarily. Deglaze your pan with the white wine and vinegar and raise the heat to medium high. You are making a reduction so when the mixture comes to a slight boil,  stir in the honey, and turn off the stove top. Return the chicken to the pan and put in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, flipping once and keeping an eye the glaze to ensure it doesn’t burn. I served these with a side of roasted asparagus, but they would be equally tasty with Brussels sprouts, potatoes, or any side dish of your choice. You’ll find the lavender gives the chicken more of a lemon/herb flavor that is balanced by the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar and honey. Top the chicken and side dish with any remaining glaze and enjoy!

Lavender-balsamic glazed chicken and roasted asparagus

Lavender-balsamic glazed chicken and roasted asparagus

The End of #BEDN

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Mash-upToday marks the end of Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN). Yay! I made it! I’m really proud of myself and I’m glad I took part in the opportunity. I also have to say that I’m a little relieved. I have a new appreciation for those who do blog every day. It’s really hard to stay motivated and come up with good content when life presents you with plenty of distractions! Overall, I’m very grateful for the variety of new post ideas and of course, new followers and readers who have stopped in to visit.

So how am I spending this last day of November? Well, I’m messing around in the kitchen with some new produce items from the Good Food Collective. One of these items is celeriac or celery root. This item has a mild celery flavor and is often used in soups and French cuisine. I did a little poking around online and recipes were varied and some were quite rich. We just discussed how I have to clean up my food choices and so I was inspired by this Jamie Oliver recipe because I saw the potential to keep it healthy while improvising with a few other ingredients I had on hand.

I can’t recall if I’ve told you about my love for truffle salt or not. I discovered it several years ago while I was working in retail. A friend was peering at the Dean and DeLuca catalog while raving about how she loved sprinkling it on her popcorn. I was immediately intrigued and went to Williams-Sonoma and almost had a heart attack when I saw the price tag. I rationalize paying the price because it’s so flavorful and I use such a small amount that this jar really lasts forever. It’s basically a finishing salt flecked with tiny pieces of black truffle. As my friend suggested, it is wonderful on popcorn, but also adds amazing truffle flavor to rice and potatoes. I knew I had to find a way to work it into a healthy mash-up of potatoes and celeriac. These are so delicious – you will not miss the butter and cream in traditional mashed potatoes at all!

Lady Sensory’s Chub-Checker Celeriac/Potato MashCeleriac

See what I did there? Ha!

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

1 celeriac (celery root), approximately the size of your fist

2 medium-sized red potatoes (also approximately the size of your fist)

6 tbsp water

2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp chives, finely chopped

Cracked black pepper and truffle salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp of cracked pepper and 1 tsp of truffle salt)

Wash potatoes and celeriac thoroughly, peel, and chop into chunks that are roughly 1/2 inch to 1 inch. Warm the oil in a heavy pot on the stove over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes until slightly golden. Add the potatoes and celeriac chunks and cook for another five minutes or so. Raise the heat to medium and add 6 tbsp of water. Bring to a strong simmer (almost boiling but not quite), then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for about 30 minutes. Add the parsley and chives, then mash with a potato masher. These are supposed to be a bit chunky (like in the picture above). Finish with the pepper and truffle salt, adding a little at a time until you reach the desired flavor. This should serve 2 people or one very hungry person.

Happy December!

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-Rosalilium

Date Night?

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Apparently, today’s Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) topic is “Date Night.” Do you feel like Sigmund Freud yet? I think I’m about to sit on your couch and talk to you about why I don’t have a date this weekend. Can’t we just exercise some wish-fulfillment and alleviate some oral fixation by filling our mouths with delicious comfort food?

I actually planned a hot date with my Le Creuset. I know what you are going to say. Despite the fact that our torrid relationship has caused me a burned arm, a broken foot, and smashed toe, I’m taking responsibility for my kitchen antics. This well-built French mofo knows how to treat a girl right. 

Lady Sensory’s Shut Up and Eat Your Feelings Dreamy Potato Leek Soup:

I had to do a little research for this one and I decided to take elements that I liked to create my own version. This soup is a bit fussy but it’s totally worth it. I like to think of it as a blind date that went much better than I initially imagined. If you want to make it vegetarian, feel free to use vegetable stock or water to replace the chicken stock.

2.5 lbs of potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks (I used a mix of red and white boiler potatoes)

3 extra medium-sized potatoes (this is optional – see below)

5 leeks, green and white parts sliced into 1/4″ pieces

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

2 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced

1 tsp each of salt, pepper and Herbes de Provence (you may need additional salt and pepper toward the end of the soup preparation)

1/2 cup dry white wine

8 cups chicken stock (I used a mix of stock and broth, which is fine)

1 bay leaf

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 cup of heavy cream

2/3 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped

1/3 cup chives, finely chopped

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving (bonus – add the cheese rind to the soup if you have it handy)

Plain Greek yogurt, also for serving (you can use crème fraîche or sour cream if you like)

I'm not showing this to gross you out, this is how the pan looks before you deglaze it.

I’m not showing this to gross you out. This is how the pan looks before you deglaze it.

Start by preparing your leeks and potatoes and preheating oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I actually washed the potatoes in the dishwasher (no soap) on the top shelf and it worked really well! Warm a large (6-7 qt) fancy pot on the stove at medium-low temperature (Le Creuset, or any heavy cast iron pot that can easily transfer from stovetop to oven). Add the olive oil and butter, then add the garlic. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the chopped leeks and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the leeks turn bright green and start to soften. Add the potato chunks, raise the temperature slightly and cook for about 5-7 more minutes. Transfer the pot, uncovered, to the oven and roast the potatoes and leeks for about 45 minutes, stirring at 10-15 minute intervals. While they are cooking, boil the 3 remaining unpeeled potatoes in a pot of lightly salted water. This part is optional and only to add a bit of chunky texture to the soup. Drain when tender and set aside. During the last 15 minutes of cooking the potato/leek mixture in the oven, add the Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and stir. The reason behind the delayed seasoning is that salt causes the vegetables to release moisture. The goal is to get the veggies to brown on the bottom of the pot for added flavor, so you want to have very little moisture until the end. When the 45 minutes are up, remove the pot and place on the stove top. Transfer the cooked potatoes and leeks to a separate bowl and warm the pot on medium-low heat. Add the 1/2 cup of wine and start deglazing the pan by stirring with a rubber spatula. Add the stock, a little at a time, stirring until all 8 cups are incorporated. Begin to pulse the potatoes and stock together in a food processor in small batches (or use an immersion blender) until smooth and transfer back to the large pot on the stove. Add the bay leaf and cheese rind (if you have it, seriously – don’t stress out if you don’t have the rind). Allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Zest and juice the lemon and add that and the cup of heavy cream and stir until incorporated. At this time, peel the 3 cooked potatoes, cut into bite-size chunks, and add to the soup. Combine the parsley and chives in a small bowl or ramekin. Turn off the heat and sprinkle half of that mixture into the soup and reserve the rest of the herbs for garnish. Pour soup into a bowl and finish with a little grated Parmesan, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a sprinkle of herbs. This batch makes hearty servings for about 8-10 people. Now savor this rich deliciousness with the knowledge that this could be the start of something very special.

The Waiting Place

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Oh The Places You'll Go! Book Cover

Oh The Places You’ll Go! book cover

“Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.”  ~ Dr. Seuss

Can we get a show of hands from those who received Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! upon graduating from either high school or college? My aunt got me my copy. Now, when’s the last time you picked it up as an adult? If you haven’t, you should revisit it sometime. It’s pretty eye-opening. Today’s Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) post is supposed to be on one of my favorite topics: travel.  As we get a little closer to the end of 2013, I realize this will be the first time in five years that I will not be acquiring a new stamp on my passport. Yep. Insert sad face here. But don’t cry for me, Argentina (note to self: add the land of Malbec to the ‘Travel Bucket List’). I’m very grateful that I have been fortunate enough to have visited several exotic locales over the past few years.  I know that there will be more amazing destinations to come when the timing and financial situation is right. In the meantime, I’m kind of stuck in “The Waiting Place.”

One of the recommended suggestions for this topic was to post about a funny travel story. I’m not sure I can top what I have already done here and here, so please amuse yourself with those tidbits while I present the best of what “The Waiting Place” has to offer at this time of year: New York apples. I’ve told you about how I’ve been participating in the Good Food Collective CSA share. Throughout the fall season, I’ve been getting a variety of about 6-10 apples per pick-up and the crisper drawer was starting to overflow with fruit. With a slight nod to the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe (Ina Garten), I decided to thin out the numbers by making a pot of homemade applesauce.

Apples

Lady Sensory’s Don’t Worry, Don’t Stew Homemade Applesauce

16 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored and sliced. Reserve the peel of two red apples.

Juice and zest of 2 oranges

Juice and zest of 2 small lemons or 1 large lemon (my lemons were the size of limes so I went with 2!)

4 tbsp butter

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

ApplesauceJuice and zest the oranges and lemons, then put the juice and zest in a large cast iron fancy pot (6 – 7 qt) on the stove. Add the butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and dried spices to the mixture. Warm the pot on low until butter just melts and turn off the heat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit while peeling, coring, and slicing the apples.  I used a mix of red, yellow, and green apples. Don’t ask me what they were because I honestly do not have a clue. All were great for snacking and/or baking so choose accordingly. Reserve the peel of two red apples if you can. Mine was a hodge-podge of red apples because I suck at making fruit peels. You’ll eventually discard them, so don’t worry if they aren’t pretty or perfect. Combine your apple slices in the fancy pot with the citrus/spice mixture, cover with the lid, and place in the oven. You will be baking this for about 1.5 – 2 hours, until the apples are very tender. I cooked it for about 1 hour and 20 minutes and then turned the oven off, leaving the pot to sit in the oven for another half hour. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully remove the lid (a lot of steam will be released). With a potato masher or whisk, mash and stir the apples until the desired consistency is reached. This makes about 8-10 servings. It’s very tasty warm but it will also keep in the fridge for a few days in an airtight container. The brown sugar, maple, and vanilla give it a caramel/pie filling flavor that you will really enjoy and the citrus keeps it bright.

I hadn’t made applesauce since I visited an apple-picking farm with my parents as a kid. If you’ve never made it, it’s actually very easy. As a bonus, cooking it elicits the most delicious and natural fall home fragrance you could ever ask for. So when in doubt in the kitchen (or anywhere for that matter), you safely can rely on Dr. Seuss to give you that extra boost of confidence you need: “And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”