October Apples, Sauced in a Star Anise-Brown Sugar Syrup

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….’today, in October sun, it’s all gold—sky and tree and water. Everything just before it changes looks to be made of gold.’ (“The Wide Net” by Eudora Welty, The Collected Stories)

This “changing-time” is apple season…days are still sunny and warm, but the evenings are cool and crisp. It is time to once again crank up the stove and do some more serious cooking. Apple Sauce is a favorite of mine, but it’s almost impossible to find any canned or jarred product that is truly satisfying. The best in the world is homemade and a bit chunky in my opinion.  I enjoy a bold flavor in my sauced apples so I often make my own.

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A few years ago I bought a hand crank apple peeler that clamps onto my kitchen counter and is honestly just so much fun to use that I sometimes get a bit carried away and keep on peeling ’til there is not much left but the core! For making apple sauce this is one kitchen gadget/tool that you must have.

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Beautiful apple peel ribbons.

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Apples from a neighbor’s tree.

I made up a simple syrup using cranberry juice, star anise seeds and brown sugar. The peeled and chopped apples simmer and cook down in this very flavorful syrup making the final product uniquely delicious.

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Apple sauce put up in wee jars so each bite is fresh.

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Pick some local apples and make up a batch of this recipe…any type of tart, crunchy apple works…spread finished apple sauce on toasted bread, a turkey or grilled cheese sandwich or serve with your next pork roast. These little jars make very nice fall/winter gifts as well.

October Apples, Sauced in Anise-Brown Sugar Syrup

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Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lbs tart fall apples – Honey Crisp, MacIntosh, Arkansas Black or Granny Smith
  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 2 cups raw/brown sugar
  • 2 whole star anise seeds
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

  1. Peel apples & rough chop. Put in a stainless steel cook pot.
  2. Add the Star Anise simple syrup to the pot. Turn heat to medium high. Stir mixture until a soft boil begins then turn to simmer. Stir every so often to keep apples from sticking. Cook down until mixture has thicken but is still chunky.
  3. Remove pot from stove and stir in lemon juice.
  4. Spoon apple sauce into small glass jars with tight-fitting lids and process in a water bath for 20 minutes. Remove jars from water & set on a wire rack to cool. You should hear a soft “thump” when lids seal properly and they will be concave. Cool completely and store in pantry until ready to eat. Depending on the size of your jars this recipe makes 6-8 jars.

How to make simple syrup:

  1. Put 2 cups cranberry juice, 2 cups raw/brown sugar & 2 whole star anise seeds in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved and turn heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes until mixture thickens slightly. Set aside to cool. Use immediately or chill in a glass jar with a lid.

How to do a simple water bath processing:

  1. If you have a canner then fill with enough water to cover the size jars you are canning up to one inch above the jar tops.
  2. Place filled jars in wire rack that comes with the canner pan and lower it down into the water. Bring water to a rolling boil. Process jars in boiling water for 20 minutes. Turn heat off and leave jars in cooling down water for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove jars from canner to a wire rack and let cool completely. Jars will seal as they cool making a soft “thump” sound. Jar lids will be concave when jars are properly sealed.

Note on canning:

I have used a large stock pot with a round wire cooling rack sitting on the bottom of the pan instead of a canner kit. You just put the rack in the pot, place jars, not touching, on the rack & gently cover tops of jars with water. Continue the processing as you would when using a canner from this point on.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

“Drinkable Food” for the Holidays

“Drinkable Food”…beautiful beet juice cocktail with pear & star anise garnish….

In a few days it will be December….D-e-c-e-m-b-e-r!  November went by in a flash. I remember returning from a trip to Mexico…lots of food styling shoots…and the last Third Thursday Dinner Party of the year…and…oh, yeah…Thanksgiving. If anything could send you running to the home bar I believe November would be it. The need for a very deep red, but somewhat wholesome cocktail comes to my mind this time of year. A cocktail that will give you vitamins & minerals while creating a sense of well-being & unreality!  Basically a perfect cocktail to fortify one for what is to come between now and the New Year. A cocktail perfect for a party small or large.

“Drinkable Food” recipe for Good Health & Mental Fortification for the Holidays  (makes 2 quarts)

1. Make a simple syrup using 1 1/2 cup water, 5 or 6 whole star anise & 1 cup dark brown sugar. Bring water & sugar to a low boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Toss in star anise and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes until mixture is syrupy. Remove from heat. Set aside to cool completely.

Strain mixture to remove star anise. Put in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and chill until ready to use.

2. Peel 3 medium size fresh beets. Chop into large chunks. Puree using a food processor. You will probably have to work in batches.

3. Strain pureed beets over a bowl, pressing pulp with a wooden spoon to release most of the juice. Don’t toss out that beet pulp! Fresh beet pulp is great in breads & cakes. See Nigel Slater’s Book “Tender” or wait for my next blog to see how to make a killer chocolate cake using beet pulp. Freeze the pulp.

As with most of my cocktail recipes this one is not an exact science project, but more a mix & taste project until I hit the “sweet spot”. Is there any color of red more delicious than fresh beet juice? I think not.

4. I had about 3 cups of beet juice when all my beets were pureed & pressed. To this juice I added 1 cup of the Star Anise & Moscovado Sugar Simple Syrup…

…..1.5 liter pure apple juice…..

….and 1.5 cups Bulleit Rye Whiskey.

Bulleit Rye Whiskey

Taste & adjust to your liking. Decant into glass jars with tight-fitting lids. Chill until ready to drink.

Add a label…or not. Great over ice with a star anise & slice of pear to garnish. Get ready, get fortified!

It’s almost December….get your red on!