Remember when flying used to be fun? When I was little, back when Eastern Airlines, TWA, and People's Express were still in the mix, I remember excitedly looking forward to going on a plane. I received a set of plastic "wings" when I boarded the plane. At some point after we had reached our cruising altitude, one of the friendly flight attendants would take me up front to meet the captain. Best of all, I'd be served a really cool "kid's meal," complete with games and a lollipop, for lunch. What wasn't absolutely fantastic about that?
Fast forward twenty-something years, and my definition for an "absolutely fantastic" flight has changed. Yesterday, Eric and I flew to my parents' house in Delaware for my dad's birthday. We chose to fly Southwest Airlines because I avoid both indirect flights and insultingly unreasonable airfares. Cattle-call boarding procedures aside, we arrived at Philadelphia Airport on time, having experienced a 2008 version of a "pretty fantastic" flight: Southwest didn't charge us for our TWO (gasp!) checked bags. They served drinks and snacks for free (games and a lollipop were not options.) The middle seat between us was empty (obviously, Eric and I do that whole "avoid eye-contact with the people in the aisle so that they don't sit in our row" thing really well.) Security only took 45 minutes. Yes, it was almost modern air-travel heaven.
What was heaven, at least for me, was the large bowl of MacIntosh apples from Millburn Orchards, which was sitting on the island in my mom's kitchen when I walked through the door. For some reason, I have a hard time finding McIntosh varietals in Las Vegas, so I had been dreaming of this quintessential Fall fruit for months. The combination of cooler air, the hint of reds and oranges on the trees, and that big bowl of apples inspired me to make a batch of my chunky spiced applesauce (well, not immediately--we arrived at 2 a.m., and making applesauce at that time would have been a bit odd, so I held off my urge until the next day.) I make this applesauce every year, and my mom and I always made big batches of it when I was growing up. It's a little bit different from traditional applesauce in that it is not completely smooth, but I like it better that way. Other than tasting deliciously sweet and tart by itself, I like to stir in into granola or use it to make applesauce muffins. Here are my extra tips for this autumn apple treat:
- If your grocery store or orchard doesn't have McIntosh apples, you can substitute another variety. Gala, Braeburn, and Fuji will all work nicely. Granny Smith apples are carried pretty much everywhere, and they tart flavor is needed for this recipe, so I wouldn't recommend substituting another variety for them.
- The apple cider can be replaced with regular apple juice.
- I like to can my applesauce in mason jars and give it as gifts. I tried home canning for the first time a few years ago, and found it to be a surprisingly easy process. If you are interested in giving it a try, the Ball web site has step-by-step instructions, along with anything else that you might need to get started.
- In addition to tasting great straight from the jar, homemade applesauce is wonderful to use in muffin or bread recipes, replacing some of the oil and lowering the fat content.
Chunky Spiced Applesauce
Makes about 2 quarts
2 pounds McIntosh apples, peeled and cored
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
1 cup apple cider
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch of cloves
Cut the McIntosh apples into 1-inch pieces. Dice the Granny Smith apples. Combine the apples and the cider in a large, non-reactive saucepan or pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and boil gently for 20 minutes or until the mixture has reduced by half.
Stir in the sugar, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, salt, and cloves. Return the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the mixture is very thick. There should still be some tender apple chunks remaining.
If canning, ladle the applesauce into sterilized jars and process as directed. If refrigerating, cool the applesauce, and then ladle it into jars or containers with air-tight covers.