Fall is often a mere blip in our city’s seasonal existence, before the long winter comes rolling in. Not this year! After a rather mild summer, Chicago is enjoying a slow, warm transition to fall. We Chicagoans have actually been able to experience a few weeks of legitimate sweater weather (not the old “sweater plus winter jacket weather” that this month typically brings). I’m soaking up every sun-filled, crisp day while I can.
With fall comes an abundance of apples in my CSA share. Starting in mid August, I began receiving nearly a dozen apples every week. The past two months have been an amazing lesson in just how many different kinds of apples grow in the Midwest, beyond what we normally find in the grocery store. I had never heard of Zestar, Pristine or Jersey Mac apples before, but now I am hooked.
Since the bounty started arriving, apples have made their way into many of my meals. Apple oatmeal, apples in salad, apple cake, apple butter, the list goes on. However, many of these recipes only call for a couple of apples at a time, which means that despite my best efforts, apples started piling up fast.
I sourced apple recipe inspiration from our staff at The Chopping Block. Blair, a Chef’s Assistant, pointed out that the obvious solution was to make apple sauce. At first, I thought it was just too boring, I wanted something more adventurous! But upon further reflection, I knew Blair was right. By making applesauce, I could quickly make my way through dozens of apples and could leverage its longer shelf life during winter baking.
Luckily, around the time my fridge was filling with apples, The Chopping Block received our annual shipment of Norpro Apple Masters. The Apple Master allows you to quickly core, peel and slice apples (and other types of produce). Our chefs use them every year to quickly prep crates of apples for our our famous apple pie for the annual Lincoln Square Apple Fest. I picked one up for myself and went home to test it out.
How did it go? Well, see for yourself.
The Apple Master has been around for decades, and while it looks a bit old fashioned, it is still the best on the market because it works so well. In about ten minutes, I had two dozen apples cored and cut (I opted to preserve the apple peel for more texture and flavor in my apple sauce). I shudder to think how long that would have taken with my handheld vegetable peeler. Needless to say, my peeler has been relegated to smaller, less taxing jobs.
After I cored all of my apples, I cut my apples into smaller pieces for faster cooking. I then put the apples into a large stock pot, added about five cups of water and two cinnamon sticks and turned the stove on high. After the pot came to a boil, I turned the heat down to medium low, to keep the pot at a simmer and let the apples cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
Cook the apples until you reach your desired consistency. I wanted a little bite and texture to my final product, so I turned off the heat around 35 minutes. I tested my batch and it was perfect, no sweetener required. Since I had so many different kinds of apples in my pot, the variety of flavors resulted in a richer, sweeter flavor. If you only have one type of apple, slowly add the sweetener of your choice (I recommend brown sugar or maple syrup) until you reach your preferred sweetness. Let your apple sauce cool, then refrigerate (or can it for a longer shelf life).
A few of my jars of apple sauce. Intrigued by the pink hue? By leaving the skins on my varied bunch of apples, my end result was a beautiful, pale pink apple sauce.
I look forward to using my Apple Master to help prep the apples for pie and the potatoes for mashing this Thanksgiving. It has certainly found common place in my kitchen for many years to come. If you find yourself with bags of apples after an outing to an orchard or the farmer’s market, stop by The Chopping Block and pick up an Apple Master for yourself. If you want to learn how to make our famous apple pie for your holiday menu, join us for the “Thanksgiving Crash Course” class, occurring throughout November to help you prepare for this holiday season!
Here are the days Thanksgiving Crash Course is being offered: