As the autumn season approaches, I grow nostalgic for apple picking, pumpkin patching, the scent of leaves and dry brush, and the scurrying of little creatures as they gather food and prepare their families for harsher times.
Autumn is such a peaceful, yet playful, time of the year. Despite the hustle and bustle of back-to-school, football games, and cascading holidays, there is a serenity about autumn that coddles my soul.
There’s no autumn in paradise
Here in Hawaii the seasons do change, though obviously not as dramatically as in Ohio. The lack of environmental shifts that I’m accustomed to during this time remains an oddity to me, and almost unsettling. I’m still so used to the rhythm of Ohio’s changing environment. In a way, I feel like I’m missing a beat (or just missing Ohio).
Though the weather is mainly consistent on the islands, there is a distinguishable “summer” and “winter” season. However, I have yet to observe a collective social drift in style of dress, dinner and beverage preference, and activity during the switch from summer to winter. Perhaps I haven’t lived in Hawaii long enough to grow sensitive to the changes that probably do occur.
During the autumn I know, clothes begin to layer and thicken, meals get heavier, beverages become warmer and fuller-bodied, and people walk closer together. Autumn is chacteristically a transitional season. It is a season of preparation for rest, although ironically it is the busiest season for us humans.
After almost 30 years of being spoiled with such a beautiful and delicious transition, I find the absence of seasonal transition in my humble tropical environment a little disjointing. When I first moved here, I was happy to be rid of cold weather and all its accessories. Autumn was the least of my interests.
Lately, however, I yearn for the smells, tastes, and sounds of autumn. I want to bake bread and apple pie, roast pumpkin seeds and parsnips, wear homemade knit scarves and ankle boots with wool socks, drink hot cider and order bread pudding for dessert… *sigh*
Though I cannot change the weather (and trust me, I don’t want to, it’s perfect here), I can still make my own autumn season and introduce the soul-soothing traditions from my upbringing to paradise.
Creating our own transition
The hubs and I went grocery shopping the other day, and to my beloved’s delight, there sat upon the shelf a selection of pumpkin spice coffee creamers. Hubs was so excited. He was like an 8-year old boy spotting his favorite Power Ranger in a row full of Care Bears and Rainbow Brights.
Our personal autumn season had officially begun.
For me, apples take center stage in autumn. They can be sweet, tangy, or tart, and can be prepared as appetizers, accents in hearty meat dishes, or desserts. Apples are so versatile and palatable and, of course, remind me of my sweet, charming Ohio.
Apple trees are deciduous, which literally means “falling off” or “impermanent.” When the fruit is ripe, it falls from the branches.
The deciduousness of these trees is a gentle reminder of the beauty, nourishment, and impermanence of all life. We grow from the earth, we bloom and fruit, and when we have fully ripened, we fall back to the earth whence we came. It’s a beautiful metaphor and very true.
Apples aren’t a great metaphor in Hawaii, however. It’s not impossible to grow apples in Hawaii, but it is rare. Apple trees require a temperate climate, which can be found at higher elevations on the Big Island. Nonetheless, we have access to a variety of apples that are shipped from various countries.
How ’bout them apples?
Apple pie is my favorite apple dish to make. I love preparing the apple bedding (aka, the crust) from scratch using a couple baking secrets that I’ll probably never share with you because I’m selfish and want to be known as the one who makes the best apple pies ever. (Same goes for my chocolate chip cookies. I have a little vanity in me, sorry.)
Besides apple pie, I love making applesauce. It’s so simple, nutritious, and emits the most amazing autumn smell as it cooks.
I included a recipe below, but there’s not much to it. Just chop up your favorite apples, cook ’em in a pot until tender, then mash ’em up. (It’s sort of like making mashed potatoes.) Add some cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom for extra flavor.
But please. Never, ever, ever add sugar. Apples get sweeter as they cook. So, there is absolutely no need to add sugar to homemade applesauce. If that’s your desire, you might as well keep supporting Mott’s.
(Mott’s is probably the most popular applesauce brand and contains a high level of high fructose corn syrup as an added sweetener. They have a “natural” version on the market, but buying their no-added-sugar products still gives Mott’s funding to produce their more popular items containing added sugar. Don’t buy it. Just make your own.)
I do hope you give homemade applesauce a try this season. You can also use this method for pears and other heartier fruits. And I definitely recommend using this method for making fresh, homemade baby food. Just make sure you purée the living daylights out of your sauce before feeding it to a small child.
Make Your Own Applesauce
Servings: depends on how many apples you use
Prep time: 30-40 minutes depending on how many apples you use
2-3 medium apples for a couple small servings
7-8 medium apples for a week’s worth of servings
1/4 cup for 2-3 medium apples (or more chunky sauce)
3/4 cup or more for 7-8 apples (or more liquid sauce)
Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, or your favorite spices and flavorings that pair well with apples (optional)
If you plan on making a chunky sauce, it may be best to skin the apples first to avoid sharp edges and choking hazards. I usually purée my sauce to a very fine consistency, so the skins are ground well and do not pose a choking hazard. If you are making applesauce for children, plan on puréeing your sauce as fine as you can.
Remove the core of the apple. I don’t have a coring tool, so I just cut around the core. Chop the apples into approximately 1-inch pieces so that they tenderize quickly. Place the apples in a pot and add the water.
Heat the pot on medium heat until the water starts to boil. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to low or medium-low. Let the apples cook for approximately 15-20 minutes or until tender. You may need less time if you are only using 2-3 apples. Note that you can speed-up the process by keeping the heat on medium; however, you’ll have to watch the apples closely, as they could burn. The apples are done when you can easily pierce them with a fork.
If you are using a stainless steel pot, keep the apples in the pot. If you’re using a non-stick pot, it may be best to transfer the apples to a mixing bowl so that you don’t damage the pot surface.
Use a fork, spoon, meat tenderizer, or whatever kind of mashing device you own. I don’t have a meat tenderizer, so I use a muddler. Gently mash the apples to the desired consistency.
You can purée the apples to a finer consistency using a hand blender. You can also transfer the apples to a kitchen blender, but be sure to let the apples cool to room temperature or your apples will explode all over the place. (This happen to me once…with split pea soup…not cool.)
During the mashing and blending phase, feel free to add a teaspoon of spice to jazz up the flavor. But pretty, pretty please, do yourself and your family a favor: do not add sugar to your homemade applesauce.
Oh, and this is what it looks like when you forget that you’re cooking apples on the stove:
It looks like a mini lava field.