Monday, October 10, 2011

As Time Goes By


Camel Hump Mountain, Vermont
 I lived in Vermont the year before I got married.  My landlord and landlady were generous people straight from the pages of Vermont Country Living.  He sported an overgrown beard and plaid shirts and she traipsed around in fur-lined Birkenstocks and hand-dyed wool sweaters.  When I left to start my life anew in the South land, they gave me a simple contraption in which you can make home-made apple sauce, because to a Vermonter, store bought apple-sauce from Mott's is like Prego or Ragu to an Italian. 

Authentic Vermont Appe Sauce Maker
Every fall for the first 3 years we were married I pulled out the apple-sauce maker and dutifully made a few jars of fresh, unadulterated apple sauce.  I gathered my pre-school nieces and nephew around me and revelled in their delight as we smushed up apples and mixed them with sugar and cinnamon, and I dreamed about the day when I could make applesauce with my as-yet unborn children.  And then.  And then the children came.  All three of them.  One sleepless year after the other.   Three babies in 26 months; no twins.  There was no apple sauce.  There was only teething and dirty diapers and frustrated trips to lactation consultants that ended blissfully with trips to Costco to buy Enfamil.  

Halloween 2005
And before I knew it, fall was all about coordinating matching costumes and carving pumpkins and getting to know new teachers that made my children construct stupid dioramas out of cardboard that fell apart right as they walked onto the school bus.  And now fall is about shuttling kids to soccer and karate and having a teenager that I hardly know anymore because she won't talk to me.  And I have never made apple sauce with them.  Not once.  Ever.  Until now. 

I had always pictured that our apple-saucing would begin by bundling the children up with a picnic lunch and heading out to a far-flung orchard to pick our apples right off the tree.  We'd sing songs on the way out, frolic in the crisp autumn air, and then the children would sweetly fall asleep on the way home while I held my husband's hand in contented silence.  Yeah right.  When I mentioned an orchard the kids got a panicked look in their eyes and quickly retreated to avoid what they have come to call "Forced Family Fun."  My husband merely snorted something about too many bees and wanting to power wash the back deck.  Fine.  If we aren't going to have a day of Walton-family apple picking I'll buy the stupid apples at the grocery store, which I did.

Die, Infidel, Die!
Then I forced my children to gather around me for our First Annual Making of the Apple Sauce.  My youngest fled the kitchen screaming that the process of boiling apples and then smushing them into apple-sauce oblivion was "disgusting;"  my teenager crossed her arms, rolled her eyes and then sighed in utter boredom as she sauntered back upstairs to her lair of adolescent angst. Only my son stuck around.  He pretended that each boiled apple was the head of an enemy combatant to be tortured and pulverized in the vice grip of the death machine that is the apple sauce maker.   Nice.  Not exactly the Hallmark moment that I was going for.   So much for the Annual Making of the Apple Sauce.  This is one, I think, that got away from me. 

 Don't get me wrong.  I don't believe that my children will be scarred or emotionally crippled by the fact that annual apple sauce making is not one of our traditions.  Children, it turns out, are very forgiving.  It seems,  however, that time is less so. Missed opportunities are just that.  Missed.

Homemade Apple Sauce

1.     Spend way too much money on about one and a half pounds of locally grown apples.  Don't go crazy trying to figure out what kind to buy.  If you get apples that are too tart, you can just season them with more sugar.  I happen to like Gala.  You do want to avoid Red Delicious, however.  All they are is red.

2.     Dump the apples into a large saucepan with about two inches of water.  Boil the hell out them until they are soft and tender; about 5 minutes.  You will know they are ready because the skins will be cracked and the soft white flesh of the apples will be started to spill out.  My youngest wasn't all wrong--they do look disgusting.
3.    Drain off any excess water, cover, and while they cool, take your teenage daughter to the mall to buy a dress for her cousin's wedding because, NO--you can't wear jeans and one of Daddy's Red Sox t-shirts to a wedding.

4.    Get out the Apple Sauce Maker from the garage.  Clean the spider webs off of it.

5.    Dump the boiled apples into the apple sauce maker and pound and grind the pulp from the apples out through the colander-cone.  If you don't have an apple sauce maker, just make the apple sauce like you would mashed potatoes:   core and peel them; cut them into chunks, and then boil them until they are soft and tender and easily mashed with a potato masher.

6.    Season with cinnamon and sugar.

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