Let's Hit The Sauce

apples, cranberries & few cinnamon sticks
For a good chunk of my childhood, a few days before Thanksgiving, I got the call: it was time. Time to make Cranberry Applesauce. My grandmother's friend invited me over and together, we made a giant batch of the stuff. While 6 McIntosh apples, cored and cut into 1/8ths and 1 1/4 cups of cranberries simmered in a pot with a couple of cinnamon sticks and 1/2 cup of apple juice, we talked about my school or I looked at the beautiful things my grandmother's friend collected while she and her husband were stationed in Japan.

After the apples and cranberries had broken down, we ran them through a food mill: a pot-type thing with a perforated bottom and a crank that sweeps a wide blade around the mill. In went the boiled down apples and cranberries and as I turned the crank, the fruit was separated from its skins and red, fragrant sauce seeped from the mill into a waiting bowl. We stirred in a tablespoon of butter, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of finely grated nutmeg. Stir, stir, stir, taste. More butter? Yep, more butter. More brown sugar? Yep, more brown sugar. We adjusted the flavors to taste and viola: Cranberry Applesauce.

Applesauce kind of seems like a food stuff for children and the dentally impaired, but the addition of cranberries and fresh nutmeg makes this applesauce so sophisticated. I'm addicted.

I made a batch from my freshly picked apples this week and the cooking fruit filled my apartment with a spicy and intoxicating scent.

I read somewhere that acid (citrus, vinegar) makes your mouth water and that primes your palate to enjoy food. I thought of that as I stood over my bowl of warm applesauce, eating it greedily with a soup spoon. The tartness of the cranberries must prime my palate brilliantly. This dish is a staple at my family Thanksgiving dinner and often shows up at Christmas, as well. So the taste is enhanced with reminiscences of family meals past and, of course, with the memory of standing in the kitchen with my grandmother's friend, one of her aprons tied around my waist, stirring and chatting and adding more butter.