Today’s guest blogger is Jayne Cohen – author of Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations. She writes frequently for other publications, including Bon Appetit, Epicurious, Gourmet, Food and Wine, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsday and Boston Globe.
You expect it with the Hanukkah superstars: sizzling latkes, the perfect balance of crunch and creamy potato; the seductive aroma of garlicky brisket. But I’m always amazed at how humble homemade applesauce elicits the same oohs and ahs at my holiday cooking demonstrations.
Made with a few varieties of good, local fruit, and sweetened with reduced juice, not sugar, the fresh-tasting sauce has deep apple flavor. And it’s simple to prepare.
This recipe adds pomegranate molasses and brown butter to my basic one for a tangy, deliciously creamy applesauce. Serve it with traditional potato latkes, or while still warm, over cheese latkes, pancakes, or blintzes, or atop a steaming bowl of oatmeal. Or with just a spoon.
A note about the apples: taste the different apples available in your markets to find your local favorites. I’ve noticed that some varieties taste quite different when sampled in other parts of the country or in Europe. I’d completely written off Golden Delicious because it is so dreadful in New York. But the one I tasted at a culinary conference in Portland had real apple flavor and excellent texture.
Using unpeeled apples is not only quicker, but also adds flavor, nutrients, and a soft, rosy cast to the sauce. But you’ll need to peel the apples if they’ve been sprayed or waxed, or if you’re not pureeing them through a food mill to mash them and trap the peels, but instead, using a food processor or mashing by hand.
Fresh Applesauce with Pomegranate Molasses and Brown Butter
Adapted from Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen.
1 1/2 cups pure, unsweetened apple juice
1 or 2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed with the side of a flat knife or kitchen mallet (use the larger amount for a more pronounced aromatic spiciness; 1 pod will make a difference), optional
1 cinnamon stick
2 pounds flavorful apples, unpeeled, cored, and cut into chunks (6 cups; if you are going to puree the sauce in a food processor instead of using a food mill or strainer, peel the apples; choose a mixture of apples with sweet but complex flavors to echo the character of the sauce, such as Braeburn, Gala, and Stayman Winesap, rather than very tart varieties; look for fresh, local apples if possible)
about 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.In a 6-quart Dutch oven or wide heavy saucepan large enough to accommodate all of the apples, combine the juice, cardamom, if using, cinnamon, and a generous pinch of salt. Boil uncovered, over high heat, until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add the apples, mix well to coat with juice, and simmer, covered, until they are very tender, about 25 minutes depending on the variety of apples. Stir them from time to time, and if necessary, add a bit more juice to prevent sticking.
2.The sauce should be thick and pulpy with little liquid visible. If necessary, boil it down for a few minutes, uncovered. Pick out and discard the cardamom and cinnamon. Put the sauce through a food mill or force it through a colander or strainer to remove the skins. Or if you used peeled apples, process in a food processor until smooth or leave somewhat chunky, according to preference.
3.Transfer the sauce to a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses and taste. Add a little more if you want the sauce tarter. (If this is your first time using pomegranate molasses, you may want to start with less.)
4.Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer until foam subsides and butter turns nut-brown, swirling pan occasionally, 3-4 minutes. Pour brown butter through a strainer into applesauce and stir well. If possible, set aside for 30 minutes to blend flavors. Serve room temperature or warm (gently reheat, if desired).
Cook’s Note: You can use this recipe as a guide, omitting or supplementing the pomegranate molasses and spices with your own aromatic additions such as a strip of lemon, orange, or tangerine zest, a few prunes, or even peppercorns. Combine these seasonings with the juice–or try a fruitier, unsweetened juice such as cranberry- or raspberry-apple. Taste the finished sauce and adjust for sweetness.
Yield: About 2 cups
Jayne Cohen is the author of Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations – named 2009 James Beard Finalist in the International Cookbook Award category–published February 2008 by John Wiley and Sons, and The Gefilte Variations: 200 Inspired Re-creations of Classics from the Jewish Kitchen (Scribner 2000). She is a contributing editor and food blogger (Beyond Brisket blog) at Jewish Woman Magazine and writes the food column Essen Around at Centropa. Visit www.jewishholidaycooking.com and www.jwmag.org (or Google Beyond Brisket) and http://centropa.org/?nID=61.
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