March has hit New York City with an icy vengeance. Spring may technically be on the horizon, the daylight has begun to be saved, but winter is still howling to be heard — to the tune of not one, not two, but three nor’easters in less than two weeks. We, dear readers, are officially over it. We’re tired of heavy coats and slick sidewalks and being stabbed in the face by the blustery blast of a million tiny ice crystals.
It’s tempting to make like the groundhog and just bury back under the covers, hiding away from the cold until the sun comes out for real. But alas, we both have jobs to do and lives to live outside our cozy dens. So instead of surrendering to the cold, we have decided to fight it the best way we know how: comfort food.
Now at first glance, this recipe may seem to be better suited to fall than early spring; apples are a traditionally October crop, after all, and the apple+honey combo screams Rosh Hashanah more than Purim. But applesauce is warm and cozy and homey: It’s basically a hug for your mouth. And in this slushy season, we could all use a little gustatory snuggle. Plus, as a bonus, it will make your apartment smell like a giant, spicy hug. Who needs candles when you can cook apple mush!
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons honey (Ronni notes that “raw unfiltered honey from a local beekeeper is best,” but the supermarket variety works just fine, too.)
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
4 whole, unbroken cardamom pods [Note: If, like us, you were unable to procure whole cardamom pods, you can substitute ½ teaspoon ground cardamom. You’ll just want to add it later in the recipe, instead of infusing your honey mixture with the whole spices. More on this later.]
2 ½ pounds apples
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan.
Add the honey and stir until it’s completely dissolved. Add the cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom pods, and remove the pan from the heat while you prepare the apples.
Peel, core, and slice the apples into eighths.
Add the apples to the pan, stir to combine, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently to keep it from scorching, until the apples are soft enough to be pierced by a fork — about 15-20 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and remove the whole spices. If a rogue clove escapes your grasp, do not fret! Ronni says not to worry (but do make sure you get the cinnamon and cardamom pods). Let cool a little bit; they don’t need to be room temperature, but you don’t want them so hot that they’ll burn your blender.
Puree the apples in a blender or food processor until they reach your desired level of smoothness (or chunkiness, you do you). [Note: If you are using ground cardamom, now is the moment to stir it in!]
Now here, dear readers, is where we ran into some issues. Scout’s apartment, where we found ourselves on this brisk Monday, comes equipped with a small, smoothie-size blender — which, while cute, does a rather abysmal job of blending fruit. We tried cooking the apples down. We tried chopping them up finely before blending. We tried moving and shaking the blender. After 30 minutes, we ended up with one small cup of applesauce. Now, this applesauce was delicious. But given the effort-to-result ratio, we opted to skip blending the remaining 2.8 pounds of apples and just throw some brown sugar on the damn things and caramelize them instead. Potential kitchen disaster: managed.
You can serve your applesauce warm immediately, or you can cool it and eat it cold later, or you can reheat it and put it on ice cream or a biscuit. The world is your oyst…er, apple! We went for option one, given that Zelda had to depart for her office. And the sauce, little of it though there was, was really damn good. And you know what? So were the caramelized apples! So we’re going to go ahead and call this a victory (and maybe, in Scout’s case, invest in a food processor for next time).