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Yes, I know Halloween is over. I don’t care. I think you should make these anyway.

When my sister-in-law asked us to help her make candy apples for a work bake sale, I said yes because she’s fun to be with, but I wasn’t exactly excited to eat candy apples. Frankly, every candy apple I’ve ever tasted has been unpleasant. Give me an apple, or give me candy, but the combination? I always figured there was no point in poisoning your tongue with gross candy just to get to a mushy, tasteless apple.

Oddly enough, though, making these gave me an incredible high of self-sufficiency. They’re so pretty, so charming, I had a hard time believing they came out of my kitchen. And, as it turns out, making candy apples at home ensures that the pretty-looks/gross-taste disconnect isn’t an issue.

We used nice crisp granny smith apples for the caramel ones, and the sweet buttery caramel perfectly complemented the apples’ tartness. Plus, the caramel was thick enough that you actually got a bit of it in every apple-bite.

For the shiny red candy apples, we crushed up some hard cinnamon candies to melt into the sugar mixture, so that the coating tasted like something other than sweet. This worked well, and I was pleasantly surprised at the candy coating. I was worried because I was sure the candy was too thick and it would be impossible to bite into, and Amy’s $3 bake sale apples would be a huge disaster, and everyone would ask for their money back and she would blame me and I’d be humiliated. Yes, I am neurotic.

But the candy coating was perfect. It was easy to bite through (easier than the caramel, actually. I may have left that one on the heat about 5 seconds too long), and it gave the impression that the apple had the most crisp, sweet, delicious skin imaginable. The cinnamon candies were a great addition too, as they added just a hint of extra flavour. It was too late by the time I thought of it, but I realized afterwards that instead of using cinnamon candies, it would have been brilliant to use vanilla sugar in the sugar syrup. Next time.

One more stroke of genius was our apple-washing technique. When I was researching recipes, I read that the standard waxy supermarket coating often prevents caramel from holding to the sides of the apple. People advised quickly bobbing apples in boiling water to remove at least some of the wax. Here’s my technique: I put my large pot, the one with a pasta insert, on to boil, and I lined the pasta insert with apples. When the water was boiling, I dropped in the pasta insert, giving the apples a 5-second bath without having to risk my fingers with pouring and dumping boiling water. Then I transferred the apples to an ice-water bath to make sure they wouldn’t cook (thus compromising their crunchiness) even the slightest bit.

Final conclusion: pretty, tasty, infinitely edible. Don’t save these home-made candy apples just for Halloween!

Caramel Apples
adapted from Martha Stewart

candy thermometer
10 sticks (popsicle sticks are fine, but skewers grouped in threes look quite elegant)
10 tart and crunchy apples (smaller is better)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup golden corn syrup
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
pinch of salt

1. Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper, generously buttered. Make sure you’ve got room in your fridge for the baking sheet. Stick skewers or sticks in the apples.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large (the deeper the better) pot, and bring slowly to a boil. Allow the mixture to continue simmering until it reaches 245 F.

3. Remove the mixture from the pot and stir it vigorously to cool it down and stop its bubbling action. Working quickly, dip each apple in the caramel. We used a spoon to pull the caramel up from the pan around the sides of the apple. Transfer apple to baking sheet.

4. Place baking sheet in the refrigerator until the caramel is cooled and set, at least 15 minutes or overnight. If you have leftover caramel (we did!), pour the caramel onto a buttered piece of parchment paper or wax paper and allow it to set. Then consume it enthusiastically.

Shiny Candy-Coated Apples
adapted from All Recipes
One of the secrets of this recipe is not to stir the sugar syrup while it’s bubbling and heating. This is hard to do, but leave it alone! It doesn’t need you. Just keep an eye on the temperature, because it gets hot quickly. You also need to work fast to coat the apples once you’ve taken the syrup off the heat. It cools really quickly.

candy thermometer
10 sticks/skewers
10 red apples (find nice crunchy ones)
2 cups white sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup cinnamon hearts or cinnamon hard candies, crushed (I put them in a plastic bag and hit them with a meat pounder)
8 drops red food colouring

1. Generously butter a sheet pan. Don’t try using paper–it will probably end up sticking to the apples. Put skewers/sticks in apples.

2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and cinnamon candies in a heavy-bottomed pot and heat at medium heat. I stirred mine to help the cinnamon candies dissolve, but I stopped stirring once the mixture was boiling. Continue cooking your sugar syrup until it reaches 300 F, then remove from heat.

3. Working quickly, dip and roll the apples in the candy mixture to coat. Use a spoon to pull syrup over spots you missed, if necessary. Place apple on prepared sheet to cool (this happens quickly).

PS. I can’t get my images to centre in wordpress. Anyone have any hints? fixed

PPS. We’ve decided to participate in NaBloPoMo again this month. Despite the slight crazy-makingness of it last year, it was a rewarding experience that got us in touch with a lot of great people. We’re looking forward to doing it again!

From Apple Jellies

It’s 7:30 and I’m watching the sunrise. I do this every morning, and (lucky me?), I get the full effect, since I’m up at 5:00. Nowadays, it’s still completely black at five, so I wait for the sun with great anticipation. My desk faces the window, so I get to watch all the phases of light in the morning while I sit on the phone discussing the present perfect tense or the differences between “say” and “tell” with my students. My favourite phase of sunrise comes just after the sun is up, when a beautiful apricot light illuminates the apartment and everything in it lights up with gold.

One of the lovely idiosyncrasies of our apartment is that, although our windows are completely east-facing, we get a beautiful sunset to go along with the sunrise I witness every morning. Impossible, you say? Never! You see, directly east of us is the downtown core, a place full of mirrored glass buildings. We get a pre-sunset reflection off those glass buildings that fills our evening with the same apricot gold that I see every morning.  An urban sunset!

The reason I’m telling you this is that when I was looking through pictures of the apple jellies I made over the weekend, they reminded me of my lucky sunrise-sunset. While they’re not exactly the same colour, they have a sunny peachy tone that makes me think of the sky at sunrise.

Anyway, I discovered this apple jelly recipe in Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Food,” which I’ve raved about before. It’s a simple but not a quick recipe. If you’ve got good apples, it’s well worth your time. Mine came from a tree in my parents’ backyard.

Sugared, these jellies are great little treats. Alice Waters also recommends keeping them unsugared as a cheese-platter addition. They’d be fantastic with a hard, full-flavoured cheese. I meant to try it out, but my jellies have all disappeared! They’re almost as fleeting as the sunset.

APPLE JELLIES

3 pounds of apples, quartered and seeded
1 cup water

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Line a lightly greased 8×8 square baking dish (or a 9″ round cake pan, if you’re like me and don’t have a square) with waxed paper. Set the baking dish aside.

Cook apples with water in a covered heavy-bottomed pot until very soft. This should take about 20 minutes.

When the apples are soft, remove them from the heat and send them through a food mill, or if you must do it the hard way (I had to. There was a bit of swearing.), press them through a sieve.

When the fruit is pureed, put it back into the pot and stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Simmer this mixture on low heat until it is very thick. This took me about 1 1/2 hours. You will need to stir it often to make sure it’s not sticking. The jelly is ready when it stays in place where you’ve scraped it instead of flowing back to cover the bottom of the pot. Waters says to use an oven mitt to protect yourself from splatters, but I had no problems with this.

When your jelly is sufficiently thickened, spread it into your prepared dish and allow it to cool. When it’s completely cooled, invert it onto another piece of wax paper, remove the top layer of paper, and allow it to dry out overnight.

If your paste isn’t dry enough (again, not a problem I had), you can put it in a barely-warm oven (150 F) for an hour until it firms up, allowing it to recool before cutting.

When your jelly is ready, you can toss the pieces in coarse sugar if you like, or stash it, wrapped in plastic, for whenever you’d like a little taste of sun. Waters says it will last a year!

From Apple Jellies
  
From Crabapples

It’s 5 C today. It’s been going below zero overnight. Our garden is finished for the year, the last of the plants harvested or left to die (you should see how sad frozen tomato plants look). We’re getting ready for winter, which, for me at least, involves mostly mental time. I have to remind myself that winter’s coming (as if, with this weather, it would be easy to forget), and make my plans. Mostly this is a good thing. I think of books I’ll read, TV shows Carlo and I will watch when it’s too cold to get outside and walk, and of winter stews. I will admit, though, the retreat of summer is always a little bitter. No more garden tomatoes! No more bare legs! No more grass!

Something we’ve done this year to lessen the blow is preserves. Since I was a little girl, my mom has canned in the fall. I remember canned peaches and pears, but most of all, applesauce. Do you know what applesauce tastes like? No, really, what real applesauce tastes like? Because what you can buy off the supermarket shelf, that’s not applesauce. It’s a pale, tasteless, gag-inducing interloper. Real applesauce is peachy-pale, tart and tasty. It’s a perfect preserve to keep in a winter pantry arsenal. And I’ve got my own applesauce arsenal this year! I’ve never done it before, but this year I joined my mom in the kitchen, and we took advantage of a neighbour’s unwanted wealth of crabapples.

Crabapples are beautiful little fruits, just a bit bigger than cherries and nearly the same colour, a dark, dusky, purple-tinged red. But you have to process them to enjoy them. These are definitely not eating apples–they’re super-tart, not to mention too tiny to offer any real apple satisfaction. So we processed. And processed… and processed. There were a lot of apples. We made applesauce, we made jelly, we made liqueur, we made sorbet. And there are still two or three litres of crabapple juice sitting in the freezer waiting for my next idea.

Crabapples are a pain to work with because of their size, but their deeply-coloured skin makes for a gorgeous final product, and I love their distinctive tart flavour. Here are a few recipes, none super-precise, as we were winging it in the kitchen.

CRABAPPLE SAUCE
This is a beautiful pink sauce (see picture below). If you’re making a small amount, feel free to just transfer finished sauce to a jar and into the fridge. If you have a load of crabapples to dispose off, try canning them–crabs are super-acidic, so they take well to canning. When you’ve cooked your apples, save any juice that may have accumulated in the bottom of the pot–it’s perfect for jelly!

Crabapples, washed and stemmed
Sugar (to taste, but I found a 2:1 apple to sugar ratio was good)
A touch of water

After you’ve washed and stemmed your crabs, put them in a large pot on the stovetop with a splash of water in the bottom (just to prevent sticking). Cook over medium heat until apples are very soft and beginning to disintegrate (about 30 to 45 minutes or longer, depending on how big your pot of apples is). When apples are soft, process them in a food mill to remove skins and seeds. Reserve the clear juices at the bottom of the pot for jelly. When you’ve processed the apples, you’ll have a smooth, pink, and very tart sauce. Add sugar to taste, beginning with about 1/3 as much sugar as you have sauce (eg. 1 1/2 cups sauce=1/2 cup sugar). Taste and continue adding sugar until you’re satisfied with the flavour. Transfer to a jar for the fridge, or put sauce into sterilized jars and can in a boiling water bath.

CRABAPPLE JELLY
I think because there is so much skin compared to flesh in crabapple, their juices are very high in natural pectin and thus is super-welcoming for jelly making. I love this jelly on pancakes, but I feel like it would be good with chicken too.

Leftover crabapple juice from sauce-making OR crabapple juice extracted with a juicer
An equal amount of sugar

Combine juice and sugar, and bring them to boil on the stovetop. Make sure the sugar is totally dissolved, then continue simmering for 10 minutes. You’ll have a thick syrup. Pour this syrup into sterilized jars for canning, or just throw it into the fridge. When the mixture cools it will set, so don’t worry if it doesn’t seem thick enough for jelly. It’ll happen.

CRABAPPLE LIQUEUR
This is so easy–it requires no real skill but patience. I added a couple sprigs of thyme to my vodka-crabapple mix, just to try it out.

Crabapples, cleaned, stemmed, and halved
Sugar syrup (combine sugar and water in equal amounts, and bring them to a boil. Allow sugar to dissolve, then remove from heat)
Gin or Vodka
Thyme

Fill half-litre jars with crabs (almost up to their necks), then add 1/3 cup of sugar syrup per jar. Add liquor to cover, then put on lids. Agitate gently to combine liquor and sugar. Put jars in a cool, dark place for a few months. Go ahead and shake them up occasionally. If you do this now, it’ll probably taste good by Christmas.

      

 

 

 

Crabapple Sauce

From Crabapples

I work from home, which is usually pretty great, but is not always the enviable position you might imagine. Often it means that there’s no escape from work, and I’ll find myself lounging on the couch watching TV in the evenings, worrying about the pile of work sitting accusingly on the table next to me. However, one great advantage (slash disadvantage) is that when an idea strikes me I can go ahead and do it. And, because I’m a great procrastinator and I welcome any distraction, I usually do it immediately. Case in point: this apple vermouth cocktail. I read the recipe on serious eats an hour ago and I knew I had to try it. A jog to the grocery store (and two liquor stores) later, it’s sitting in the fridge. I’m not much of a patience kind of person, I guess. I do, however, have to wait at least five days to try this out. We’ll let you know how is tastes next week.

p.s. As I don’t have a mandoline, I used the slicer of my food processor to do the work. You could also slice the apples by hand. Also, the recipe doesn’t specify whether or not to peel the apples, so I didn’t.

Oatmeal and Apple Pancakes from www.supperinstereo.com

Saturday mornings, I like to play housewife. Instead of telling Carlo “make your own breakfast. You’re a grown man,” I get out of bed and cheerfully mix flour and baking powder together to make a weekend feast. Sometimes it’s muffins, but usually it’s pancakes because they come together so fast and cook quickly enough that my hunger doesn’t overwhelm my good intentions. When the food is ready, we douse our pancakes in maple syrup, sprinkle a little sugar on our lattes, and curl up in armchairs with our plates on our laps. It’s a good way to start a Saturday.

Last time I made these pancakes, I used whole wheat flour. This time I used all-purpose. It’s good both ways, but the whole wheat does make them a bit heavier. They’re very filling because of the oatmeal, which adds a rich creaminess that goes really well with tart grated Granny Smith apples.

1/2 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups cooked oatmeal (I use instant oatmeal, but this would be great with rolled oats)
3/4 cup milk
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
unsalted butter

Preheat a skillet on medium heat.

Mix together flour, salt and baking soda. Add wet ingredients and mix gently.

Melt a generous pat of butter onto the skillet and pour batter in 1/4-1/2 cup servings onto skillet. Allow to cook until bubbles show on one side, then flip and cook on the other side until both sides are golden. Flip pancakes onto a plate, cover with maple syrup, and relax.

*By the way, can you tell we just bought a new camera? You could if you looked at any of our earlier posts. It’s a Canon Powershot G7, and we loooove it. But now that we have no excuses about image quality, any ugly photos are entirely our own faults. I’d love to hear some food photo tips!*

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