Monday, September 14, 2009

Grandma's apple sauce

You can take the girl out of Cleveland, but you can't take Cleveland out of the girl.

That's what my mom always says. And she's right -- particularly when it comes to food.

Each time I trek from Phoenix back to Cleveland, I crave certain things. A turkey sandwich from Penn Station. Custard pie from Amish country. And an apple crunch bagel from Panera (how is Panera *still* not in AZ??). I also drink a LOT of soda (or "pop," I should say) while I'm there.

I moved to Arizona five years ago and quickly found myself in a position that I was not accustomed to: celebrating a holiday away from family. It's not easy, and I don't like it. But I'm used to it now, and I have learned that spending holidays with good friends and establishing your own traditions can be very fulfilling. At our Phoenix Thanksgiving, everyone makes their finest family recipes, passed from generation to generation, because we all want to replicate the feeling of being around our loved ones during the holidays. The result is a potluck of some really amazing food. My contribution is always my Grandma's apple sauce.

I called my Grandma during my first fall in Arizona to ask her how to make her infamous apple sauce. It is a dish she made for dinner for all the major holidays. A staple. Something I associated with family and celebration. So if I couldn't go home to share it with my family, I would bring it to my new home, and my new family.

She described, over the phone, how to make it. She doesn't have a recipe. It's not written down. She just sort of talked me through it. I hung on her every word. And for five years, I have tried to replicate her success.

I can't say my apple sauce is as good as hers. But I like to think that each year, it gets a little closer. I recently submitted this recipe to the school district I work for, as part of a school fundraiser. I'm on the United Way committee, and we're compiling a cookbook of staff recipes to raise money for charity. I hope that Grandma's apple sauce will create memories for other families and bring them together for special meals the way I remember my family coming together.

Here is my interpretation of Grandma's apple sauce, as she described it to me:

8-10 red apples

1. Peel, seed, and cut into eighths. Place cut up apples into a large pot with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water, to prevent the apples from burning. Cook on medium heat.

2. As they start to get mushy, mash with a potato masher to apple sauce consistency (about 10-15 minutes). Sprinkle cinnamon over surface and add 1/4 cup sugar. Stir with the masher. Cook a little longer, testing for taste. Add more sugar or cinnamon if necessary.

3. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.

I don't have any photos of the finished product, but I'll be making it again this Thanksgiving and I will be sure to post photos then!


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