What is "From Scratch?"

When it comes to cooking, it's all about creating. Before you can eat, you must compose. As grocers, corporations, celebrities, and Chefs make more and more food "convenient" ultimately, their taking away your ability to trust your own palate and creativity, and replacing those senses with nothing more than assembly line instructions. A package of this, and a bottle of that, isn't what stirs up memories of your grandmother, and doesn't make you beam with pride when you pull your creations from the oven. I prefer to have flour from head to toe, a rigged apartment smoke alarm, and to feel the excitement of knowing that I am self sustainable, creative and spent an afternoon (into the evening) to make something I thought you could only buy.

The purpose of this blog isn't to give recipes that will feed a family of 4, in ten minutes, on a Wednesday. There is plenty of that already. This blog is about reclaiming our heirloom recipes, learning how to avoid the bar code when shopping, and ultimately, it's about cherishing the hours we spend at the stove, not trying to condense them.

By your self, with your friends, your kids and loved ones, I encourage you to take a look at what we can create to nourish, entertain, and gift....From Scratch.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I am a cheerleader for Summer. Every year, I applaud the hot, dry air. I enthusiastically encourage the parades, the BBQ's, the sundresses, and the vacations. I revel in the double scoop ice cream cones, the fireworks shows, the way country music just sounds better in the summer. And, last but not least, I love that I can extend my pool/bike/park/picnic time into my mid 20's with no guilt, due to the invention of spray sunscreen. (Finally! Pale girls, can I get a fist pump?) For me, it's the feel good, all smiles, put the top down on the VW, kind of months I can't resist.

But....about this time of year, I get this thing, this little voice in the back of my mind, this little butterfly in my stomach, that lets me know, the harvest is here, the seasons are changing, Summer is over girl. It's time to move on. I go through it every year. I get that weepy, September thing. The back to school, leaves are changing, sun is setting, sweater weather, I want to give out bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils just like Meg Ryan in "You've Got Mail" kind of thing.

As a (so-called) adult, this transition has become less traumatic, since there is no lurking image of the dungeon some may call a "classroom" in the distance. (School never was my forte, I showed up mostly for the boys, lunch period and occasional drama productions that required you to maintain some kind of presentable GPA in order to participate)

But Spring fever?? Forget it. I've got Fall Fever. It comes on each and every year, and this year in particular, it's right on time.

I find myself at San Francisco's famous Ferry Building farmers market, where produce, cheese, breads, fish, meats, pickles, and more are beautifully displayed. Few things do for me what first-of-the-season produce does, and this year's apples were no exception. Bright red, pink, yellow and green apples, all the varietals screaming, "This is it! It's fall!" I stood, trapped between two farmers' booths, one featuring the last round of heirloom tomatoes, dirt cheap by the pound, and the other with baskets of shiny, small apples, begging to be brought home. I felt like a parent, trapped by the age-old question of which child they love more. (For the record, I love apples and tomatoes equally, but strawberries seem to have formed a special bond with me)

At the end of the morning, I embraced the Autumn, and headed home with a few pounds of California apples.

Maybe I am a summertime girl at heart. But one thing is for sure. I was about to "Fall" in love, all over again....

 Chai Ginger Applesauce, From Scratch
3 pounds organic apples, any variety you prefer
2 organic oranges, juiced
2 organic chai tea bags
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Our inspiration

Rolling the peeled apples in juice will keep them from turning brown.

To begin, cut both oranges in half and squeeze the juice into a small sauce pan. Bring the orange juice to a boil and drop in both tea bags. Remove from heat and let steep for 3-5 minutes. Discard tea bags, and let the juice cool while you peel all the apples, rolling each one in the tea infused juice to coat, before moving onto the next step.

*A little tip from the amazing Ina Garten--save the peels from 2 of the reddest apples, and tuck them into your simmering sauce. This will help keep the sauce pink.*

Once all the apples are peeled, cut them into wedges, removing all the seeds and core. Place into a large bowl, add the juice, and grate the ginger over the apples. Add the cinnamon, brown sugar and reserved apple peels and toss together.
Don't think ginger is the only thing you can add. Try any spice you like!

Transfer apples to a large pot or dutch over, a bring to a simmer over medium heat.
3 pounds of apples will yield just under 3 cups of sauce.

This will smell divine!
Once you have achieved a simmer, place the lid on the pot and place into a 350 degree oven for about an hour, until the apples are soft. If you don't have a tight fitting lid, aluminum foil will be fine. Once the apples have cooked, remove them from the oven and let cool slightly. Using tongs, remove and discard the 2 peels. Next, using a whisk or a potato masher, crush the apples until smooth. They should still have some texture. Remember, you're not making baby food. Let cool slightly, but PLEASE enjoy this while it's warm.

The sauce will keep a week or so in the refrigerator, but is also a great candidate to be canned for gifts or storage.

Everything tastes better when I make it myself. Even on my lopsided stove.

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