Saturday, October 19, 2013

Autumn Applesauce & Apple Butter

We try to go apple-picking every year.  I picture a chilly crispness to the air, bundled in a cozy sweater, the scent of a crackling fire wafting around us, warm apple cider, and we five laughing and teasing as we pluck ripe red apples from the trees, discussing the various ways we'll use these delicious apples.  We will make apple pie, apple muffins, Apple Spice Hand Pies with Cinnamon Cream, applesauce, apple butter, apple cider, and a lovely apple and parsnip mash.

Here's what really happens...  I insist we go apple picking even though 2 of the 5 of us (who shall remain nameless but both are male) don't want to go at all due to 1) having to spend time with the family (our son) and 2) there's sure to be many bees around and someone is terrified of bees (husband).  We all pile in the SUV and head out to the orchard.

Just as we arrive, it starts to sprinkle.  Fantastic.  And it went from 80° and sunny to chilly and damp.  Then one of our daughters decided to pick that day and that time to declare her hatred for her sister simply because we only had one apple picking stick and had to share.  I mean, seriously.  Sharing stinks.

She was grumpy and whiny and difficult while the rest of us were trying to make the best of it.  It did stop spitting rain on us.  The temperature increased to a comfortable 75°.  Our son took over the camera and was enjoying himself, at least as much as a 16 year old man-boy with his family can.

The lady who owns and runs the orchard goes on the honor system if she's not there. She leaves a bucket out on an old patio table near the orchard entrance and trusts you to pay for what you take. She leaves plastic bags and apple pickers to use at your leisure. And she almost always has some cookies sitting out for anyone to have a snack after apple-picking.

She wasn't there when we first arrived, so we went on our merry way picking apples. Later she came out to greet us and see if we needed any help finding the good ones. Her enormous orange tabby was faithfully following behind her. When I mentioned that our youngest kid had her grumpy pants on, she told her that the best way to get rid of the grumpies is to jump up and down as hard as you can. So Ms. Grumpy jumped up and down, giggling.

This kind lady told me a story of her childhood.  When she was a little girl, she used to love to go to a neighbor "grandma's" property.  She had an apple orchard and always had cookies for her to munch on. She loved picking the apples and feeding them to the horses so much that when she got older, she bought an orchard and horses and became that "grandma."  And she makes sure to always have cookies on hand for the little ones.

Adjust the quantities of sugar and spices to suit your tastes.  Put the sauce and butter into mason jars and freeze for later use.  The applesauce is particularly delicious while still warm, on it's own or spooned over vanilla bean ice cream.

20 servings

20 apples, cored and chunked
2 c. water or apple juice
4 T. cinnamon
2 c. brown sugar

Mix all ingredients in a dutch oven or slow-cooker.  Cook over medium-low heat in dutch oven until the apples are softened, 3-6 hours.  In slow-cooker, cook on low for 6 hours or so.  Puree to desired consistency using a blender or immersion blender.  For a chunkier applesauce, puree half and mix together.

Apple Butter
20 servings

20 apples, cored and chunked
2-1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cloves

Mix all ingredients in a dutch oven or slow-cooker.  Cook over medium-low heat in dutch oven until the apples are softened and the mixture is a dark brown.  In a slow-cooker, cook on low for 9-11 hours or until dark brown.  Puree in food processor, blender, or using immersion blender.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Vegetarian Pulled Pork

You're probably asking: how do you make a vegetarian pulled pork sandwich? Especially one that looks nearly identical to real pulled pork!  The answer is Jackfruit. What is Jackfruit?  It is the fruit of a tree native to South and Southeast Asia, but it's also grown in India, Africa, and the Caribbean. Jackfruit can be eaten raw when ripe, and the flavor is a sweet mixture of pineapple, bananas, and apples. When it's unripe, it needs to be cooked.  Which brings us to the pulled "pork."

My husband, also a vegetarian, and his band played a wedding reception for a vegan bride.  The food service consisted of pulled pork and vegetarian pulled pork. He took one look at the vegetarian one and moved on, convinced someone was playing a joke. Later, he learned from the bride that it was in fact vegan, so he dove head-first into the BBQ Jackfruit.  This is how I learned about my new bestie, Mr. Jackfruit.

I have since done a lot of research on this very bizarre fruit, including buying one from the Indian market we frequent. Unfortunately it rotted within a few days so I didn't get a chance to cook with it. So I made a trip to the Asian market and purchased an obscene amount of canned Jackfruit and avoided the fresh ones. By the way, when fresh, they look like gigantic avocados with spikes all over. They truly are strange looking, and I'd be scared if I didn't know what they were.

I apologize for the terrible photo quality.  I had only my phone with me and I was getting dirty looks from the workers in the Asian market.  And forgive my thumb in the lower left.

And apparently there are quite a few vegetarians and vegans who can't eat Jackfruit, simply because it looks so much like pulled pork or chicken that it grosses them out too much.  I admit, I had a bit of the same reaction, but being the selfless human that I am, I took one for the team and plowed through.

This recipe is really 3 recipes in one. There's the dry rub, BBQ sauce, and pulled "pork" sandwiches. Feel free to substitute or eliminate the dry rub marinade time if you want. You can sub your favorite bottled BBQ sauce as well.

The dry rub and sauce is a bit spicy. If you don't like it as hot, reduce the amount of chili powder. If you like it sweeter, add more brown sugar. The recipe below is our favorite, but adjust to your family's tastes.

Vegetarian Pulled "Pork"
This recipe makes 8 healthy sized pulled "pork" sandwiches. You will have about 1/4 cup of dry rub left over for another use as well as 1 cup of sauce for serving with the sandwiches if someone likes them extra wet.

Dry Rub (makes about 1-1/4 c)
4 T. kosher salt
2 T. hot Mexican chili powder
2 T. onion powder
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. cumin
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. smoked paprika
1 T. celery salt
1 t. cayenne
1 t. black pepper

BBQ Sauce
1 T. vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. dry rub
2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. molasses
1/2 t. liquid smoke

Jackfruit Pulled "Pork"
3 cans Jackfruit in brine or water, drained and rinsed
1/4 c. dry rub

Make the dry rub by combining all ingredients in a bowl.

In your slow cooker insert, toss together 1/4 c. dry rub and the rinsed and drained Jackfruit. Set aside while you make the sauce.

To make the BBQ Sauce,  heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and saute 5-10 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Mix in the dry rub and cook 30 seconds, stirring. Add in the remaining ingredients and simmer gently for 30 minutes (if you have time).

Set aside 1 cup or so of the sauce for serving, if desired. Pour the remaining sauce into the slow cooker insert with the Jackfruit. Add about 1/2 can of water and stir together. Set slow cooker to low and cook for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve piled on hamburger buns or in tacos.