Monday, October 03, 2011

My canning problem, birthdays, a good-bye

the work of a domestic goddess.
I knew I didn't like canning applesauce.

But I let a beautiful post by Soule Mama, who makes every household task look like poetry, sway me. Yesterday, I canned applesauce.
our apple tree
I think everyone in the family would have been happier if I'd gone to the gym, or to the Container Store, or stayed in bed all day, because peeling 12 pounds of wormy apples, sterilizing jars, and cooking down the sauce put me in such a bitchy mood even I couldn't stand me. It was tedious and sticky and took hours, but I was determined to fill the kitchen with the fragrance of cinnamon, load the shelves with golden organic applesauce, capture the moment, celebrate fall, etc.

Even at this advanced age, I still confuse the symbols of domestic happiness with actual domestic happiness. Canning is just not my thing.
My misspent Sunday
It's great applesauce, though!

After the applesauce was done, the day quickly improved: Isabel and I went to see Contagion. As someone who has in the past worried obsessively about infectious disease, I approached the movie with trepidation. But I never even had to stop eating the popcorn. Nothing Steven Soderbergh conjured was as horrifying as what I've imagined while staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m. It all looked pretty tame to me, though I don't know how anyone could ever cheat on Matt Damon.

Back to cooking and cookbooks: Owen turned 11 and his cousin Stella turned 6 last week. We threw them a joint party at which I served Marcus Samuelsson's za'atar roasted leg of lamb out of Soul of a New Cuisine. It was good, but not photogenic and not something I'd go out of my way to make again. The next day, I used the rest of the meat to make a Fannie Farmer casserole that I have served many, many times. It is the best vehicle I've ever found for leftover lamb, one of the less appealing leftover meats. Make sure the mixture is good and lemony before you put it in the oven; this rich casserole needs bite.


2 cups chopped leftover lamb roast
1/2 onion, chopped
3/4 cup lamb gravy, lamb stock, or chicken stock (listed in order of preference)
2 cups cooked long-grain rice
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne
3 tablespoons lemon juice, or more, to taste
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Ritz crackers, coarsely crushed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and oil a casserole dish.
2. Mix everything but the butter and Ritz in a big bowl. Scrape into the casserole dish.
3. Melt the butter and mix with the Ritz crackers. Sprinkle this on the casserole.
4. Cover the casserole and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more.

Just to keep up with my cookbook reporting, I also baked Marcus Samuelsson's peanut cake from Soul of a New Cuisine over the weekend. It's a gremlin recipe. Even in the best of cookbooks, you'll find recipes that simply don't add up. (Hopefully not in mine, but I'm pretty sure. . . in mine.) I knew when I poured the thin, scant batter into the pan that it was not going to right itself in the oven and I was correct. We ended up with a spongy, chewy, very flat, very wrong loaf cake. Complete fail.
It was about 1 inch tall.
The chickens loved it, though. Pecked it all up.

On another subject entirely, eighteen months after my mother died, my childhood home has been sold.
I will miss you, dated pink bathroom.
This morning I went back for very last time. This was the real good-bye, when Justine and I picked up the final dustballs and garden art before the new owners arrive tomorrow. I walked through those empty rooms and I touched every surface, ran my hand down the banister, flipped the light switches, turned the old brass doorknobs I have been turning since 1969. I had the weirdest impulse to hug and kiss the house, to lie down on the floor and cry. (I didn't! Although I might have given one of the walls a very quick kiss.) I can feel my mother in that house and remember her in a way I can't remember her anywhere else.
 I'll miss you too, creaky stairs. 
The new owners told us we can drop in any time, but I don't imagine I ever will.


  1. I want your mother's house, and not just for the pink sink, which is breathtaking. What a lovely, lovely house. From what I can see anyway.

  2. Sophie and I saw Contagion as well--worth it because she didn't argue about getting her flu shot and we got see Gwenyth Paltrow looking crappy.

  3. I most love your blog when the food is a kickoff to other musings. My favorites include the one about how bad your house looked, you mother's measuring spoons, etc, and this one about the house. I think it's time to leave the Samuelson book behind. Nothing sounds worth the effort - at best. Please consider Indian, Thai, etc. and no more Italian anything? Love your blog and have ordered your book.

  4. I used to make applesauce with my mom every fall. We had this really great contraption that looked kind of like a meat grinder that separated the sauce from the peels and cores. All you did was quarter the apples, cook them a bit and then crank the handle as you put the apples in.

    I don't know what I will do when my parents sale their house, or I have to sale it for them. Sigh.

  5. You & Justine were lucky to be raised between those kissable walls.

  6. Layne -- They don't build houses like they did in 1905.

    Ginny Lee -- She still looked pretty good. Jennifer Ehle looks like Sigourney Weaver. Did you see her in Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice??

    Anonymous -- I am probably going to drop this book very soon.

    Colleen -- My mom was a super-canner. I remember sort of liking that she did it, but I don't like to do it myself. I like making jams and little treats like that, but applesauce, tomato sauce, canned apricots. . . makes me so tired.

    Dee -- Very, very lucky.

  7. If you EVER make applesauce again, don't go to the work of peeling the apples! If you cook the apples with them on, they'll add great body and color to the applesauce. Then use a strainer (I have the Kitchen Aid attachment) to strain them out. Much easier to clean the strainer than to peel them all!

  8. Melanie -- That's a great suggestion. Our apples are so dirty and wormy it seemed gross to leave the skins, but it was probably a better approach. Maybe when I make apple butter!

  9. I love that you are making apple butter after all that.

    My childhood home just sold, AGAIN, which is so strange to me. And I agree, it's so much easier to feel the presence in the places where they were. And I can still tell you about the architectural details of my childhood house too, the crystal doorknobs, the corner of the one windowpane that was broken...all of it. My condolences on the loss of the house. And my cheers to you for your book! I am eagerly awaiting it.

  10. Re your mother's house: I hope they new owners know to keep that pink bathroom.

    Re applesauce, like Colleen and Melanie(sort of), my mother taught me to make applesauce by quartering the apples, cooking them in a bit of water and sugar and then mashing them in a potato masher/ricer ...I usually quarter the apples, remove the core, cook them in the same bit of water and sugar, and then pick out the peels, resulting in lumpy applesauce.

  11. You're probably going to want to smack me -- which is totally understandable -- can make apple peel jelly with those scrumptious peels and cores! I made it this past applesauce session, and it's really flavorful.

    I also have a pot of five-day pear sauce sitting in my fridge because after having canned and jammed and jellied and buttered and sliced, diced and frozen about 180lbs of produce, I hit the wall.

    The problem is I still have about 40lbs of apples!! Argh. More applesauce, some pies, and yes...more apple peel jelly. Even I hate myself right now!

    I'm only on page 9 of your book (reviewing it for my blog), and I already want to sit down and have a drink with you!

  12. MemeGRL -- When you have insomnia do you mentally walk through the house? I've done that with my late grandparents' houses. It's very soothing.
    Mary -- They already told us they are taking out the pink. Funny, because when we were changing our bathroom I looked for a salvaged pink sink.
    Tamara -- I am going straight to Delish Mag!

    1. Tipsy, I got chills when you said that about walking through the house when you can't sleep. That is the only thing that works for me, though in my case it's my grandmother's house.
      I'm not sure whether you read comments to old posts, but I absolutely love your blog and have started from the very beginning. My mother died a couple of years ago and I have been identifying like mad with your emotions. And then laughing like mad at your hilarious observations about cooking and children and life in general. You are one of a kind. Thank you for sharing so generously.
      I don't know how to be anything but anonymous as a signature here, but I really do have a name: Rachel.

  13. You could also use a food mill, manual type to take away the peels, etc after you cook the apples. My mom uses one to make cranberry sauce at holiday time.

  14. Like others have suggested, I use a food mill to make applesauce. Slice the apples in half, chuck them in a pot, set on low and walk away. When it is good and mushy, run through the food mill. The seeds and skins remain in the pot and all the good applesauce is strained through. Feel free to use that very precise recipe in your next book.

    That would not work with wormy apples though. Unless you were making Apple Wormsauce. And I have heard that is cheaper to buy than make at home.

    I freeze homemade applesauce to use in quick breads, muffins, granola, etc.

  15. It's amazing how we have emotional connections to places. I have always said goodbye to each home I lived in when I moved. Heck I even do it to hotel rooms when I've had a nice time (and a good night's sleep) there.