Yesterday morning I woke up earlier than usual (we’re talking before 7 a.m.), and rode my bicycle to the Keystone Cafe, to meet a group of friends for breakfast. Despite living in Eugene for 2 years (this month!), this was my first time dining at Keystone. It was also my last, since this Eugene fixture made its final meals today and closed its doors. The Keystone Cafe had been open (through several owner changes) since 1979. I had a generous amount of vegan french toast with strawberries, and also my first cup of coffee, ever (not counting mochas). Excellent. Sorry to have not frequented this little gem during my time here.
After breakfast, I headed to work for a how-to-homebrew meeting. We recently started carrying brewing supplies. I foresee homemade sarsaparilla in my future. Outside of my work is a single apple tree, whose variety I am not 100% sure of, but a solid guess would be that it’s a Gravenstein, considering how early the apples mature (they’re ready now!). Some kind maintenance folks were pruning the tree, and they gently lowered down cut branches from the top of the tree to us, that were loaded with beautiful, ripe apples. My coworkers and I gathered all that we could carry, which was somewhere in the ballpark of 10 or 15 pounds each.
Today I spent the morning making applesauce, which I learned how to do during my stint at Grassroots Garden as the kitchen intern. The results from homemade applesauce are not the same as the cold, grainy applesauce you buy at the store and keep refrigerated after opening. Warm applesauce is where it’s at! Making your own applesauce is easy, and it freezes well. There isn’t really a recipe that we used at the garden, just a technique.
Begin by slicing the apples in half and coring them. You’ll want to remove all of the seeds, and the sharp parts of the core, as well as stems. Some folks remove the skins too, but I don’t mind them. They soften up during the cooking process.After coring, chop the apples into small pieces.
If you decide to leave the skin on, it’s important to chop the pieces with skin attached into little squares, smaller than ½ inch. Larger pieces of skin can clump and get sort of plastic-y in texture when cooked. Throw all of your chopped apples into a big, heavy bottomed pot. Thin pots scorch more easily, a lesson I learned the hard way, repeatedly. Adding ½ inch to an inch of water to the bottom of the pot helps with avoiding scorching. Over medium high heat, cook the apples until they’re easily mashed against the side of the pot, stirring frequently.
Once the apples have softened (the timing of which varies wildly depending on apple variety and freshness), you can add whatever you please to the sauce. I typically add a sweetener (maple syrup or agave or whatever), vanilla, a pinch of salt, and cinnamon. Occasionally I’ll grate ginger into the sauce, or add blackberries. All of these additions are to taste. Start by adding just a little bit of each, then taste and determine if you want to add more. It’s hard to go wrong*. Serve your finished applesauce warm on hunks of toasted baguette, or over ice cream, or on top of waffles.
At the garden store I get to help folks troubleshoot their garden woes, and pick out the best fertilizers for their plants, and find the seeds they’re looking for (an undertaking which has earned me the unofficial title of ‘Seed Savant’). Every day is different. My store allows and encourages folks to bring in their canine companions. I get to hold so many puppies. This makes me wildly happy. Aside from feeling lonely some days (since Austin and I share zero days off), I am enjoying Oregon summer to the fullest extent.
The blackberries (though invasive and a nuisance) are ripe and free for the picking all along the river paths. The plum tree in my alley is producing tons of sweet/tart little red plums that make the perfect snack when I get home from work. My garden is thriving, especially the rattlesnake beans, which are currently tallied at 117 harvested. The lemon cucumbers are covered in cheerful yellow blossoms; my herb garden started from seeds is maturing (summer savory & sage & basil, oh my!). I won’t have to buy lettuce or kale for the next month at least. I hope the universe is treating all of you generously and kindly. Cheers!
Happy summer and gardening and barefeet and popsicles to all of you!
*Ok, once, my sauce went horribly wrong when I attempted to sweeten it up by adding agave, and after pouring in a decent amount, I realized that I was holding a jug of toasted sesame oil in my hand, not agave. Yikes. Don’t do that.