Well, people, it’s the night before Thanksgiving.
I’m eating applesauce.
In all the fuss about getting my pressure cooker up and running, I forgot to tell you why I made applesauce in the first place.
It’s for my father. Well, and anyone else who can get to it before he does. But mostly, it’s for my father. Normally I whip together something chocolate and throw it in his general direction and he’s happy. This is the guy who used to pour Hershey’s syrup in his Cheerios.
But when he was a kid, my Bubbie used to make him applesauce. I’ll be missing his birthday this year* and wanted to bring something special for him to the Thanksgiving table. So I asked him how he liked his applesauce.
A little chunky, he said, not like baby food. And I used to put ketchup on it. And I’d mix it with my mashed potatoes.
Potatoes I can sort of understand. You’ve got the salty and the sweet, like a mashed up version of latkes with applesauce. But ketchup? Ketchup**? No matter what he said, he could give no satisfactory explanation.
When I asked if he’d be open to cranberry applesauce, he said it sounded perfect and it would look like it had already been mixed in with the ketchup.
Perfect. But I’ll be hiding the bottle of Heinz 57 this year.
* I’ll be in Peru for a wedding on his birthday. Stay tuned for more on that trip in January!
Pressure cooker applesauce
Most recipes for pressure cookers seem to be written assuming that you know how to use one. And the cooker (my manual says I should call it the Cooker) is very straight forward once you’ve gotten used to it. But for the uninitiated, here are a few things I learned between yesterday and today about my stove-top pot-bellied Fagor and pressure cooking in general.
Bring to pressure. It sounds so simple. A recipe might begin, “Mix fruit and spices in the pressure cooker, bring to pressure, and cook for three minutes.” (And actually, it might end there as well.) Bring to pressure, like it’s a pittance of a step. Here’s what they don’t tell you, people. It can take a really long time to pressurize. As a way to check whether my cooker (I mean, Cooker) was working, I decided to boil some water. I filled the Cooker with a few inches of water, did all the stuff you’re supposed to do (the lid, the lock, the valve), and waited. I watched the pot. I emailed Molly. Steam started coming out, but the indicator stayed put.
The indicator. Think pop-up turkey timer (the old-school ones, not these newfangled ones). You’ve got to sit around and watch for it. With such short cooking times, you need to know when you’re pressurized so you can begin timing. Perhaps it’s different on more advance or electric models, but what’s the fun in that? So I watched the little yellow dot next to the lock. Nothing. And then. A tremble. A titter. A wiggle. And slowly the dot became a nub. But there was no pop, no noise, no way I would possibly know it had come to pressure had I not been standing and watching and watching and watching. NOTE, my manual says that the steam should start to come out after the indicator pops, but this was not my experience.
Heat. Once at pressure (twenty minutes later, people, twenty minutes), you lower the heat to medium. They don’t tell you that in recipes. I found it on page 10 of the manual. You want to keep a gentle, steady stream of steam, so you might need to then adjust your heat up or down as appropriate.
The cooking. This is the best part. The cooking itself goes quickly, and the Cooker cooks well. Each apples piece was the same amount of tender as the next, and we cannot attribute that to my uneven cutting skills. A quick whisk broke up all the pieces into perfect sauce.
I’m not sure if it’s normal for it to take so long for a cooker to come to pressure, or if there’s something wrong with mine. I haven’t given up, Molly, but if anyone out there has any pressure cooker tips, please, please do share.
Since I’m taking my applesauce on a plane tomorrow, I canned it. This was my first canning experience and I followed my friend Jess’s very clear instructions. I don’t have any special equipment other than the jars themselves; I used a silicone pot holder at the bottom of the pot to protect the jars from heat, plain metal tongs to lift things out of the boiling water, and a narrow wooden spoon to scootch the applesauce into jars.
And, finally, the recipe, based on yesterday’s applesauce made-in-a-regular-pot applesauce. Again it’s good cold, but great warmed up a bit.
Makes 3-4 cups
– 4 lbs apples (approximately 8 medium) – today I used a mix of Fuji, Gala, and Mutsu (Crispin)
– 2 T sugar
– 1/2 lemon for juice (2 T)
– 1 C water
Chop. Peel and chop the apples into approximately 1-inch pieces.
Cook. Add all the ingredients to the pressure cooker. Close the lid, lock the pot, and turn the valve. Turn up the heat to medium-high. Eventually the indicator will pop and the pot will steam. Lower the heat to medium, adjusting the temperature as needed to maintaining a gentle, steady steam. Set your timer for three minutes.
Whisk. When your timer goes off, release the pressure (I used the “automatic” method by turning the valve). Use a whisk to break up the apples.