When I was a child, our family existed on a PA Dutch diet that rarely included any of the really spectacular dishes for which the region is known. All of the adults worked too hard to roll out dough or do any fancy baking or canning, in addition to the fact that they just weren't into it. Meat, starch, and veggies combined to make our usual suppers. It was good, hearty food, but salt, onions and butter were our main additions for flavoring.
I was lucky though. As long as I can remember, I roamed freely in about a mile or two radius. My little 15" forest green and rusty silver bicycle took me everywhere.
An Italian family about 1/4 mile away had 4 girls around my age, and for a while there, they probably wondered if they had somehow gained another daughter. I can still remember some of the meals I ate with the Caterbones, and their father had an Italian bakery downtown, making the best breads and pastries around. Garlic, herbs and spices we never used were staples in their kitchen, and I loved it all.
By the way, before it comes up, there has never been a time in my life where anyone thought of calling me wispy or dainty, and I can only assume mothers set a place at the table for me so often because I appreciated their cooking wholeheartedly.
Another 1/4 mile up the road was the Longenecker's house. In 4th grade, Debbie and I became fast friends. Her family was a farm family. Their basement wall was a treasure trove of beautiful jewel-toned jars of canned fruits, vegetables, meats, and pickles. It was truly a sight to behold. With 8 children (I think...) they took it pretty seriously. They also had an amazing pantry - a full room of shelves, stocked with everything a cook could want. Debbie knew how to do all kinds of things I didn't. She was a very self-sufficient girl, and I learned a lot there. That's where we made hard candy that they sold - long evenings around the table cutting long strips of molten candy that the father would throw to us in turns. Lots of hands made fast work of it.
So it shouldn't have been a surprise when one day after school, Debbie suggested that we make apple sauce to go with supper that night. But it was. She laughed at the face I made. We took a basket and went out to the tree far out in the yard and scooped up a couple dozen apples. Soon we had a couple of quarts of the best apple sauce ever.
There is a golden delicious apple tree growing in front of my sister's workshop. It's been producing well for a couple of years, but I never really did anything with the apples. A few get eaten, but most do not. This year, I decided to try apple sauce again. It was so good that I will make more, and plan to try apple butter next week. Here's how it works.
I brought a couple dozen apples home, and cored them. They got chopped into about 1" pieces. As I was chopping them up and taking out any imperfections, I thought about how commercial processors would just leave that in. Bonus #1!The apples go into a pan with a cup or so of water.
Once they come to a boil, they are covered and turned down to simmer until they are soft.In the meantime, I got out the equipment that I would need - a bowl and a food mill. If you don't have a mill, peel the apples before cooking and use an old fashioned potato masher.Strain the apples lightly, and put a ladle or two of them into the mill. Continue until all of the apples are sauced.I got out my micro-plane and ground some fresh cinnamon into the sauce. At this point, you could add a little sugar (my friend Becky uses honey).
So now I have a quart of fresh, organic apple sauce. The apples were less than an hour from tree to sauce. It is DELICIOUS.