As much as I like to bitch and moan about the cold weather in Chicago, I must admit that I totally forgot how fricking BEAUTIFUL it is in autumn. The air gets just chilly enough that you start to crave warm, slow-cooked meals that make you feel like you are being hugged, and the leaves turn all these crazy gorgeous colors that you never knew nature was capable of making.
It is just a shame autumn lasts all of about TWO FREAKING WEEKS here in Chicago, followed by 6-7 months of winter. Can you tell I’m bitter and a bit hungry? The husband and I headed up to Saugatuck, Michigan for a weekend of apple-picking and gay watching with my friend Meghan. I’m kidding. Sort of. Not really. Okay, yes I am! OR am I? Saugatuck is the gay capital of the U.S. I heart gay men. It was a match made in heaven. I only took these photos a few weeks ago, and already the leaves are starting to fall off the trees, making them look like a naked, skinny, awkward teenager minus the pimples, plus a few rabid Chicago squirrels that like to make the most god-awful noise. Yes, squirrels speak. And the resulting noise makes me want to kick them. But just a bit. More like a friendly nudge, really. A nice, swift and firm nudge. In the junk.
We decided to hit up Crane Orchards so we could u-pick apples for my annual apple sauce canning. All the apple varieties (I remember golden delicious and idea red among them) sold u-pick for around 67 cents a pound. My broke writer’s ass was REALLY happy about that.
I was shocked how quickly the whole process went. Adam, Meghan and I are apparently master apple pickers.
After around 20 minutes, we had the 30 pounds of apples I wanted, so we did the other typical apple-picking activities. We posed for apple-picking photos.
I pushed Meghan down a hill in a wagon.
Then we hit up a local chili cookoff. I know, right? These things must follow me around.
When I got home, I went right to work on my 30 pounds of apples.
I got them naked by giving them each a glass of cheap wine and playing some Barry Manilow on the stereo.
I turned them into applesauce by chopping and simmering them with some apple juice on the stove. When they were soft, I drained them, put em through the blender, strained it again (because I am anal and love my applesauce silky smooth…and I’m also a dumb-ass who had a strainer the size of a donut hole), and put it back in a pot with some sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla bean. Then I canned it because that is how I roll. I took around 4 pounds out of the apple puree and used it to make my first ever crockpot apple butter! It was so easy, a half drunk monkey could do it. I mixed it with a can of defrosted apple juice concentrate, and let it cook on high for 6 hours. I might have stirred it once or twice, but mainly I sat on the couch and watched reruns of Little People, Big World. I heart little people. Don’t judge. When it started to get brown, I added around a cup and a half of sugar, some cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, and a bit of vanilla. This cooked for another two hours until it was thick and looked like this:
I threw in a bit of lemon juice, and canned those bad boys up alongside of my applesauce. Out of four pounds of apples, I ended up with 5 half pints and a bit on the side for my morning raisin toast.
I had a few extra apples left, and heaps of squash from my CSA, so I went ahead and made this awesome apple, squash and bacon bread I found at I’ll Eat You. I used fresh apples that I peeled, cored, chopped and tossed in a little sugar and cinnamon and omitted cloves because they are too strong for me, but other than that kept the recipe the same. It kicked major ass, unlike the terrible bacon cupcake episode I had recently. The cake tasted very gingerbread-y, was super moist, and the apples and bacon were merely an afterthought, a pleasant surprise that you would occasionally bite in to. I wish my apples hadn’t floated to the top so I could have gotten a prettier photo, but thankfully, I’ve set the bar quite low here at Leena Eats so in cases like this, you the reader would not be disappointed. You can thank me later.
So I guess I don’t hate fall. But I’m still not talking to winter. Not until he stops being such a cold ass and making my life miserable. The bastard. ~LTG!