Applesauce: Thanksgiving Side Dish

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For homemade applesauce, select an assortment of varieties.

I was looking for one more side dish for a ten-person dinner at the farm recently.  Hmm… let’s see…something easy and seasonal.  Fresh applesauce would be perfect.  It goes with everything and is inexpensive, especially at this time of the year when there’s such an assortment of fresh apples available.  And, I love the smell it brings to the kitchen.

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Core and chop apples

The biggest decision is whether to leave the peel on the apples. Peel-on advocates like the pinkish color, shorter prep time, and the nutrients that come from the skins.  It takes longer to peel the apples, but you can mash them in the pot and serve the sauce chunky style or puree it easily in a blender.

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Cook apples until soft

I was cooking about fifteen apples, so I opted to chop and core them and put the cooked fruit through my “antique” food mill, an apparatus I was given as a wedding gift because it was considered necessary for every well-appointed kitchen


If unpeeled, put through food mill to remove skins.

I use a mixture of apples, my favorites being Pink Lady, McIntosh, Gala, and a few Granny Smith.  Here’s how simple it is to make a small batch of this timeless, tasty treat.

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Add sugar and a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg, if desired.


Homemade Applesauce 


  • 6-8 apples, Pink Lady, McIntosh, Gala, or Granny Smith (or a mixture)
  • 1 tsp. sugar, or more, or to taste.
  • A dash of cinnamon, optional


Peel (or leave unpeeled), core, and quarter apples.  Place them in a pot with about an inch of water.  Bring the apples to a boil, turn the heat down slightly, and simmer 30 minutes or until the fruit gets soft and thickens. Run thru a food mill to remove skins.  Stir in the sugar and cinnamon, to taste.  I often add a pinch of fresh nutmeg as well.



Time to Pick Those Pears

I never notice the sound of airliners flying overhead or traffic whizzing along my street in St. Louis.  But this weekend in the serenity of my farm, I was awakened several times by what sounded like hail pellets.  I knew better.  It happens every year about this time: large acorns from an overhanging oak tree fall onto the deck outside my bedroom window.  It’s as though squirrels were hurling missiles down on the house.

The next morning as I photographed the “fall out,” I was beaned by what felt like a golf ball hitting my forehead, leaving a dent that soon became a small lump.

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On the deck at the farm, relaxing and writing

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Old pear tree in the yard of an abandoned house.

It was not the only injury from a “flying” object this weekend.  While picking fruit, a visitor shed some blood when he was smacked in the nose by a falling pear.

I have only three fruit trees at the farm.  One’s a sour cherry, that I hope to tell you more about next summer when it yields; a hearty persimmon, but I don’t bother to fight birds for the mouth-puckering fruit; and a large, Burford pear nearly one hundred years old.

The pear tree doesn’t yield fruit every year.  Sometimes it just waves its bare branches and goes, “Ahh, I’m vacationing.  Try Schnuck’s Grocery.”

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When my kids were young, they climbed the tree in search of pears each fall.  Today, as seen in the photo, I use a pole just to reach the low hanging limbs. When I bit into one of the pears it was a little firm, but still buttery, sweet and edible.  I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of the heritage fruit.

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2014-09-27 16.43.06This tree gets no care, no spraying, no pruning.  It bears fruit in September and holds it until the first frost, when the pears drop all at once.  The nearby abandoned house, inclining on its foundation, is likely as old as the tree.

2014-09-27 17.06.11When I come to this secluded spot on our farm to pick fruit from a tree I didn’t plant, I feel a connection with generations past, those who tilled the land, not only for themselves, but for those who’d come after them.



In the Kitchen with Venison

 “Cooking, at its heart is simple and straight forward. Even if you’ve never picked up a pot or pan in your life, you can—and should—enjoy some time in the kitchen every day.”   ~Mark Bittman

Venison shank

My daughter-in-law, Deb, and daughter, Robin, (both superb cooks), put the finishing touches on a venison shank at the farm.



A Fly in the Candy Shop

crown candy

Jars of old time sweets at Crown Candy

There’s nothing “sweeter” than our memories of childhood candy treats.  When I was a kid in need of a “candy fix,” there was Pop’s, a small neighborhood grocery with a large, assortment of sweets.

Pop, who had no other name as far as I knew, was a grumpy, old German fellow with an ample mustache and shirt sleeves held in place with elastic bands.  He and his family lived above the store, so the hours were flexible.

rainbow sprinklesI remember Pop’s creaky screen door with the tightly set spring.  If you didn’t jump inside quick enough, the screen door would slap you across the backside and plumb across the doorway.

Once inside the store, I was like a fly in the candy shop, everything was so sweet, it was hard to know where to land.In addition to a vast assortment of colorful, hard candy, there were Sugar Lips, Wax Bottles, Necco Wafers, Licorice Sticks, Gumballs, Jawbreakers, even Bubble Gum Cigarettes and Cigars.

wax bottles


sugar daddys


With my few pennies firmly in hand, I would press one finger against the glass case and say slowly and repeatedly, “I want a penny’s worth of that one . . . and a penny’s worth of those . . . and a penny’s worth of . . . ” until I had spent an entire nickel on candy.Bazooka gum


Pop would reach his huge, fleshy hand into the show case and grab some candy and drop it into a small bag.  If you wanted a piece from a large slab of chocolate, he’d whack it with a small hammer and add a few of the broken chunks to the bag.  He didn’t have a scale.  How he determined a “penny’s worth” was unclear, but it was enough for two or more kids to ruin their appetites for dinner.

When the small store got over-crowded or kids became too rowdy, he’d waggle his fingers toward us and bellow, “Shoo, shoo, you shoo now.”  We thought that was incredibly funny and did our best to agitate him.  Pop didn’t have to worry about our repeat business.  He knew we were hooked.