Tag Archives: apple

Spicy Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

I write to you with a belly full of food, pajamas that look like candy canes, and three movies lined up for watching: Frosty The Snowman (currently watching), A Charlie Brown Christmas (up next), and How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (the natural one to end the evening). I’m at Braeden’s parents’, and tomorrow we will have German food for Christmas. It’ll be sehr, sehr gut.

But for now, some hot sauce!


I got the basic recipe for this sauce from my friend Caleb, who said that I should keep it secret, and keep it safe, but things this tasty shouldn’t really be kept secret, so Caleb said I could share it with you. I made two variations: one with just jalapeños and apples, and another with jalapeños and chipotles in adobo sauce. Both are tasty, but I liked the chipotle one the best – it’s just so smoky and delicious! I like my sauces a little thicker, so that they really stick to the foods they adorn, but if you like yours a bit thinner feel free to add more vinegar or water.

tah dah

Hot Sauce: Two Variations
adapted from Caleb’s Super Spicy Super Sauce

Base for both sauces:

  • 5 ounces (145 grams) hot peppers – I used just jalapeños, but feel free to use a variety
  • 1 smallish bell pepper (about 3 1/2 – 4 ounces, or 120 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water

For Apple Hot Sauce:

  • 2 small or 1 medium sweetish apples (about 4 ounces or 115 grams), peeled and cored – I used Macoun
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, if you like, minced
  • A few dashes Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or other sweetener of choice)

For Chipotle Hot Sauce:

  • 2 chiles in adobo, plus a spoonful or two of the sauce
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, if you like, minced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar

Trim and chop your hot peppers, removing the seeds if you’d like it less spicy. Remove the stem and seeds from the bell pepper, and roughly chop. Put the peppers and salt in a medium saucepan, cover with vinegar and water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients for either the Apple or Chipotle sauce and simmer for 10 more minutes. Blend sauce to desired smoothness (easiest with an immersion blender, but doable with a food processor or blender as well).

Store in sterilized jars for optimum shelf life; keep refrigerated.

Yield: about 3 cups each sauce (that is, if you don’t accidentally break one of the jars with the all powerful hotness of the sauce…)


P.S. This is SUPER adaptable. I made another batch the other day and added roasted poblanos, agave syrup, and smoked paprika. Homemade condiments > store-bought.

P.P.S. Watch this.



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Apple Pie With Altitude

I love, love, love apple pie!  When Jason and I moved to Colorado almost 11 years ago (I can’t believe it has been so long), I thought all of my baking recipes would still be ok.  Unfortunately, we had to suffer through quite a few soggy piecrusts until my brilliant husband realized what to do… Cook the apples in order to activate the flour just a little bit before baking them!  It sounds simple enough, but that little trick will make the pie absolutely amazing.

To start, make a piecrust.  I always listen to my mother when it comes to the crust; you must add sugar.

Pie Crust
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens and Tami Elder

  •  2-¼ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2-½ tablespoons chilled butter
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 8 to 10 tablespoons very cold water (I usually add ice to the water)

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.

cubed buttah

Cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter until the mixture becomes coarse crumbs.


Mix in the cold water, a little bit at a time just until it comes together.  Be careful to not overwork the dough, or else it will result in a tough piecrust.  Separate the dough in two, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

crust resting

When I make a pie, I always double the piecrust recipe.  With the leftovers, we roll out the dough, sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar, and bake in a 375-degree oven until the edges are golden brown, approximately 15 minutes.  Our mom always did this for us when we were kids, and we absolutely loved it.  My kids do as well!

Next, make the pie!

Apple Pie
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

  • 8-10 granny smith apples, peeled and sliced
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine the ingredients in a large bowl.

ingredients in bowl

ingredients, mixed

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the skillet.


Add the apple mixture and cook until they are slightly softened, about 15 minutes.

While the apples are cooking, roll out the piecrust and place one in a pie plate.  (My mom got this pie plate for me when they went to Poland for Thanksgiving.  It is beautiful!) Place the cooked apples in the pie plate, and top with the remaining piecrust.  Seal the edges of the pie, and cut a few slits in the top to let steam escape during baking. Sprinkle the top with a little bit of sugar.  Before baking, cover the edges of the pie with strips of foil to prevent the crust from over- browning.  Bake the pie in a pre-heated 375-degree oven.  Bake for 35 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes.  Be sure to put a lining of foil or an extra baking sheet under the pie in the oven, because this pie can spill over.  It’s full of ooey gooey goodness!

ooey gooey

gooey gooey

Let the pie cool, slice and enjoy!

slided and enjoyed


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Varenye iz yablok (Russian Apple Preserves)

Please don’t get mad, but this is one recipe I just have to tell you about. It is, again, about apples – Russian apples this time.

When I was studying in Moscow during my third year of college, I would frequently visit Kelly and Phil at their host family’s beautiful apartment. This apartment is in one of my favorite spots in Moscow: by the Moskva Reka, or Moscow River. The apartment was steps away from a few of the most central metro stops and home to a cautious black lab named Roma. The family’s little grandson would sometimes be over, playing on his toy truck and chattering with Kelly or Phil in squeaky, baby Russian. Foreign languages are so much cuter when they come from little kids.

The apartment was exactly what I imagined all Muscovite apartments to be: classy. The wallpaper felt old, the floors were made of a creaky wood, hundreds of Russian books lined the bookshelves, and one of Moscow’s Seven Sisters  could be seen from the window in the long, narrow kitchen. And, more importantly, there was plenty of tea, bread, cheese, and homemade jam to be had – always crowded around the little kitchen table, often while playing a game of chess.

Homemade preserves are my favorite, and Russian ones are especially good. The two most memorable came from the apartment by the river, and I will forever crave them. One was made from a Siberian berry that I’m pretty sure is called the oblepikha, or Sea Buckthorn in English. The preserve had the most unusual taste, a little tart and very distinct. I loved it.

The other preserve was made from little crab apples, and always sat in a bowl on the kitchen table, just waiting to be gobbled up with tea. Luckily, Kelly got a copy of the recipe for the apple preserves so we could make it ourselves. There is only one tiny problem.

Translating recipes from quickly scribbled Russian is hard.

But, not to be outsmarted by my own major, I decided to tackle the recipe and make those preserves even if it proved to be the end of me. Sure I could phone a Russian friend and ask them to help me out, but I wanted to do it myself. So dramatic, so Russian.

For a recipe that I’m pretty sure only has two ingredients, apples and sugar, and six or seven steps (the sixth is mysteriously missing…whatever, it’s Russian), I had quite the time translating this. I’m admittedly not the best at reading handwritten Russian cursive, but with a handy little online dictionary I could type in what I thought the words were until something that made sense came up. This, of course, brought a few interesting results – mistaking “segments” for body parts, “add” for the verb meaning to fall asleep, and coming up with “shine, beam, to be resplendent” and “action, suit” for the last instructions.  All that plus the seemingly random ratio of numbers in the first step (which I still don’t understand, but we’re just going to ignore that) made me more than a little nervous to try this recipe. (Edit: it’s most likely the ratio of sugar to apples, resulting in more than 1.5 liters of preserves)

I couldn’t just ignore the recipe, though. After all, if it didn’t turn out, it would at least make an entertaining blog post.

And so, dear friends, this is what I translated:

Varenye (Preserves)

  1. Cut the apples into segments, cover with sugar. 1 kg : 1 kg -> 1.5 L
    Let sit 3 hours.
  2. Heat on low heat without mixing, then when there is a lot of juice mix it all together. When it starts to boil, take it off the heat right away.
  3. After 5 – 10 hours bring to a boil again for 5 minutes.
  4. After another 5 – 10 hours, bring to a boil for 15 minutes.
  5. ………
  6. Boil for 10 minutes
    (No idea what this says, but it’s presumably something to do with storing the preserves.) Edit: Carrie informed me that it says спечь пену, which means “skim the foam” that forms on top of the preserves. Thanks, Carrie!

I’ve kept you in suspense, I know. Are my varenye what I’ve been missing for almost two years now?

First things first: I don’t have the right kind of apple to make the apple preserves. The apples the Apartment by the River used looked more like this, resulting in one-bite-able apple preserves that looked almost exactly like this. I only had Granny Smith apples and a bunch of larger crab apples from Braeden’s parents’ neighbor’s tree. So, they aren’t exactly the same. But my dears, they are pretty darn close. More importantly, they are pretty damn good.

I experimented with two Granny Smith apples first, peeling and cutting them into chunks, covering them in a lot (probably 1 or so cups) of turbinado sugar, and then following the “let sit three hours – boil – rest – boil – rest – boil – rest – boil – done” technique. And, it worked! They’re really good. Sweet but still somehow tart, soft chunks of apples. Perfect for tea time and chess.

Now. I had all intentions to try the crab apples next, but, well, by the time I got around to it, they were looking pretty rough. They had already been outside when it frosted (and snowed!) and looked a little sad. Instead of using the crab apples, I used the remainder of my Granny Smiths, but changed the method a tiny bit. After investigating a recipe for Crab Apple Preserves on a popular Russian cooking site, I decided to add a little water to make the varenye more syrupy like I remembered from Russia. This syrup, by the way, is excellent added to black tea. Oh, and Russians also add jams to their tea. It is unsurprisingly really good.

Varenye iz yablok

  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into large cubes
  • 2/3 cup sugar (I found that cane sugar results in more syrup, while turbinado results in more jell. Or maybe the pectin was different in the apples?)
  • 1/2 cup water

Place the apples in a medium sized bowl with the sugar, and stir to coat. Let sit for 3 hours.

Pour apples in their juices and water into a medium sized saucepan and bring just to a boil over low heat. You’ll hear the juices start sizzling, and see little bubbles rise to the surface. Take off the heat at this point (don’t let it boil), cover, and let sit for 5 – 10 hours.

Uncover, heat again on low heat, and this time boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit another 5 – 10 hours.

Again – uncover, bring to boil for 15 minutes, cover, and let sit. And one more time, cover and let sit for up to 10 hours, then boil for 10 more minutes (I added a little more water at this point), and then you’re done. Store in the refrigerator, and pull them out to have with cheese and bread and tea.

Yield – about two cups. The preserves should last quite a while because of all the sugar, but mine didn’t last that long because they were eaten.

These preserves still didn’t get as syrupy as I wanted, and a lot of the chunks also turned mushy. This, according to Matt, is because of the type of apple. He also says I could use a different apple variety and use less sugar, making the preserves more healthy and even better tasting. …what? Do something differently than how the Russians do it?! Unheard of. Absurd! But, after a little arguing, he convinced me to try it with different apples. I hope to be back soon with a report of success. Fingers crossed.

Thanks to Kelly for the lovely chess-playing picture. Как я скучаю!


And, since writing this post made me all sorts of nostalgic, here are a few pictures from Russia – just so you can glimpse it yourself. These are more pictures from the Apartment by the River, during a birthday party for Jon. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.



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The Savory Side of Apples

Not long after I started talking to Braeden, he informed me that his hometown in Pennsylvania is known as the “apple capital.” As a native of Washington state, I quickly contested this designation. Literally (meh, figuratively) everyone has heard of Washington Apples. Who’s heard of apples from the Pennsylvania apple capital? Probably no one. …or so I claimed. After four-odd years of living in Pennsylvania, I’m afraid that I’ve been solidly converted to Adams County apples. Don’t worry Washington, you still hold a special place in my heart, but let’s face it – a girl’s gotta grow up, and the apples here are really, really good. (This doesn’t mean, however, that a little poking fun isn’t in order.)

For the past four months I’ve been working at an orchard and winery that, among other things, grows a lot of apples. Housemate Matt works for the same orchard. Braeden’s sister works for another orchard in the area. Basically, apples are all around. To top it all off, the beginning of October marks the Apple Harvest Festival, rain or shine.

With all these apples floating around, the natural apple dish du jour is an apple pie. As you can imagine from her blackberry pie, my mom makes a mean apple pie. Janessa makes a slightly differently mean apple pie, too, and were I forced to choose between the two, I could not. They are both so good, that whenever my dad is around, at least two apple pies must be made because he will eat half of one for breakfast. True life: my family considers pie an acceptable breakfast food. We also fancy molasses cookies, but that is another post for another day.

However, I’m not going to tickle your tastebuds with apples all sugared and cinnamoned up. Today I present to you the other side of apples – the darker side, some might say. Instead, I give you the savory side of apples:

The past few weeks I’ve made this egg salad (more or less), this curried apple couscous, and a few grilled cheeses with apple slices and dijon mustard spread on the bread (a classic savory apple dish, I must say). I also discovered that when eating a plate of pickled things (beets, cucumbers, carrots, what have you), apple and white cheddar slices serve as a nice foil to all the vinegar. What I present to you now, though, is something else. It’s a savory condiment made from apples, to be spooned and slurped with sausage, pork, even turkey or chicken. Heck, I’ll bet it’s even great with beef. Or, if you don’t eat meat, it would be fantastic as a spread on toast or flatbreads or served as a little somethin’ extra with a roasted winter vegetable like cauliflower or a squash.

I must give credit where credit is due, and tell you that the idea for this apple-y/compote-y/chutney-y idea came from none other than Molly of Orangette, with her recipe for Bratwurst with Creamy Apple Compote. I twisted and tweaked the apple compote a bit to make it into more of a chutney/sauce to be served with, well, everything. I made a batch this morning and stood for literally (and I do mean literally this time) 5 minutes in the kitchen, spooning little bits of the stuff into my mouth. Yum. It has a slight sweetness from the apple, but I don’t add any sugar or even any butter or cream (although these would of course be welcome additions). I know next to nothing about canning, but I just got this book so maybe that’ll tell me if I could somehow can this stuff. Really, it’s that good.

Savory apple sauce

Note: I used a mix of sweeter apple varieties, but you could throw in a tart one or even use just tart apples to create a slightly tarter version of the sauce. I think it’d be just as good, in a different way. The spices/herbs I suggest are of course only suggestions. You could add a little curry and cumin if you wanted to serve it with an Indian twist, or some cumin and chili powder for more of a Mexican one. Experiment to your heart’s content. Oh, and if you happen to be making a meat dish at the same time, a few spoonfuls of meat drippings make a great addition as well. Bacon fat would be lovely too, but I suspect you already knew that one.

  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 or so medium sized apples, cored and coarsely chopped (and peeled if you want)
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup dry white or red wine (I used a Chardonnay twice and a Pinot Noir another time)
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
  • a pinch or two of ground cayenne
  • a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (leaves only), or dried parsley, or dried marjoram
  • olive oil

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Cook the onions in olive oil until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the apples and cook until softened, another 5 to 7 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, spices, herbs (if using dried, otherwise add herbs at the end), vinegar, and a half cup of wine. Lower heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more wine if you want more liquid, but I think a half cup is usually good. If you want a chunky sauce leave as is and put in an airtight container. If you want a smoother sauce, mash with a potato masher or back of a fork. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Yield: about 3 cups of sauce.

Also, today is a perfect fall day. Pennsylvania is awfully pretty in the fall.

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