Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Apples, Muffins and Cold, Misty Weather

I'm looking outside at a chilly, grey November day. The low-hanging, dark grey Clouds alternately spit Snow or a grizzling Drizzle.

It is time to place the cosy, furry hood on my  warmest yard jacket, freshly washed yesterday. I'm grateful for this dark brown quilted and furred coat, aged and tired as it is, when I take the old boys for their usual walk this morning.

I've been outside in much colder temperatures, but when moisture is added to the mix, it's dreadfully cold...the kind of chill which enters one's bones and lingers there.

The Dogs considered the idea of a longer walk for a few minutes and then turned back to the warmth inside the house. Even the Pheasant which crossed their path did not entice them to chase. Only the tips of their ears perked up a little, as they watched the Bird trundle into the bush.

It's too bad, really, that their ageing bones are beginning to dislike chilly weather because, when they're inside, they insist on being attached to me. Everywhere...the bathroom, the office where I write, the kitchen...I cannot escape. And let me tell they grow older, they have grown very gassy.

They don't mind letting those little puffs go, either. There is no embarrassment on the Dogs' part, although sometimes they will raise their heads from the floor after a particularly noisome phhhht has escaped. It's almost as if they are apologizing, when I gag and leave the room as if I was being pursued by devils incarnate...

It promises to be a long and smelly Winter.

During dark, grey days such as this, I turn to the well-lit kitchen and feel inspired to bake...something warm and very spicy...the scent of which will waft throughout the home, dispelling the scent of smelly Dog.

I don't like baking stuff which takes a long, convoluted amount of time to make. My preferences are muffins, pies, some cookies, bars and bread. And the recipes usually only include one bowl, a sure sign of a simple receipt.

Recently, I found a magazine which promised new recipes for cookies and bars and muffins. I found one for  Carrot muffins which included Apple sauce. Since I had none, it was obvious, if I intended to make the muffins, I would have to make it first.

Apples are inexpensive these Autumn days. During my last shopping expedition, I bought bags and bags...a collection of colourful Apples, intending to use them in decorative bowls as centrepieces. But within only days, the Apples became soft, mushy...and many actually split.

They were all ready for saucing.

The thought of making Apple sauce brought back a long distant memory. I was very young and pregnant with my first child. My then husband and I lived in the middle of an orchard in Naramata, a small village situated a few miles from Penticton in BC.

I was besieged with Apples of all kinds...I was beginning to dream about being buried alive by the immense crop I was expected to do something with.

As young as I was, I had little experience with cooking. It was truly by gosh and by golly that there was food on the table at mealtimes at all. I don't recall if I had any was early in my married life and we had little money for frivolous things like cookbooks. But I was told by relatives and friends if one has a surfeit of Apples one can freeze them or make Apple sauce or...

Since we had no freezer, I was left with the canner, canning jars and Apples. But I had no idea how to go about doing it. How did one make Apple sauce? How did the hard Fruit become like the sauce that came in cans?

I look back at that time and am stunned at how very ignorant and young I was. It doesn't take a whole lot to figure out that Apples become soft when cooked. So why did I not just do that?

No. I convinced myself that Apples must be grated first, in order to become sauce. I can only think my brain was befogged by my pregnancy, since I didn't realize that Apples must be peeled, either.

Of course, the grated Apples turned a disgustingly mushy brown, with red bits of peel, very soon after they were grated. I had no idea about Lemons or citric acid...Lemons and Apples? It never crossed my mind.

And then...oh, and then! I filled the canning jars with the grated, brownish mess, placed the sealing lids on them and processed them. Without sugar.

I was quite familiar with the canning procedure, since not long before this episode, I had helped a family member when they were canning Peaches. I was sure I was doing it correctly and I was just I had not prepared the food properly.

My canned Apple sauce did not turn out like the ones I'd previously bought in the store.

After the processing time (I don't recall how long I left them in the water bath) and the cooling period, I opened one of the jars and proudly sampled my homemade rusty-looking Apple sauce.

I cannot begin to tell you how sour it tasted. And the Apples had a strange, stale flavour. There was more juice than Apple sauce. Even sugar added to the mix did not help.

I remember tears, I remember feeling terrible resentment towards all those Apples I had grated. I remember vowing never to make Apple sauce again.

Of course, I learned to cook, and in so doing, I learned how to make Apple sauce. But on looking back, had I taken my pride, shoved it out the window, and called someone, anyone, for some advice on Apple sauce, I would have done much better. Being so young, so immature, I was sure asking for advice would prove to everyone how unintelligent I really was.

I would have been ousted. 

As I cooked the peeled Apples on the stove top, I wondered when, through the course of my life, I learned to ask for advice. I cannot remember. I'm not sure it was that long ago...

I only recall how much easier life becomes once I master my pride, become more comfortable within myself, and actually let others know how inexperienced I am at any given thing.

Inexperience does not equal stupidity.

And sometimes, one does not have to take the long road, when a shorter one will do.

After all that effort, I thought for sure those muffins would be lovely, moist and spicy. They weren't the best muffins I had ever made, but the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg and cardamom did indeed dispel the gas the Dogs insisted on expelling with regularity...

Baking muffins and cold misty weather are made for each other, don't you think?

PS...I'll be travelling to the Island to visit my daughter, her husband, my stepson and his significant other and my beloved grandkids. I may be a little slow answering comments...but I will answer, at some point, heh.

Please remember our veterans and the troops still fighting conflicts on Remembrance Day.


  1. When I got married I could cook five things and one of them was popcorn. Fortunately I got a great cookbook for a wedding gift and had the guidance of a friendly neighborhood meat cutter.

    I don't bake, but when fall comes I fill the house with stews.

  2. This made me giggle out loud!! Especially the gassy dogs. Whenever Emma toots she jumps up and looks behind her! Once the cat attacked her when she tooted on the bed, not because of what she did but because Emma was so startled she startled the cat. That was the end of that!!

    I don't care for applesause or anything made from apples but I do love a fresh, crisp apple. Pure unadulterated apples :)

    Your cooking experience sounds funny in hindsight, but how brave of you to just roll up your sleeves and give it a go!

    I hope you have a wonderful time visiting family. Stay warm!!


  3. Yes, I agree, it was brave of you to give it a go without experience. You call it pride and probably there was some of that, but also courage to tackle something new. I remember my first experience trying to make granola from scratch. Lord, it was choking. My hard I used it as a rock to scare aware possums. Then I got the old Whole Earth cookbook and learned slowly.... Apples. I love the hardest, tartest apples, the crunch and sweet sour flavor. Can't find many of those in stores. As a young wife, I tackled the making of apple butter, the all-day slow cooking, the amazing reduction of apples into such a small quantity of buttery sweet jam. No cooking for me anymore, though I love what you do. I have grown tired of the kitchen and enamoured of poetry. Although, recently, when it was my turn to provide the Wednesday meal for my friend with Parkinson's, I made the Whole Earth recipe for split-pea soup, and it was, as my mother would say, "larruping good."

  4. "Inexperience does not equal stupidity" should be a bumper sticker! Some of suffer needlessly because we're afraid to ask for help. I've learned to ask and find people just thrilled to be asked to help!

    I just tried a recipe for raw applesauce which requires nothing more than washing and coring the apples and running them through the puree feature on the food processor! The resulting sauce was quite good! I still like to pop a halved apple, skin, core, seeds and all, into the pot to simmer and then pressing the mush through my applesauce mill. Depending on the type of apple, sugar is optional.

    Have a good time away with your family!

  5. Marion, I had to laugh, my old dog does the same, follows me everywhere and farts :-), Poor old guy. I have never been afraid to ask for advice, it is the only way I have ever learned anything.
    Have a lovely trip!

  6. It's funny to remember the things we do when young. My grandma taught me how to cook applesauce and I still use her ricer for final processing. But oh boy, there are many times when a simple phone call would have helped me over a huge hump.
    have a good trip - and maybe the dogs need "Beano"

  7. marion, i have never made apple sauce! but now i will. what i do do is peel and slice apples (and pears) and cook or microwave them, sometimes with brown sugar and sometimes with a little chocolate sauce :)

    and i make an apple pie every thanksgiving and christmas. i LOVE holiday scents in the kitchen. including my evergreen candle.

    you know, i hope, i love reading how you live, knowing who you are.

    this is my favorite in this wonderful post:
    "As I cooked the peeled Apples on the stove top, I wondered when, through the course of my life, I learned to ask for advice."

    hear, hear (or is it here, here?) :)

    i love you marion! perhaps tuck that in your pocket for one of those chilly nights

    :) kj

  8. My brother and I would make brownies from scratch (double boiler, unsweetened chocolate) when the folks were out for their weekly get-away-from-the-kids.
    How necessity breeds invention.
    We each cook regularly.


  9. Mmmm I love cinnamon in apple. Yes cold dark wet days are ideal days for cooking. I think we are just following our natural urge to put on a little extra fat for the colder days of winter.
    Try lighting a few candles around where the dogs are that should burn off the malodeous gasses.

  10. Hope your island visit is a good one. I am still in Bellingham and probably won't get home until January. But helping Mom is important right now. We will need to make muffins again next week. She has a bran muffin every morning for breakfast. It's too hard for her to do the mixing, but she sits nearby and read the recipe to make sure I do it right. - Margy

  11. Jan,

    My very favourite thing to cook is soups. I love making even the broth from scratch...thereby bypassing all the salt that is added to the canned varieties.

    Studio Lolo,

    They are funny, aren't they! I don't remember if my cats ever had gas, it's been so long since I had a cat.

    We had a great time on the coast...when we were there it was misty, rainy and windy...a real tempest! And ever so much warmer than it is was quite an adjustment to come back home. But it seems as if an Arctic Front has moved all over the province, giving everybody a taste of the cold!

    Enchanted Oak,'re the third person to say cooking or baking is done rarely by yourself. It must be the age we are all at, since these days there has to be a good reason for me to do either of those things. Interesting, because when the kids were home, I used to love it.

    I love the term "larruping good". What a lovely thing you do, making pea soup for your friend! Making soups has to be a favourite activity of mine...I think it is because no matter how or what one feels like...soup always fills the bill!


    I think the trick with fresh applesauce is to make sure the apples are ripe. Since I had the use of all those apples, I had no idea, given my young age, whether any of them were ripe, hence the sourness when they were processed. I find using sugar is dependent on the type of apple I'm using, as well...macs taste better than a granny smith might, for example.

    I wish I'd known then what I know much easier it would have been, all those years ago.

  12. Annie,

    I ask for advice as well, now. But I sure didn't want to do it when I was barely twenty.

    It's so much easier to find an expert and just ASK! xo


    I have thought of giving the dogs BEANO and then someone, whose advice I asked, (haha) said it gave her dog diarrhea. From the fat into the fire!! But since then, I've heard it depends on the dog.

    I love those old ricers...I have one from ex in-laws sitting on top of the pantry cupboard. It makes my pantry look well stocked and serious, somehow, heh! xo


    Thank you, sweetie, I love you too! I do hope you are having a stupendous time in the south...who wants to discuss cooking methods when there is all that travelling and discovering to do!! xo


    Those brownies sound really good...a great, warm memory to have!!

    You know, I was having this discussion the other day where I said more men still enjoyed cooking later in life than the women do. There were agreements and disagreements as any good discussion will have and I'm not sure we reached a conclusion, but I think it is because women cook for the family more than men did, in years gone by. I think it is probably even, cooking is, between the sexes, now. It'll be interesting to see which sex still loves to cook at my age in the future.

    At any rate, thank you for commenting, dear, I hope you are doing well just now. xo

  13. Davem,

    Thanks for the candle idea, dear Dave. I have tried it, and have tried burning off matches. Even the sulphur is preferable. With the really cold temps here now, I had to arm myself with some really potent stuff.

    Good thing I was down south and made it to the mall in Nanaimo where they sell really good air fresheners at Fruits and Passions. They work, the only kind that does. Not sure what is in them, but I'm glad of it!

    Powell River Books,

    You'll be missing all the cold weather in BC, then, although I have heard it is sliding down over half of Washington. I'm so glad you are spending this time with your mother, though. I hope she is doing well, dear Margy...xoxo

  14. Hi Marion. I became so engrossed in the story of your early applesauce making effort that I totally forgot about the flatulent pups. LOL

    Seriously though - you took me back to a time when I too was young and inexperienced. My funniest food preparation story is what happened when I made my first pot of coffee. I was 21. Considering that today I'm the coffee queen, my story is especially funny. One of these days I have to write about it.

    Here's hoping your visit is/was a good one.