Early spring is the most-lean part of the year when it comes to local food; winter stores are running low and spring shoots are only just starting to show. It can often mean going without… or making a trip to the supermarket. For Locavores, planning ahead is a difficult and necessary task that starts in the Spring when seeds are being chosen and doesn’t stop until the last jar of fall tomatoes are put on the shelf and the root vegetables are safely tucked in their winter home. If you are lucky enough to have a winter farmer’s market where you live (like I do) it can stave off some of the planning. But even so, you are often left with too much tomato sauce and not enough canned peaches… or a pile of root cellar fruits and vegetables that are about to go bad.
I recently found myself with a bowl full of last season’s apples that were well past their prime for eating raw and decided to turn their demise into a delightful breakfast treat: Cardamom Vanilla Apples on buckwheat pancakes (made with a mix by Lonesome Stone Mill, they use organic grains grown in Wisconsin and milled in Wisconsin… which I purchased while living in, you guessed it, Wisconsin.)
This recipe is so easy I most likely only need to tell you that it is apple sauce with vanilla and cardamom pods, and you could turn out something equally as delicious without any measuring tools within a quarter mile of your hand, but for clarity’s sake I will type out some specifics along with some directions… just in case. (Really though, this shouldn’t be called a recipe, just an idea. But I took really good pictures, so here you are.)
5-8 dented, dinged, or otherwise unattractive and half rotten apples
butter. Maybe a lot, but you could go with a little (lets say 3 TBS) (or oil for vegans)
1/8 cup brown sugar (or less if you have sweet apples, or have lost your belt and need to fit into one a size smaller that you found on the side of the road…yes, I am feeling sassy tonight, thank you for asking)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 or 4 cardamom pods
a squirt of lemon juice (or a large crab apple, cooked with the rest of the apples, if you want it to be more local)
This is the simple part. Take your apples and hack away at them. Pretend you are a plastic surgeon, but one that doesn’t despair at a slight blemish, and remove all the old, rotten, ugly bits, the core ,and the stem. Roughly chunk the remaining apples. In a sauce pan heat the butter on medium low heat, so it melts but does not brown. To the pan add the apples and cardamom pods. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples start to soften (but still have a bit of bite). Add the brown sugar and vanilla, stir, and cook until the apples start to brown. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve warm on top of buckwheat pancakes, drizzled with maple syrup. OR serve it any way you darn tooting want to serve it. Just eat the whole thing right out of the pan with a spoon if you like. It is an option. And a good one.
And that is why there ain’t no such thing as a bad apple.