This week I made applesauce with a bag of apples from a friend’s tree. I was reminded how much cooking has to do with feel. These apples were different than the apples from our tree – sweeter and, if not exactly mealy, then easier to break down, with more moisture. Plus the peels tinted the applesauce a nice pinky taupe. (I’d never really thought about why some applesauce is pink until that very moment. Funny. I wonder if they dye it in factories now?) Applesauce is almost risably easy to make, especially if you have a mill/strainer like mine – you don’t even need to peel for the first round of cooking, just core and cut out the bad bits. All the pectin means you don’t even have to worry about whether jams will set, and usually you don’t even need to add sugar. Just cook down, run through the mill, cook a bit more and season if necessary, and can (or freeze, but I have a tiny freezer so it’s usually plenty full of other things).
I’ve read that expert bakers can tell the desired ratio of liquid to flour by feel, or how much something needs to rise based on how it looks and how humid it is that day. Recipes are always an approximation, anyway – no two raw ingredients are identical no matter how processed they may supposedly be, and fruits and vegetables certainly can be all over the place. They change moisture content and calories just sitting there on the counter or in the fridge or even on the vine, apparently. I read a book a few years ago positing the theory that early man’s starting to cook meat marked a new phase in human development, and there was a whole chapter about caloric density of meals over time, and a slight digression into how calculating the calories contained in anything is incredibly iffy and probably quite wrong most of the time, especially with non-industrial food, because so much can vary based on cooking technique and length of cooking, not to mention how long you let it sit before you eat it and how the food grew in the first place. (It was a strange schadenfreude to read as someone who’s spent a lot of time being aware of and counting calories.)
Well, enough of my meandering. It’s prime canning time, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway. Are you doing any canning, or any other putting food away for winter?