Socktoberfest 2005 Back On Track; and, Easy Apple Crisp at Bargain Prices
Socktoberfest 2005 Lives On!
It's amazing the number of people who have jumped on the bandwagon for Lolly's simple little idea - to have a knit-a-long for Socks in October. 255 participants at last count, and more than one yarn company or store has taken notice and donated prizes to be given away - drawing to be held October 31st. Talk about the power of blogging! If you want to participate and be eligible for the drawing, you must sign up before October 19th - so dash on over there!
As for me, after seeming to stumble through much of last week, I've found myself to be quite productive again for the last couple of days. Most important, I seem to finally be finding my way with Sock Experiment 5 (SE5).
I really wanted to love the toe-up sock. But I just couldn't make it work. In the end, I decided that the size 2 needles were making too stiff a fabric, and I just couldn't get a proper fit around the ankle and heel.
So back to the top-down sock it is. But I didn't want to just repeat my previous Sock Experiments and make another pair of Lucy Neatby's Simply Splendid Socks from Cool Socks, Warm Feet (for all that they are, indeed, both simple and splendid). Been there, done that - you know how it is.
So I poked my nose into the more recently acquired book, Sensational Knitted Socks. I did a gauge swatch with the Lion Brand Micro-Spun on size 4 needles, and liked the result much better. And here we are, a couple of inches into a Baby Cable Rib sock.
Baby Cable Ribs - Not Related to Baby Back Ribs
I feel much more confident about Socktoberfest this time. Top-down is a tried-and-true technique for me, and I still get my novelty factor from using Micro-Spun yarn and from doing something other than a simple rib and stockinette pattern.
I think I'd prefer if I could do these in all one color, but I don't have the resources to buy more Micro-Spun yarn just now, and my first attempt seemed to prove that I wasn't going to get a full sock out of a single skein. So color-block I must, whether I want to or not.
At least this combination suits my standards for oddball color mixing and eye-popping brightness.
Autumn Cravings Satisfied
It's been a while since I had any cookery to write about. You can visit previous recipes in the archives of Folkcat in the Kitchen, my cooking-blog-that-was.
Today's recipe isn't an original one, but it's a goodie. With the fall season, Gryphon and I have been developing a hankering for apple crisp. Now, every supermarket worth its salt offers pans of pre-made apple crisp. But that always tastes, well - far from homemade, that's for sure.
Making our own is the only way to go, then. And it's really a simple process. Today, I used the basic recipe from my treasured 1975 edition of the Joy of Cooking* as my starting point.
The worst part about making apple crisp (or pie, or applesauce, or anything else like that) is the peeling, coring, and slicing of the apples. Once you have the right gadget, though, you'd be amazed how quickly you can process a pile of fruit.
Buying a good, hand-cranked, apple peeler/corer/slicer can set you back about $30. And it's probably worth every penny if you cook with apples a lot.
If you're a yard-sale bargain hunter, though, keep your eyes open. This is the sort of gadget that people often get, either as a gift or because they think they'll use it, and then wind up selling unused in the original box because they didn't do a thing with it after all. Gryphon and I had just this luck this summer, and we scored the apple gadget below for $5 - untouched and in the original container. As you can see, it appears to be the identical twin of the machine in the upper picture, which is available at Amazon for $29.95.
Yard Sale Bargain
There are three things to look for:
- - good, cast metal construction. You want this to be heavy enough to stand up to the wear and tear of repeatedly cranking apples through.
- A suction base. We've had one with a clamp-on base before, and never had a kitchen table or countertop with an adequate edge to screw the thing to. We always had to fudge it by clamping to a heavy cutting board that we hung over the edge of the counter, which was still not a stable enough solution for comfortable use. The suction base on our new model has been like heaven by comparison.
- If buying used, examine the blades for the corer/slicer and the parer to make sure they haven't rusted or corroded. Improper storage can lead to damage even if the device is new in the box.
This time of year, it's common for us to find apples on the DPR. So, with our apple crisp craving in mind, we popped over to the store today to see what we could find. I was prepared for the possibility of either apples or pears, and if I didn't score on the DPR, we could still afford to buy just enough fruit to make one batch of crisp without breaking the bank.
Such a Deal!
We picked over the offerings, rejecting a package or two that had mixed some oranges in with the apples, or that had very visible bruises over too much of the fruit. The package we settled on had 5 apples totalling 2 1/4 pounds, in a mix of varieties: 2 Galas, 1 Fuji, 1 Cortland, and 1 Golden Delicious. Since the best flavor often comes from mixing your apples, this was perfect!
The recipe in the Joy of Cooking calls for 4 cups of pared and sliced apples, which would be about 1 1/3 pound unpared. I went ahead and processed all 5 apples, knowing it was going to give me around 6 cups of fruit. Since this still fit within the baking dish (8x8x2 inch Pyrex square), I was fine with just making a generous batch. And since the fruit was aging already, I didn't want to leave any unused to go bad on us.
Toppings for fruit crisps can vary a lot. (I won't even open the discussion about the differences between crisps, crumbles, buckles, brown betties, cobblers, and all the many other types of baked fruit desserts that often get confused together.) The recipe from the 1975 Joy of Cooking is a simple one, calling for only 3 ingredients: 1/2 cup white flour; 1/2 cup packed brown sugar; 1/4 cup butter (add 1/2 teaspoon of salt if your butter is unsalted). I use a biscuit mixer to cut the ingredients together quickly. You don't want the butter getting soft and making the topping greasy.
The Joy of Cooking calls for a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. With the extra heaping pile of fruit I used, I wound up going about 15 minutes longer before I was satisfied with the doneness of the dish.
Homemade Apple Crisp - So Easy, and Nothing Tastes as Good!
As you can see, I didn't wait long before scooping out a serving for myself. The only thing that could have improved it is if I'd had a good quality French Vanilla ice cream to scoop on top of the hot crisp.
I made the basic recipe this time, but there are lots of variations I could have thrown in. There's no cinnamon in this batch, for instance, and that's an almost cliched flavoring for apples. I could also have sprinkled in one of my favorite applesauce flavorings, Chinese Five Spice. A little vanilla extract would have given some nice body to the flavor as well.
If I'd had access to some additional fruits, like blueberries or raspberries, I could have sprinkled them in among the apples. If I'd made a pear crisp, I might have used a little almond extract and added ginger or nutmeg instead of cinnamon.
Crisps are always a tasty dessert. They will always impress your guests, and it's hard to screw them up. And they're one of those very modular concepts that I like so much. Just learn some basics about how much topping to what quantity of fruit, and trust your own instincts about what flavors work together. It's hard to go wrong.
Folkcat's Tip: You can save a lot of money by buying produce from the Distressed Produce Rack, but be careful! Since the fruits and vegetables already have some age on them, you should be prepared to use them the same day you bring them home - certainly no later than the next day. Examine the choices carefully and leave behind any that are too badly bruised or damaged, or that have begun to show mold or decay. (It happens!)
If you can't cook with the items that day, at least be ready to prepare them for storage in your freezer. More than once, Gryphon and I have come home from the market with five pound bags of carrots that we immediately teamed up on to wash, peel, slice, and package in 1 pound units for the freezer. By stockpiling produce bargains this way, I can often shop in the freezer and come up with all the ingredients I need for a fresh soup or stew on a whim.
* - There is a more recent edition of the Joy of Cooking which came out in 1997. I have that one, too, but I found it hugely disappointing, and I seldom take it off the shelf. Many of the classic recipes I had come to depend on in the 1975 edition were gone, and others had been altered for a supposedly new, busier lifestyle that had less time to cook.
My favorite Brownies Cockaigne, for instance. In the 1975 edition, the recipe carefully describes a specific order and process for putting the ingredients together, which resulted in a far superior brownie with amazing texture and flavor. They even told you how to cook the batter in different pans depending on whether you want a cake-like or a fudgy brownie. (I like fudgy.) In the newer edition, the recipe is still called Brownies Cockaigne, but the process is reduced to nearly one or two steps and is, essentially, a simple one-bowl brownie batter.
The 1997 edition also removes much of the content that explains why different processes and techniques do what they do to food. I find this inexcusable - the reputation of the Joy of Cooking legacy is that it's a source for learning how to cook, and why to do it certain ways.
Bottom line - I still consider the Joy of Cooking to be an essential reference for anyone who cares about cooking and food, an absolute must-have. But search through used booksellers, either online or off, and find the 1975 edition. You won't regret it.