Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Been Through the Mill?
I'm actually talking about the food mill. I love kitchen tools-- there are few things more enjoyable than finding the perfect tool for the job: a microplane grater for citrus zest, a vegetable peeler that is tough enough to remove skin from butternut squash and still feel good in your hand. Although I really hate to buy a tool that only performs one function, if I really need it, and will use it often, I'll get it. My citrus reamer, or garlic press, for example.
My food mill, on the other hand, is very versatile: it creates velvety smooth purees and sauces, can be used to de-seed berries, such as blackberries or raspberries, is indispensible for certain kinds of tomato sauces, and you can make babyfood with it, too! That's actually how I acquired my first food mill, a small, mostly plastic model. My sister sent it to me to make babyfood for DS, back in the days when he was mostly toothless. It's a "multitasker" (to use Alton Brown's term) par excellence.
My old plastic mill has long since bit the dust, and I can't remember when I acquired my current stainless steel industrial-strength one. I know it looks a little intimidating, with all its parts and mangle-y things. It's actually less complicated than it looks and is simple to use. And when I need it, I've got it-- so I feel it was worth every penny.
First, most food mills come with a variety of disks to force the food through, from coarse to fine. Mine has three:
Papa bear (Coarse), Mama Bear (Not So Coarse) and Baby Bear (Fine).
You insert a disc, "pointy-side up", in the bottom of the bowl. Like so (this is "Baby Bear"):
The other parts are the bowl and forcing blade.
My bowl has a handy little grabbing handle opposite the long skinny handle, so you can get better traction while working.
Finally, the forcing blade, which is spring-loaded for oomph and has little slots that lock into the little attacmements on the side of the bowl, plus the "easy-crank" handle.
It looks like this when you get it all put together:
One of the best uses for the food mill is making wonderful homemade applesauce, which is nice to serve with pork or of course you can eat it just as a snack or a healthy dessert. Applesauce made with a food mill contains a lot more pectin that regular applesauce, and also more nutrients and flavor since you can cook the apples in their skins.
I was inspired to make applesauce today because I had some apples that were starting to get a little spotty and I wanted to use them up. As with making an apple pie, it's best to use a variety of apples for applesauce. You can toss in some eating apples too, that normally you wouldn't cook with, like Fujis.
Besides your foodmill, a good knife, and a cooking pot, here's what you'll need to make
Fast and Easy Homemade AppleSauce
3 lbs. assorted apples (5 or 6 apples)
1/4-1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. water
Juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
Here are my apples. I had a Granny Smith, a Golden Delicious, 2 Jonagolds, and one of DC's Galas that he loves for snacks, that was getting a bit sad looking for eating out of hand.
Once you round up your apples, wash them very well.
Then cut them into quarters, peel, core, and all. (I do toss any loose seeds or stems.)
Next, put the apples in the cooking pot. I'm using a 4-qt saucepan (with a lid) here. You need a lid.
Next, add the water, 1/4 c. of the sugar, and the salt.
Bring the pot to a boil over high heat.
Now, turn the heat down, cover and simmer over very low heat for about 30 minutes, until the apples are very tender. Stir every 5 minutes or so.
Here are my apples at the 15-minute mark. Definitely getting soft!
And at 30 minutes: Done!
My particular food mill fits best in something that has a narrow top. In this case, my cooking pot would work perfectly. But first I have to pour the apples out into a bowl so they can be processed. My medium size bowl is in the dishwasher, so I used this honking big one.
Now to put the food mill together. So that the applesauce does not acquire the dubious texture of babyfood, I am going to use the coarsest disk. (Of course, if an actual baby is going to be eating this, I would use the finest disk!)
Here, I've put the coarsest disk (Papa Bear) into the bowl pointy side up.
Next, put the forcing blade in and lock it in place:
Now, I put the assembled, ready-to-go food mill on top of my now-empty cooking pot.
Now, pour the apples into the food mill:
And start cranking!
What the foodmill does is to effortlessly separate the skins, cores, seeds, etc. from the apple pulp. The peels, seeds and cores are too big to fit through the holes in the disk, and they stay behind in the bowl. Meanwhile, the now-pureed apples come out the bottom:
Now, taste the puree. Does it need sugar? If so, add up to a 1/4 c. Fresh lemon juice is delicious in applesauce, so I added the juice of 1 fresh lemon.
And here is my pot full of delicious homemade applesauce. You can see that it is much richer in color than storebought applesauce. It also has more pectin, since we cooked the skins and cores along with the apples.
Time to eat! This is still warm, and you can see it's just a bit loose. As it cools, it will set up and get thicker.
Bon appetit! !Buen provecho! Dig in!
CLICK to enlarge image