Applesauce a la française

November 20, 2008

Earlier this week I accompanied my husband to the butcher’s.   This is a big deal for me, for I am not a fan of going to the butcher, although I am a fan of the butcher himself.

France still tries to cling to it’s traditions of boutiques vs one-stop-shopping.  As the world modernizes and cities boom that becomes more and more difficult.  Today in our neighborhood there are still specialized shops, including one produce vendor and a fish vendor.  There are about 8 bakeries, 3 of which are really good (and one of the not-great is just across the street from us). There is not a cheese shop in our neighborhood.  We also have one butcher just at the end of the block, and there is another one at the end of what I consider to be our neighborhood.

There is also the open-air market in our neighborhood, 3 days a week – Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.  I am usually only able to use it on Sunday, but at least while this work-from-home period lasts I try to take advantage of it.

We also have 2 big supermarkets, and several smaller general markets around.  There is an organic supermarket (well, small supermarket).  And the internet – almost all my household supplies like paper towels and cleaning stuff come from there, and when I order I might pick up a few other things but rarely my main food items.

Our butcher at the end of our block is a really nice guy.  He’s won several awards including one for best rillettes – rillettes being a type of pate made with lard and strings of pork in it (I won’t touch the stuff — I take everyone at their word that it’s good).  He will cut meat to order and give advice on preparation etc.  He has some fresh products too – eggs, for example, a few cheeses and usually a few of whatever-is-in-season fruits and veggies.

The problem, for me, is that it smells of blood.  Which I suppose is normal if it’s a butcher, I mean after all, it’s meat.  But I really have a hard time with the odor and being confronted by so much flesh.  As much as I try to fake it, I was born and raised in America.  Where I come from not only is meat sold under cellophane, there is a little sponge-thing in there to soak up the blood.  And I learned from my mom to put all the meat inside a clear plastic bag when doing the grocery shopping to avoid any risk of getting the juices that might leak out on the other food.  When our butcher cuts you a steak he wraps it in butcher paper and when you open it you have to be careful because the blood might run out all over the place.  This is still traumatic to me, and is one of many reasons that I don’t cook much meat.  My husband is the one who purchases and prepares pretty much all the meat, and I take care of the rest.  It works for us.

But on Tuesday I went with my husband down the butcher, as it’s been months since I’ve set foot in the place and apparently he’s asking about me.  It was apple season.  I decided to make applesauce and as the butcher was filling a sack full with apples he asked me if I was going to make it “a la française” (the French way).

What? Applesauce?  Has a French way?  Turns out he meant to cook the apples with their skins on and then push the stuff through a food mill.  I laughed, saying I didn’t even know what a food mill looks like.  I’ve made applesauce at home for the past 4 years now and frankly it’s pretty easy.  You just peel and quarter some apples with a tiny amount of water and boil it up and smush them down.  But my husband was laughing as was the butcher, who went in the back and came out with a food mill to show me what one was, how it worked, and to loan it to me to make applesauce.

So yesterday evening I made my French applesauce.  The skins of the apples gave a nice warm color to the sauce, but otherwise I don’t think it added much.  I strongly prefer the lumpier version I make usually with chuncks of apple vs the smooth version I got from the food mill.  But I tried something new, and it was very healthy (and it looks like it came from a jar, which mine usually does not).

And so I now have a good association of the butcher, and I know how to use a food mill.  Not so sure what I’ll do with that knowledge, but there you go…

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