Georgia O’Keeffe Applesauce

We play this silly game every Christmas with one of my brothers-in-law.    He has never agreed to our adult-no-gift-Christmas decree.   Apparently a no-gift Christmas is sacrilege to him.

A couple of years ago, he started sneaking around and sending everyone Harry & David boxes for Christmas.    I love Harry & David stuff from the Moose Munch to the chocolate covered dried cherries, but he was going against the family.   (I say that with my best Don Corleone impression.)

So, this year we got back at him and sent him some Lou Malnati pizzas from Chicago.   That will teach him not to play fair!

Where is this all going?

Well, we received some fabulous pears and apples in our annual Harry & David box this year.    We ate a couple of pears and then promptly left for our Santa Fe trip.     When we returned, I found some apples that desperately needed used.

Keeping in my Santa Fe frame of mind, I grabbed one of my favorite books, A Painter’s Kitchen:   Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe.    There I found her simple applesauce recipe.   She apparently claimed to have had the “best applesauce tree around” at her Abiquiu property.

And, I have a friend that claims her mother made the best applesauce.   I have tried her applesauce and it is wonderful.   So I emailed her to see if she would share this heirloom recipe.    With O’Keeffe’s recipe in one hand and my iPad in the other, I compared the two recipes.   Here is a combination of the two:


Georgia O’Keeffe Applesauce with a Secret Ingredient from Ada

Georgia O'Keeffe 'Apple Family 3', 1921, Milwaukee Museum of Art, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

3 lbs. apples
(Georgia calls for both “tart and sweet” apples; Ada calls for Gala apples.)
Sugar to taste
(Georgia calls for this; Ada omits any sugar; I added about a tablespoon of honey.)
Lemon juice to taste
(This is all Georgia here.)
1/2 to 1 t. pure vanilla
(This is Ada’s secret ingredient.)

Wash and quarter apples.   DO NOT PEEL.  Everyone is in agreement on this, but Georgia says to NOT core them.   Ada is a corer.

Place apples in a large kettle with a small amount of water.   Simmer until they are soft.   (If you want to add honey, do it now.)

Cool and then press through a food mill.   Georgia then would add her sugar.    Ada would add her vanilla.

The simplicity of this dish is delicious.

You would not believe how the vanilla enhances the flavor.   I can’t describe how good this is.

Ada was a genius!   (And so is her daughter for giving me permission to share her secret ingredient!)


Eliot the Photographer 'Applesauce with Mint on Apple Picking Hat,' 2012

A Painter’s Kitchen is a great read as well as a practical cookbook full of simple and delicious and healthy recipes.   I would love to be just like O’Keeffe when I am aged—-a little bit persnickety, a lot opinionated, and still full of piss and vinegar!

A special thanks to Suzan, a good friend, a great cook, and a wonderful sharer of foodie wisdom.   Girl, you need to get your cookbook started!

Note:   I used a bit too much water, so I felt like I had to drain the apples a bit before I ran them through the mill.   I set the extra liquid aside while I forced the apples through the mill.     I kept looking at that fragrant liquid.   Finally, I dove in.   It was the best warm drink!   I highly recommend adding too much water so you can have a sip.

It also just dawned on me that I left off the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum off my Santa Fe:  Destinations post.   How could I have done that?   This small museum is a “must stop” every time we go.   Please add it to your list.

I will leave you with one of her wonderful quotes:

I have picked flowers where I found them, I have picked up sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood where there were sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood that I liked. When I found the beautiful white bones on the desert, I picked them up and took them home too. I have used these things to say what is to me the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.
—Georgia O’Keeffe,  1976

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