HELEN LANG: Keep tasting as you go, it’s the best part of cooking

Maybe all of you already do this, but just in case there is a beginner cook reading this, may I make a suggestion?

Another beautiful, cloudless day today, as I sit here with the doors and windows open to the great outdoors. Summer is really wonderful.

I know, I know! It has been very hot. It was 91 degrees in the living room two days ago with that precious air conditioner going full blast. I ran a cool bath and lay in it until I felt cooler, before wrapping myself in a towel and lying on the bed until the apartment seemed less torrid. And to think we still have the rest of August — and maybe a week or so of September — to enjoy summer! Let’s enjoy it while it lasts!

Several days ago Joan M. gave me a bag of Yellow Transparent apples.

I considered making a pie, but it was really too hot to turn on the oven so I decided to make apple sauce. I planned to do it the easiest way possible.

Maybe all of you already do this, but just in case there is a beginner cook reading this, may I make a suggestion?

Remove the stem (if it is still attached) and cut each apple into four slices and remove the core. Leave the peeling on. Cook these pieces (barely covered with water) until very soft. Mash them as you would mash potatoes and if you have a colander, squeeze the apple flesh through it, discarding the skins. A sieve takes longer but will  (eventually) do the job. A colander is certainly a useful kitchen tool.

Now this mushy mass needs to be sweetened. I like to use brown sugar, but that is optional, of course.

The amount? You’ll have to keep tasting, (this is the fun part of cooking) to achieve the right amount of sweetness, starting with, maybe, a quarter cup of sugar.

This apple sauce freezes well and makes a delicious breakfast starter. It is also wonderful in a cake — an old fashioned apple sauce cake.

[Note: the July 29 column included an apple sauce cake recipe and forget to mention it requires 2 cups of flour.]

I hate to go on about this, but we need rain so badly. I know California is in the midst of a serious drought and we are certainly on the leading edge of one here.

I don’t want to bring on a rainy season before we get to our regular one but this is getting really serious. I hate the idea of having to share bath water.

When my brothers and I  were kids we had to do just that. Lucky me — I got the first bath Our water came from a well, so there was a limit to the warm water as it was heated in a huge copper container on a wood stove. When I remember my dear Mother, I could weep that she had to put up with so many inconveniences, when we have so many easier ways of doing things today.

I never heard her complain though. Perhaps women were made of sterner stuff years ago. Who amongst us now would cross Canada in a covered wagon, drawn by a team of horses, probably with four or five snivelling kids in tow and a husband who expected you to pull your weight in his great adventure.

I’d like to think a lot of us would be willing. I’m lucky, I’m too old to be invited to come along, except perhaps to do the cooking and wash the dirty socks.

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