Thursday, January 20, 2011


I was at my corner store this afternoon and saw they had 5-pound bags of Fuji apples on sale for $3.29 in the outside "use this quick or else" produce section.

So I did.

I'd never made applesauce from scratch before, but I have vague memories of my grandmother making and canning it. I wasn't ready to take on canning this afternoon, but throw some apple chunks in a pot and boil 'em for a bit? No problem.

I started with this recipe but messed around with it enough that it's really not the same recipe any more. For starters, I had 5 lbs of apples to contend with. (I also didn't have lemons, and I wanted more of a cinnamony taste anyway, so I left those out.) I peeled and quartered the apples and got them simmering in 1-1/2 cups of water. I started off with 2 cinnamon sticks but after 15 minutes of simmering, I decided to throw in 2 more. And I only used brown sugar -- maybe half a cup, possibly less.

Then after 30 or 40 minutes total of simmering (I forgot to set the timer), I pulled out the 4 cinnamon sticks and mushed it up with my stick blender. I ended up with about 8 cups -- 2 of which I noshed on over the course of the afternoon and the rest of which went into jars. (The recipe says that it can last frozen for up to a year, but I can't imagine it going that long without being nommed up.)

Easy. Awesome.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

BBQuest 1: Everett and Jones, Berkeley

This is my friend Tom. Say hi to the nice people, Tom!

We got into a discussion about barbecue the other day. I don't remember how it started, but it ended with us deciding that we'd go on a quest to find the best barbecue in the Bay Area. The best here is probably comparable to the worst in places where they actually know how to make barbecue, but we still hold out hope.

Ground rules:
- We're tasting beef brisket and pork ribs. Mmm, ribs.
- If peach cobbler is available, we're eating that too, because cobbler is awesome.
- Potato salad is being judged too, though Tom thinks mayo is manna from heaven and I only like it in very limited situations. So if I have more than a taste of the potato salad, I'll give it at least a C; if I finish it, A+.
- We're also considering atmosphere, the highest level being BBQ handed out a back door from some time in the morning until the food runs out, and the lowest involving BBQ served on china and clean tables with proper lighting in a nice neighborhood.

What qualifies us to judge barbecue? I'm a Bay Area native who lived in Texas for 7 years, though half that time I was vegetarian. Tom is a gentleman redneck from San Jose who's never been to the South. In other words, nothing, really. We just both love food and arguing about which food is better.

Our first stop on the quest for good BBQ in the Bay Area is an old classic, Everett and Jones in Berkeley. It's in an old Dairy Queen or Foster's Freeze or the like; the front door has a security door on it and there's a dude outside selling CDs and magnets. Most importantly, the place is mobbed. So far, so good.

We ordered one each of the brisket and pork ribs, as well as two peach cobblers. (We, as well as everyone else ordering, were "sweetheart.") They didn't have cobbler because peaches are out of season. Tom thought they should have been using canned peaches, which I thought was heresy.

The sauce: medium hot. Tom thought it wasn't spicy at all, I thought it was medium hot by Bay Area standards. It tasted too sweet on the brisket but just right on the pork ribs. The brisket was a little dry and some pieces a bit tough. The potato salad was pretty good; Tom noted the presence of dill and pickle juice. We left happily full but not blown away by awesomeness.

Atmosphere: B
Ribs: B+ (Magpie); B- (Tom)
Brisket: C-
Sauce: B-
Potato salad: C-
Cobbler: n/a
Overall: C