We recently purchased a bunch of apples that looked great on the outside, but were quite mealy on the inside. Having two teenage boys in the house, we can’t afford to waste any food, so, to the absolute joy of those two boys, I decided to make applesauce with the rejected apples.
Applesauce doesn’t happen around here a lot for two reasons. First, the boys usually consume apples way too quickly; and second, the boys consume the applesauce even more quickly. I feel like I have hardly finished making the applesauce and it is gone, leaving me scraping out the pot and licking the spoon for a tidbit of yummy goodness of my own. We love our applesauce a bit on the tart side, and quite chunky, and the boys won’t even consider store bought applesauce – too bland and runny. Our homemade applesauce is quite a treat for them, and generally reserved for those times when they just won’t touch the apples.
There are lots of recipes out there for applesauce. Some of them are as simple as blending up the apples and straining out the seeds and other bits. Some are more complicated, using food mills to process the cooked apples. Our method is somewhere in the middle. And it’s easy…ish. The hardest part is peeling and quartering the apples. Many applesauce recipes suggest leaving the peels on, and either grinding them later, or fishing them out after the apples are soft. I don’t know that either of those methods is any less time consuming than peeling the apples to start, and both result in a less chunky applesauce. If the kids are each given a vegetable peeler and set to work, or the old-fashioned apple peeler/corer/slicer is put to use, it doesn’t take too long to peel and quarter a pot’s worth of apples. Some recipes suggest using the best quality apples, and this may be ideal if you are planning to make large batches and preserve the applesauce, but we have had wonderful results using old, bruised (cutting off the worst of the bruised bits), powdery apples. Cooking the apples generally intensifies the flavor, and improves the texture. We have had a couple of instances where apples that were really tasty for eating just didn’t sauce up with much flavor, but usually it is the other way around. Our “recipe” that follows is more like general guidelines that work well for us. Hope you enjoy!
- apples (any variety okay, a mix is best - we like Fugi, Gala, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Jazz, Macintosh)
- apple cider or water
- honey (optional)
- cinnamon (optional)
- sea salt (optional)
- Peel, core and quarter apples, removing any badly bruised areas.
- Place quartered apples into a (lidded) pot, drizzle with lemon juice and add cider or water to cover the bottom of the pot. Less liquid added will result in thicker applesauce, but you will need to keep an eye on the pot to make sure it doesn't go dry. We usually use about 1/2 cup cider or water in an 8-quart pot. If the apples are really fresh and juicy - a little less liquid. If they are older and dry - a little more liquid.
- Steam the apples on medium to medium high until tender, adding more fluid if needed. Apples are done when tender, but not completely falling apart, if you like a chunky applesauce. For a smoother consistency, cook longer. Different varieties of apples will cook differently, making really nice chunks in the finished applesauce!
- Remove from heat and begin mashing the apples with a potato masher (or a wooden spoon if no masher is available), until desired chunkiness is attained.
- Add honey, cinnamon,salt and more lemon if desired. Add a little at a time and keep tasting until it reaches your liking. Using a pinch of salt can really enhance the flavor, but be careful not to add too much - it may taste a little saltier when cooled. We usually add about 1/2 cup honey to our 8 quart batch, a few tablespoons of cinnamon, a pinch of salt and the juice from 2 or 3 lemons total (including the lemon added at the start).
- Remove to jars or other container, cool and refrigerate. Or eat while still warm! We do not go through the canning process because the applesauce gets eaten right away.
- Exact measurements are not given because there are too many variables involved - especially with the size, juiciness and flavor of apples. Keeping added moisture to a minimum without allowing the apples to scorch is ideal for a nice thick applesauce. Adding in lemon, cinnamon, salt and honey slowly and tasting is critical. The same amount of each might yield very different results for different apples.
- If you find that you have added too much liquid, you can return the pot to the burner, removing lid, and gently simmer until the desired level is achieved. This will result in a less chunky applesauce.
- Try using including other fruit as well! Ripe pears, cherries, cranberries and even rhubarb all taste delicious! Just add (cored / pitted / peeled) pieces to the pot with the apples at the start, and adjust sweetness as needed. If using rhubarb, slice into 1/2 inch or smaller pieces for best results.
- Hot applesauce?! You bet! If you eat cheese (not Paleo, I know), a sharp cheddar shredded and sprinkled over the top of a hot bowl of applesauce with a dash or two of cinnamon is an interesting combination - reminiscent of the "Apple Grande" my father used to make (better than Taco John's!).