Saturday, October 4, 2014

Making Applesauce

I recently got my hands on such a large and lovely crate of apples that I had to do something other than just eat them all. A friend generously handed them over to me after doing the work of harvesting them from her neighbor’s personal, noncommercial orchard. I’m convinced that if we all had friends and neighbors like this, the world would be a much, much better place.

Anyway, these apples are very large and a bit tart: pretty good for eating out of hand, but my friend said they cook down beautifully for applesauce. Applesauce it would be, then, and, wow! that has been just about the best decision I’ve made this year! I added some sugar, but kept things a bit tart. I added some great apple cider, but also some water to the apples as I saw that they needed more moisture as they cooked. I made some delicious applesauce. Really. And I’m not patting myself on the back here. It’s all about the apples.

That concept became even more apparent when I compared what I did to the write-up I produced for this pumpkin applesauce. I had a totally different type of apple that required a longer cooking time and more vigorous mashing to make sauce. My more recent haul of fruit cooked down to sauce in just a few minutes.

And so, instead of writing an exact recipe given precise quantities and cooking times and demanding a particular type of apple (which doesn’t guarantee against variations anyway), I thought I’d just give you a step-wise narrative of how I make applesauce. You really shouldn’t be afraid of it. It’s easy!

First, I peel, core and roughly chop my apples. For these photos, I used about 5 large apples, which fit nicely in my largest skillet. You could make less in a smaller skillet, or lots more in a big pot. 
Step 2: Place the apples in a large skillet (or a pot if you want to go that way) with about half a cup of liquid, either water or apple cider, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. (Really, if you don’t happen to have a lemon on hand, you could skip that, too. It just brightens the flavors a bit, which might not be necessary if you have good apples, and prevents browning.) Stir in some sugar. Here, you want to taste your apples and guess whether they need a lot of sugar, a little, or none at all. I used brown sugar. Heat this all over medium heat.

Step 3: Let things cook. The apples will start to break down and give off some liquid. Add more liquid if the mixture seems to be spattering too much or if you’re concerned it will scorch. Turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer away. You can begin mashing the apples with a spoon or spatula as they begin to soften.

Step 4. Decide if it’s done. Some apples will take much longer to cook. Some will cook down right away. Some will never get really, really soft and you’ll have chunky applesauce. The applesauce I made this year took less than a half hour to be really soft and smooth. The one I made a few years ago took more like 45 minutes to an hour.

Taste the mixture for sugar and add more if you like. Add some spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves or ginger if you like. If you want your sauce very smooth, you can mash any remaining apple chunks with a potato masher or blitz the whole thing in a food processor (or baby food blender). And there you have it: Applesauce! Exactly how you want it. Or how the apples you get your hands on dictate it anyway. It’ll be really, really good. Really good!

If you want to preserve your applesauce for the months ahead you can freeze it in freezer-safe containers. If you prefer to can your sauce, please refer to a well-tested recipe and procedure for canning. This sketch I give to you above may not make a mixture that is properly safe for canning. It is fun and delicious, though, and the first batch I made didn’t last long enough to even consider preserving some. Good thing I’ve still got some apples!

Another recipe like this one: Applesauce with Pumpkin and Spices

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