One of the great things about cooking from the garden and orchard is a constant reminder to stick to the basics. If you just spent “x” months growing something (or waiting “x” months to buy it fresh and local), you want to taste what you’ve been waiting for. And most of the time when we stick to the basics the quality and flavor of seasonal produce really shines through. Now, we are still big fans of “brined-balsamic-glazed-sous-vide-nut-crusted-finished-in-a special-artisan-brick-oven” dishes. But sometimes the ingredient speaks for itself. And this is very much the case for apples. We use them all kinds of ways, but in our house the two best preparations are eating out of hand and making cinnamon applesauce.
And if you don’t think much of applesauce, we suggest you make some of your own (and be ready to change your mind). Homemade applesauce rocks. Good by itself, applesauce is great with pancakes or on toast, and is a common ingredient in many healthy desserts. And applesauce is easy to make (particularly if you have a food mill- more on that later, see Notes). also, if you buy in season, apples are tasty, plentiful and cheap. As for the varieties to use, Gala, Fuji, Jonagold, Jonathan, Golden Delicious and Melrose are all recommended, but most apples will work. We use our Gravensteins…we have a lot of them.
Making applesauce is a simple process. Cut and core apples, add to a pot with water, sugar and spice, cook, mash, taste, adjust sugar/spice and serve. There are a few tools and tricks that do help, a food mill makes it easy to mash the apples with the skins on, otherwise you need to do it manually with peeled apples (not a big deal, but a time-saver). We also use date sugar for deeper sugar flavor, but white sugar works just fine. And, of course, we put cinnamon in our applesauce for extra spice to balance the sweet apples (and the kitchen smells great when cooking). And once the applesauce cools you have a tasty, healthy snack that will keep in the fridge for about a week.
So how do we serve our applesauce? As we mentioned, it’s great on toast and pancakes and even better served with roast pork (yes, recipe coming). But mostly, our kids (bless them) will just grab some out of the fridge, pour it in a bowl and eat it. And then they ask, “are these our apples?” and when we say “yes”, they say “cool” and get back to eating. It may not sound like much, but for a home cook and gardener, it doesn’t get much better. Like we said, sometimes it’s best to stick to the basics.
Notes Before You Start:
- Most apple varieties will work for applesauce, but ask at your grocer or farmer’s market for best available varieties.
- We use date sugar for a slightly richer, “darker” flavor, but white sugar works just as well.
- A food mill is a tool worth having for all sorts of uses, but really makes applesauce a snap. They are cheap and available at most kitchen stores. If you don’t have one, peel the apples and then simply mash them in the pot. The texture will be a bit more rustic, but the flavor will be just as good.
What You Get: One of the best ways to enjoy apples. A great dessert and/or side dish.
What You Need: A food mill is a big help, but not required. No other special gear needed.
How Long? About 90 minutes total, with about 10 minutes of active time. Most of the time is to allow the applesauce to cool. This can be an “anytime” dish, but mostly a fun weekend or evening project.
(Makes 3-4 cups)
- 4 pounds apples, cored and cut into quarters (peel the apples if not using food mill)
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup date sugar (or white sugar)
- 2, 3-inch cinnamon sticks (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
- Combine the apples, water, sugar and cinnamon sticks in a large dutch oven or lidded pot. Cover and cook, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the apples break down. About 15-20 minutes.
- Place the apples, in batches, into the food mill and process into a large bowl. Taste. Add sugar and/or water to adjust flavor and consistency (add ground cinnamon, if using). Serve warm, or allow to cool for one hour and store in jars. Will keep in the fridge for a week.
- Making applesauce with a food mill (giantveggiegardener.com)
- Homemade Applesauce (lifeasmomknowsit.wordpress.com)
- My New Favorite Thing – Homemade Applesauce (smileandwave.typepad.com)
- Gramma’s Applesauce (nubbs75.wordpress.com)
- When Applesauce Tastes Like Apple Pie Filling (thedillydaily.wordpress.com)