An easy dish of comfort...
A warm dish of homemade applesauce on a cold winter day can really make everything better. It’s the best kind of simple food that strikes all the right notes of comfort, sweetness, and nutrition.
If you’re in the mood for apple pie but don’t have enough time for something that elaborate, make applesauce.
If you have a mean cold and feel awful, dose yourself with some (very) high in vitamin C applesauce.
If you’re making a batch of brownies and want to make it a little less decadent, substitute the butter or oil with…you guessed it, applesauce.
It’s a treat, a snack, a condiment, a life-saver maybe…
BUT best part is that it is the easiest thing in the world to make. Certainly easier than a pot of rice, and, some would argue, WAY easier than a perfectly cooked dish of pasta. You know, because of that whole al dente business. The point being, applesauce is easy, forgiving, and delicious.
As far as the method goes, I use one of the three listed below, depending on how quickly I need to get the job done.
1- Peel the apples, cook them, mash them with a potato masher
2- Cook the apples with the skins on, run it through a food mill
3- Peel, chop, and roast the apples in the oven, mash with a potato masher
ALL THREE OPTIONS will make your house smell wonderful, and each one produces a slightly different and delicious result.
The first one is the easiest, because once you get the apples all peeled, cored, and chopped, you toss it in the pot with a little water or apple cider, and about 20 minutes later you mash up the softened, cooked apples, stir in a little cinnamon (or not!) and *poof*, you have a quick sauce.
The second one takes a little more time, because once the apples are softened and melty, you have to run it through a food mill to mash and separate the skins. Then you put it back in the pot, add your cinnamon or spices, and cook just a few minutes longer on very low heat. Cooking applesauce with the skins on results in an incredibly smooth and thick sauce because of the natural pectin that is present in the apple skins. It is often more intensely flavored, and the skins will also impart a gentle pink color- unless you’ve used green apples!
The third one is my personal favorite. To roast your applesauce, you peel, core, and chop the apples, toss them with a little cinnamon, and pile it all into a casserole dish. Cover with a bit of foil, and bake for 30-35 minutes in a 350 degree oven. I like this one best because you don’t need to add any liquid to the apples, they steam themselves under the foil, and the resulting sauce is very thick, a bit drier, and always very sweet. The oven has a way of concentrating and caramelizing the flavors.
And for a visual, here are the tools of the trade:
IF you don’t already have a food mill, get thyself to a kitchen store! It’s the best 20 bucks you’ll ever spend and can be used for all kinds of things besides applesauce- it’s a life saver during tomato canning season, and its great for mashed veggies, potatoes, pureed soups, and of course for making your own baby food.
Also, I suppose we should discuss adding sweeteners to our applesauce…
I mean, I mostly don’t do it.
Well. I’m kind of a hippie that way. But mainly it is because apples are already sweet. IF I’m feeling extravagant, I might add a bit of honey or maple syrup, but frankly, never sugar. HOWEVER, other additions to applesauce can be lovely, even sometimes transcendent…besides a touch of cinnamon, try nutmeg, raw ginger, the zest of one lemon, a handful of fresh cranberries or frozen raspberries, a very ripe pear (or four), or a cup of blueberries. I haven’t yet made it with a little orange zest, but doesn’t THAT sounds good??
Which brings us to a question I get asked every day at the market…
“What variety of apples should I use…?”
Hmmmm…Well, honestly, there aren’t many apples that don’t make a good sauce. In fact I can’t think of any apple that I have ever used that failed me in a sauce. If you want a tart sauce, use a tart apple. If you want a sweet sauce…you get the picture. One time I made three separate batches of varietal sauce- one was Sweet 16, the second was Braeburn, and the third was Winesap. It was quite predictable! The Sweet 16 tasted like it had sugar in it (it didn’t), the Braeburn was lemony tart (just like the apple tastes fresh), and the Winesap was thick, rich, and had an intense dose of caramel-wine flavor (maybe that’s why they call it Wine-sap?) See what I mean? The best thing to do is MIX a whole bunch of different varieties. You can’t go wrong!
And perhaps I should mention what to do with the giant pot of applesauce you’ve just made. It will keep, quite nicely in plastic or glass storage containers, in your fridge for up to a week. Otherwise, since apples are a high acid food, you can preserve it in glass Mason jars with hot-water bath canning. Follow the directions here. But the easiest, I think, is to freeze it in pint Mason jars- that way, you can just grab a jar out of the freezer, let it defrost on your counter (or overnight in the fridge) and there you go!
Anyhoo, the recipe that follows is for applesauce Method 1. I really hope you give it a try…enjoy!
- 1/2 peck of mixed apples (10-12 apples)
- 1 cup sweet apple cider or water
- 1 TSP cinnamon
- Peel and core apples
- Put apples in a decent sized, stainless-steel pot with the apple cider or water
- Cover and put on medium heat
- When the liquid in the bottom of the pot starts to boil, turn the heat to low
- Cook, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes
- Turn off heat, mash apples in the pot with potato masher, stir in cinnamon
- DEVOUR, warm...