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Homemade Applesauce - A Quick and Easy Recipe
Just Like Grandma Used to Make
Growing up in Western New York State, the onset of fall meant apples. Apples were abundant in food stores and farmer's markets around town.
My great-Aunt and Uncle had two apple trees at their lake cottage and apple orchards dotted the countryside. On a Sunday afternoon drive in the country one could easily gather a bag or two of apples by simply stopping and picking up the fallen apples laying by the side of the road next to an orchard.
Picking up apples that had fallen on the shoulder of the road was OK however, it was not OK to climb the fence to gather the ones laying on the ground inside the orchard or, worse still, picking them from the trees.
Have You Visited nearby farms in the Autumn to pick your own produce?
Many farmers would set up a table in their front lawn and offer some of the apples for sale. Sometimes they used an honor system by simply placing a jar on the table for people to deposit their money and placed the apples in front of the table for people to take.
Sometimes the farmer or his wife would be at the table to sell but, more frequently, it was the farmer's children who ran this part of the operation as a way to make some extra money.
These stands, as well as larger commercial produce stands can still be found in the countryside along with farmer's markets where farmers are invited to come to a central location on weekends to sell their produce from stands or the back of their pickups.
There are also pick your own farms, like Apple Annie's in Wilcox, Arizona where urbanites can visit and pick their own fruit.
Of course, thanks to globalization and modern transportation, one can always find fresh apples in grocery stores year round.
Homemade applesauce makes a great dish and here is a simple recipe.
Large pot with a lid in which to boil the apples
Small, sharp knife (a paring knife works best) with which to cut the apples
In my case the quantity of apples used is based upon the capacity of my pot. I have found that if I start with between 3 and 4 pounds that is sufficient to fit into the pot after cutting and coring.
Wash the apples then cut them into quarters.
Remove the seeds, core and stems but you can leave the skins on.
Fill the pot about 1/3 with water and place apples in the pot.
Impatient fellow that I am, I place the pot on the stove and turn the heat to High. This brings the water to a boil quickly. I then turn the heat down to Low, cover and let the apples slow cook for 30 - 45 minutes.
You can tell when the sauce is done because the apples on the bottom will be reduced to a sauce and those on top will be very tender and easily crushed.
You must be careful not leave the stove on a high temperature for too long or you will burn the apples on the bottom of the pot and, by all means monitor the water level or you will also burn the apples on the bottom if the water evaporates (burning isOK except that it makes the pot very difficult to clean and gives your applesauce a charcoal taste).
It helps to stir the mixture occasionally but this is not mandatory. It also helps to monitor the water level while cooking. As the apples break down they will add to the water in the pot (this will vary depending upon the juiciness of the apple variety you use). If you use a lid on the pot, evaporation will be reduced.
The quantity of water is important because it determines the consistency of the final product - too much liquid and your sauce will be more like a soup, too little liquid and it will have the consistency of overcooked oatmeal.
Once the sauce starts cooking, the only efficient way you can reduce the liquid content is to remove the lid from the pot, turn up the heat and let the excess water evaporate.
But, be careful not to burn the apples. When the apples start to break down, removing excess water by pouring it out results in the loss of applesauce as well.I find it is better to err on the side of less liquid than more (but this requires more watching) as you can always add water easier than you can remove it.
The Final Steps
Once the sauce is done, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool. I then use a Foley Food Mill/Grinder to strain the applesauce into a nice puree and remove the skins.
A Foley Food Mill/Grinder is an aluminum or stainless steel pot like device which has a handle and porous bottom (see picture above).
It takes a few minutes and some physical effort to strain the apples but the result is a smooth sauce with no skins. I have never tested the theory, but it seems to me to require less time and effort to run the sauce through the mill at the end rather than take the time to peel the apples at the beginning.
Of course you do not have to remove the skins but many people (including my children) prefer the sauce without skins. You can also peel the apples before cooking and then not use the food mill - this gives a nice chunky sauce, which I like but am too lazy to peel the apples beforehand.
The food mill will also remove the seeds, core and stems as well as skins. While I find thisunappetizing , you can simply wash and cut the apples in half or quarters (which both allows more apples to fit in the pot and as well as cook faster) and then remove all but the apples with the food mill.
My Mother gave me her Foley mill which I used for years until I lost one of the parts. After much searching I finally found a replacement Foley food mill at the L.L. Bean store in Maine while on vacation. You can now find them for sale on a number of sites on the Internet - just do a Google search on "Foley Food Mill/Grinder".
Add Sugar and Spice to Taste
The final step is to sweeten the sauce to taste with sugar - this will vary not only on personal taste but on the sweetness or tartness of the apple (sweet apples, such as the Red Delicious variety, require no sugar but also don't make as tasty a sauce as ones that are more tart).
I also like to add cinnamon (again to taste) which not only adds flavor but gives the sauce a rich brown color. My final ingredient is nutmeg which gives it a great taste. Depending upon preference, other spices can be substituted.
Place what you need in a covered food container and put the remainder in other food containers and freeze them for later use.