There are two distinct memories I have related to applesauce, both with the store-bought kind. The first is from early elementary school (possibly preschool?) when I was still eating off of those 3-sectioned child’s plastic dinner plates. My mom had scooped some applesauce on my plate but was still working on the rest of the meal. I hid under the dinner table and ate my portion of applesauce one finger dip at a time and giggled with delight when Mom came back to the table and wondered where the applesauce had gone. The second memory is in 5th grade when at lunch my best friend accidentally knocked my individually packed applesauce container off the table, spilling it down the leg of my elastic-waist jeans and somehow into my black velour, off-brand Airwalk sneakers. Embarrassing? Yes, (and not just my outfit of choice), but I suppose the fact that she didn’t make much of an effort to help me clean up prevented unnecessary attention from being drawn to our table (to be fair, she did attempt to stifle her laughter). Perhaps what most seared this moment into my long-term memory is the disappointment I felt at not being able to eat my applesauce that day.
What is it about applesauce that is so simply appealing? Sure, there are tons of things you can do with apples, and I’ve tried my fair share of ’em: apple brown betty, deep-dish apple pie, apple crisp, baked apples, apple muffins, and the list goes on. I decided to use some of the apples we procured at the orchard last weekend for some homemade applesauce – my first batch ever.
I thought it was going to be a complex undertaking, somewhat akin to making and canning really good jam. But, thanks to a recipe I found on Martha Stewart for inspiration, I was delighted to discover how simple it really is! The most taxing part was peeling and slicing the 12 apples I used for this batch (but with my handy dandy rotary apple peeler, even that was a cinch!).
Here’s what I did to make my Homemade Applesauce:
1. Peel and slice about 12 apples (use your judgment depending on the size). I used about 6 Pippins, 2 Crispins, 2 Fujis, and 2 Jonagolds.
2. Drop ’em all in a large saucepot along with:
– 1 cup fresh apple cider
– 1/3 cup sugar and a spoonful of brown sugar
– a mixture of ground cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, and ground ginger (I honestly have no idea how much I added, but I was generous with the cinnamon. No more than 1/2 to 1 teaspoon at the most for the other spices).
– half of a vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (optional, but adds a subtle, surprising depth of flavor)
– juice of half a lemon
3. Heat on medium heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally until the apples have broken down, and you’re able to smoosh them easily with a spoon. Check the seasoning and add more spices as desired. Enjoy warm or chilled.
It was amazing to watch the apples break down and listen to them bubble and pop in an odd but satisfying sort of apple sauce flatulence (hence, the title of this post…read more about flatulence from my days teaching 8th graders here). Simple pleasures, right? While they were cooking, I was able to clean up the kitchen and get another batch of bread dough mixed together and rising on the counter. I think the “stirring occasionally” is to prevent the apples from scorching on the bottom of the pan, but you’ll know if that’s happening. Alex happens to like his applesauce chunky, so I left some larger pieces of apples in there, but if you have fans of the smooth stuff in your household (like the stuff of my youth), by all means pull out your potato mashing device (or pastry blender) and go to town.
By the way, if you’re curious to know what we ate our applesauce with, we had a sort of smorgasbord meal of sweet and sour pork meatballs, leeks baked in white wine, and applesauce. Yeah, I’m not sure that’s what I’d call a well-orchestrated meal either, but each of its separate components were great. (We also ate the applesauce with our lunches, with apple-cheddar scones at breakfast, and we’ll definitely be making some again for potato latkes in a couple months).
Fall is perfect for visiting apple orchards, so stock up and try your own batch of applesauce! Let me know how it turns out and what your secret ingredients are. (By the way, despite what I titled this post, your home will smell delicious. What’s in a name?).