When I was growing up, Thursday afternoon was applesauce day. I can still picture the fragrant pot of simmering apples holding court on the stovetop. Once the softened apples burst out of their skins, my siblings and I used to fight over who got to churn the cooked fruit through the food mill.
With kids of my own, I’ve come to value the simplicity of homemade applesauce and its complex, aromatic taste that is so superior to store-bought brands.
While some cooks are faithful to either Gala or Macintosh, I prefer using many types of apples—Fiji, Jonagold, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Cortland—to create a nuanced flavor that is simply divine.
For the basic recipe I rarely add anything to the apples, just a few tablespoons of juice, cider, or water to prevent the fruit from scorching.
Make Your Own Applesauce
3-4 pounds apples, mixed variety
¼ cup of apple juice or cider or water
2 cinnamon sticks or 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, optional
3-4 tablespoons sugar, optional
1. Quarter apples and place them in a large pot. Don’t bother removing the cores or peels; they contribute flavor, nutrition, and color. Add apple juice and cinnamon sticks, if using. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a lively simmer. Cook until apples are soft and falling apart, about 20 minutes.
2. Process according to one of the three following methods, depending on your gadget of choice.
Food Mill - Place a food mill on top of a large bowl. Transfer cooked apples and liquid to the food mill and churn until apples are processed into a smooth puree. Discard leftover peels and seeds that are too difficult to churn in the food mill. Flavor the applesauce with ground cinnamon or sweeten with sugar.
Strainer and Spatula - Transfer cooked apples to a large, hand-held sieve and use a rubber spatula to press fruit through the sieve and into a bowl. Once the cooked fruit has been pressed through the sieve, discard leftover peels and seeds. Flavor with ground cinnamon or sweeten
Food Processor - Since a food processor can’t separate the skins from the pulp in the same manner as a food mill, it’s preferable to peel and seed apples before cooking. After the apples are cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer apples to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse to create a smooth puree, adding a tablespoon or two of the cooking liquid, as needed. Flavor with cinnamon or sugar, if desired.
Cook 4 pounds apples with 1 ½ cups of frozen cranberries, ½ cup sugar, and ¼ cup brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Chunky Apricot Applesauce
Soak 1 cup dried apricots in hot water for about 10 minutes, or until softened. Remove from water and dice. Add diced apricots and about ¼ cup
sugar to 4 pounds apples in the last few minutes of the cooking time, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Cook 2 pounds apples and 2 pounds pears, both quartered. Since pears have more natural juice than apples, this sauce will be a little thinner than classic applesauce. To compensate, add just a tablespoon or two of liquid to the fruit before cooking instead of the ¼ cup listed in the recipe
Cook 2 pounds apples with 2 pounds halved and pitted plums, and ¼ cup sugar.