One of the things Erin and I have enjoyed the most over the last few months has been the weekly deliveries from Boston Organics. Unfortunately, we found ourselves neglecting the occasional apple thrown in the bin with the rest of the delicious fruits and veggies.
Of course, an apple here, and an apple there, and all of a sudden we had close to two dozen apples sitting in the crisper drawer. What were we to do?
I’d always wanted to try and make applesauce, but imagined it to be some sort of difficult and elusive recipe, a black art impossible for a mere mortal like myself to tackle. Browsing through Cooks Illustrated, I found something entirely to the contrary:
“Choose the right apple, don’t peel it, and add nothing more than sugar and water. It’s that simple.”
Heeding that advice, I thought it was definitely time to make some homemade applesauce.
This is probably one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever come across. It’s pretty much on par with making oatmeal. I don’t know why I let myself be so intimated by a little old apple!
If you do not own a food mill or you prefer applesauce with a coarse texture, peel the apples before coring and cutting them, and, after cooking, mash them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon or against the bottom of the pot with a potato masher. Applesauce made with out-of-season apples may be somewhat drier than sauce made with peak-season apples, so it’s likely that in step 2 of the recipe you will need to add more water to adjust the texture. If you double the recipe, the apples will need 10 to 15 minutes of extra cooking time.
4 pounds apples (8 to 12 medium), preferably Jonagold, Pink Lady, Jonathan, or Macoun, unpeeled, cored, and cut into rough 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch table salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter – stir into finished sauce
3 inch cinnamon sticks (2) — cook with apples and remove prior to pureeing
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon – stir into finished sauce
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen) – cook and puree with apples
4 whole cloves – cook with apples and remove prior to serving
1 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger , sliced into three pieces and smashed – cook with apples and remove prior to pureeing
1 teaspoon lemon zest – cook and puree with apples
2 tablespoons lemon juice – stir into finished sauce
2/3 cup Red Hot candy – cook and puree with apples
2 pieces star anise (whole) – cook with apples and remove prior to serving
1. Toss apples, sugar, salt, and water in large, heavy-bottomed nonreactive Dutch oven. Cover pot and cook apples over medium-high heat until they begin to break down, 15 to 20 minutes, checking and stirring occasionally with wooden spoon to break up any large chunks. (Note: I added water as the apples cooked to keep the “applesauce” liquidity throughout the cooking process. I also added ground cinnamon at this stage in lieu of cinnamon sticks, as I didn’t have any.)
2. Process cooked apples through food mill fitted with medium disk. Season with extra sugar or add water to adjust consistency as desired. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature, or chilled. (Can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.) Note: As we don’t have a food mill, I used the Cooks Illustrated-sanctioned alternative method of breaking them up with a wooden spoon during the cooking process, then using a potato masher at the end to break it into the right consistency.