One of my all-time favorite parts of autumn is applesauce. My granddaddy taught me how to make his mother’s applesauce from scratch (although they threw RedHots, a candy, into theirs to make it pink – I have a different method), and now I’ve adapted it into my own simple treat. If you’re not much of a cook or nervous to try applesauce homemade, this recipe is perfect for you – it’s easy, relatively quick, and fun. When you share it with family and friends for the holidays, they’ll gaze at you wide-eyed and compliment your culinary prowess. Just shrug and smile smugly, ‘cuz you got this in the bag. (Also, they’ve probably only ever had applesauce from the grocery store, which is terrible by comparison, so it’s win/win.)
First: You must select your apples.
Apples come in two kinds: good for cooking and good for eating. It’s not that there’s a huge flavor difference, it’s more of texture difference – apples that are good for sauce are mushier and mealy, and fall apart when heated. Apples that are good for munching raw are crispier and not mealy. (Sidenote: for something like an apple pie, you may want them to stay firm, in which case do not select mealy, sauce-type apples!) It doesn’t matter which one you want to try, it’s just that the stronger, harder apples for eating raw will take longer to cook down and may not create a smooth sauce. But who cares? Experiment to see what you like best.
A standard sauce apple is the Stayman/Winesap. A standard eating apple (for me anyway) is the Honeycrisp. I’ve never made sauce with Honeycrisp totally, but have thrown one or two in with the Stayman just for funsies. This time around, I used a relatively newer variety called Topaz, which has been developed in Germany. I got my apples from Travis Organics in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, and was so excited to try not only a new apple variety, but local organic apples at that! Check them out if you’re in the area and here on Facebook.
For a tiny, experimental batch, use a half dozen (6) apples. I like a batch that will last me the week, so I use a dozen (12) unless I’m serving it, in which case a couple dozen (24) works great.
Second: Rinse your apples and core them. You can do this using a cool apple corer, or it works just as well to cut them up. I don’t know why, but I love the long process of coring them by hand. I leave the skins on – many people remove the skins and that’s fine too. I like to leave the skins on because it gives the sauce a gorgeous, delicate pink color, and all I have to do is strain them out at the end (which seems faster to me than shaving those bad boys in the beginning. Work smarter, not harder?) Cut them into 3 or 4 inch sized chunks. If you’re using a crispier apple, chop them smaller and they’ll cook down faster.
Third: Throw them all into a pot. The size of the pot depends on how many apples you have – your chopped apples should fill the pot 1/3 to 1/2 full. In my photos, I’ve used 12 apples and a 6 quart pot. Fill the pot slowly with water until you can just see the water appearing beneath the apples. If you want thinner sauce, add a little more water; for thicker sauce, use less water, but be careful that you don’t burn your sauce while it cooks.
See the water in the pic below? You can just barely spot it.
Fourth: Bring your pot of apples and water to a boil, then lower the heat to low and cover halfway (I like to prop a lid up so the air can escape out of one side but it’s still mostly covered). Stir regularly. You will see the apples start to break down into a sauce. The sauce, once thoroughly heated, will bubble – be sure to keep stirring gently. This pot of 12 Topaz apples took almost exactly an hour to reach the consistency I wanted. The pic below shows the sauce about halfway in.
Fifth: Your sauce is finished when you decide it’s finished. Want it chunky? Pull that baby off sooner. Want it smoother? Leave on a little longer, or try chopping in a food processor. When you’re finished cooking the apples, place a second pot in your sink with a strainer/colander on top. Pour your sauce through a little at a time (careful of hot splashes!), working the sauce through while the skins stay behind – I like to use a silicone spatula because of its flexibility. Clean out the skins and repeat until all of your sauce is in the second pot. Clean all your dirty dishes at this point because hardened sauce is a bummer. I like to toss my apple skins out back for the critters to eat, but don’t tell the county.
Finally: How sweet your applesauce is depends on your personal preference and also the tartness of your apples. Winesap/Staymans are pretty mild and really don’t require much in the way of sweeteners. The Topaz apples were tart to my palate, so I put a little less than 1/4 cup of organic cane sugar in and stirred it around while the sauce was still hot. (I started with 1/8 cup, stirred it in, tasted it, and decided to go just a little more. Experimentation is what it’s all about!) I found it to be the perfect mix of sweet and tart. At this point you can add other spices you might want to try, like cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. I don’t do that because I force my applesauce on everyone I know and keep it basic to please the highest number of tastebuds, but go crazy and let me know what works.
The finished sauce – look at that color! No photo editing, for reals. Go Topaz!!
For extra oomph, put it in a fancy dish for serving, maybe with a few decorative sticks of cinnamon on top, or a sprig of mint. Serving it warm is absolutely delightful, but it’s just as good cold. Store the rest in the fridge and marvel at your homemade awesomesauce all week.
Want more information about apple varieties and choosing the right one for you? Click on the link below to Fix.com’s Ultimate Guide to Apple-Picking! I’m going to print out this gorgeous apple list and take notes as I try the different varieties – let me know if you do too. Happy autumn and thanks for reading – let me know if you try out the recipe! :)