Applesauce is incredibly easy to make and almost always tastes much better than anything you can buy in a store.
The only time-consuming part is peeling and coring all the apples but even that is made easier by doing the work with a friend or family member. You can also speed it way up with one of these awesome, hand-powered apple peeler-corer-slicer thing-a-ma-bobs.
We learned about these sweet, old-fashioned machines at our son's nursery school where they used one several times a week to the great delight of all the kids. Even a two-year-old can use it with a little assistance. We finally decided to shell out the $20 to get one and are so glad we did!
The texture of the sauce is completely up to you - you can make it chunky or smooth or somewhere in between. You can also tailor the spices to your liking and can add berries or peaches or other fruit if you like (though you may need to add more sugar). The amount and kind of sweetener you add is also up to you - you can add sugar, honey, maple syrup or nothing at all.
It's also totally kosher to skip the peeling altogether. In fact, the peels provide added nutrition and give the sauce a nice pink color. If you prefer to leave the peels on, try to you use organic apples to make sure you avoid pesticides. One caveat: if you like your sauce chunky, it's probably better to peel the apples. I typically puree my sauce when I leave the peels on to avoid getting any whole pieces of apple skin.
If you want to make a big batch, applesauce makes a great gift. Before my older son was born, I had enough time on my hands to paint a picture of an apple using my much-beloved yet rarely used set of gouaches and make labels for the jars. I can assure you that no such time-intensive, creative venture has occurred since he was born but it was nice while it lasted :)
If you want to try canning your sauce but are new to preserving, please read my Canning 101 post before you get started.
Makes 4-6 servings
* 3 pounds apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2" chunks (the smaller the chunks, the more quickly it will cook)
* 1/2 cup liquid - apple juice, apple cider or just plain water
* 1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
* 2 cinnammon sticks
* 1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup honey (optional and to taste)
* 2 tsps ground cinnamon
* Ground nutmeg, cloves, ginger and mace to taste (I would not use more than 1/4-1/2 tsp of any of these though)
1. Place the apples in a large pot and add the water. Cover and simmer over medium low heat until the apples have softened - 15-20 minutes.
2. Add the sweetener and spices and stir well. Cook another five minutes then remove from the heat.
3. Remove the cinnamon sticks and discard. If you like your applesauce chunky, just crush the mixture with a large spoon or potato masher until it reaches the desired consistency. If you prefer your sauce smooth, you can either process in the pot with an immersion blender or you can transfer to a blender, food processor or sieve. If the sauce seems too wet to you, return to the pot and simmer a little longer to cook off some of the unwanted liquid.
4. You can serve the sauce warm or chilled. If you want to can the sauce, hot pack the sterilized jars, wipe the rims, place the lids on and tighten the bands finger tight then process the jars in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes before removing them, letting them cool and testing the seals. Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
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