How To: Homemade Chunky Applesauce-Back To School Post #7
Years ago, my Mom brought me all her canning supplies, complete with about 40 quart jars, a huge canning pot with a rack for up to 7 jars at a time, and all the tools of the trade. What she didn’t know at the time, is that she also brought with her a wealth of memories from my childhood. Rows and rows of brightly colored jars filled with tomatoes, peppers, beans, pears, sauces, and apples. A tiny, steamy kitchen in an non-air conditioned house in August with pots for boiling, pots for sterilizing, and pots that were bubbling. It was hot. We burned our fingers. It was (and still is) sticky, dirty, seemingly never ending work.
And I loved every minute of it.
There is something supremely satisfying about taking a perishable food item and lining it up neatly with its fellow bounty, like portly soldiers waiting to be called up to duty on some unspecified future day, and knowing it will be just as spectacular then as it is at that moment. Preserving food is not a new concept and while it was mostly done out of necessity and survival, there is a certain respect that goes along with canning foods. One doesn’t can-or freeze or dehydrate-food unless we love it. We want the flavor to last and the waste to be minimal.
And what is more classic than applesauce?! Its gluten free, vegan, made with refreshingly few ingredients, healthy, and has a bazillion uses. I like to make a few batches of unsweetened sauce that I make a bit smoother and then use just for baking and cooking with. The chunky version shown here is great on pancakes or waffles, and I stir it directly into plain oatmeal all the time. After trying this recipe, you will never spend money on the high fructose corn syrup laden, super processed store bought versions again! Try it spooned right on the plate at lunch or dinner. I like to send it in my daughters lunch or serve it to her as a cold, right from the fridge snack with whole wheat graham crackers for dunking!
Two Years Ago: Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Three Years Ago: Apple Cider Syrup
I like using a natural, no sugar added, pure apple cider when I make my applesauce. It needs liquid so that it can cook, but you might as well add flavor while you are at it! After many different versions of applesauce over the years, I discovered that the best flavor comes from minimal plain white sugar and a bit of cinnamon. The pure apple taste comes out and it isn’t masked with a bunch of other flavors. Feel free to omit the sugar and cinnamon entirely and just make an unsweetened version for eating or cooking. If you are making this into baby food, use only water as the liquid and add three times as much. No sugar or cinnamon and puree the soft apples in batches in a blender or food processor or with an immersion blender until very very smooth. Freeze in ice cube trays and then pop out the cubes and store in labeled plastic bags. This recipe yields about 4 quarts of finished applesauce.
16 cups peeled, cored, and thinly sliced apples-soft apples work best since you are cooking them down anyway (Golden Delicious, Cortland, Fuji, MacIntosh, or in my case, whatever you get free from your friends and neighbors)
2 c apple cider or water or a mix of both
1 c white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
Lets get started!
These were directly off my neighbors tree. Beautiful! Regardless of where your apples come from, give them a good rinse before peeling.
I have a hand crank that attaches to my counter. It peels, cores, and slices all in one fell swoop. A major time savor when you are dealing with 6 or 7 bushels of apples, which is what I had! You can find them just about anywhere this time of year and this is the one I have. However, I highly recommend this one. It suctions to the top of the counter which is way easier for clean-up than the clamped base one.
This is one batch of apples for applesauce-16 cups.
In your largest, heavy bottom pot, add your apples, liquid, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir it if there is room!
On medium low to medium heat, cook the apples, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat if it starts to burn.
Keep cooking. This will take awhile…
When you have the space and the apples are starting to break down, mash with a potato masher to break up the pieces. If the fruit is getting too dry as it cooks down and evaporates, add a bit more liquid.
Cook the apples more, several hours, stirring often. Continue to mash the apples to aid them in cooking.
When the fruit is cooked through, and you can now mash or puree if you like, but I prefer my applesauce thick and chunky, not smooth like babyfood. Taste the sauce to see if it is sweet enough and add a bit more sugar if your apples are especially tart! The total cook time will depend on the size and density of your chunks of apples, and the moisture content of the fruit. Every year I have to adjust the cooking time and sweetness and liquid because the apples I use change, but this recipe is my starting point.
And there you go! Eat, freeze, can, enjoy! The picture above also has some of my jars of plain apples in cinnamon syrup. If you are canning the applesauce, pour it hot into clean and sterilized jars leaving 1 inch of headspace. Wipe rims clean, top with a sterilized lid and ring, and process in a boiling water canner with the water at least and inch above the lids for 20 minutes. Remove, cool, and check that all jars are sealed. Enjoy any unsealed jars right away! If freezing, pour the applesauce into freezer proof containers, or into heavy duty, gallon ziptop plastic bags. Lie flat until frozen solid.
Look at that texture! Mmm.