Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rustic Applesauce

One of my favorite things in the fall is to make a big batch of homemade applesauce.  I have found over the years that my family prefers it on the chunky side and heavily spiced.
I have found that the tastiest applesauce comes from a mix of apple varieties.  Different apples have different textures and natural sugar levels so they break down differently and lend different characteristics to the applesauce.  With a mix, I have been able to drastically cut the amount of sugar in my applesauce.  And if there is a large number of Fuji or other very sweet varieties in the mix, I sometimes don't even need to add sugar at all because the level of natural sugar of the fruit is high enough.

Our local cider mill offers what they call "utility" apples by the full peck for a little more than half the price of the regular apples.  They are apples that are not bruised (those go to making cider) but may have flaws in the skin or be oddly shaped.  Most people want to buy "perfect" apples so the mill charges less for these visually flawed apples that might otherwise go to waste.  These utility apples are usually bagged in a mix that is perfect for baking.  The flaws and odd shapes don't matter because the apple is going to be chopped or sliced anyways and the imperfections can be trimmed out.  No part of these apples goes to waste either at my house - my daughter loves to take the horses and goat a bowl of the trimmings and dole them out as treats.
After many trips to re-enactments at Greenfield Village and other places where they cook like early Americans, I observed that they often left the peel on the apples when making applesauce, apple butter and even pies and crisps.  So I decided to give it a try.  The natural pectin in the skins does tend to darken the applesauce a bit but also adds to the intense flavor and textures.  The skins cook down with the rest of the apple and disappear for the most part.  If the skin bothers you, go ahead and peel your apples before you chop them.  You can see in the picture above that I just do a rough chop.  I intentionally want my pieces to be different sizes so they don't all break down to complete mush.

So into a large pot with a lid go all the chopped apples (my pot starts full of chopped apples within an inch of the top and will cook down to be about half a pot of applesauce), a couple of cups of apple cider or water, about 1/2 cup of sugar, a tablespoon of cinnamon, a 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, and a 1/4 teaspoon of clove.  Stir well, turn the heat on low and cover.  You will need to check this a few times at first and stir so your apples and sugar on the bottom don't scorch.  Once the apples start to cook down, make sure your heat is really low and leave it to cook slow for about 2 hours.  This makes about 10-12 cups of sauce to freeze but if you want to make a really big batch to can, you can keep adding more apples as the first ones cook down and you have more room until you have cooked a whole pot full.
If you like it less spicy, you can cut the amount of spices listed here in half and then adjust your flavors at the end.  This recipe tastes almost like an apple pie filling rather than a more plain applesauce.  You can strain the excess liquid and use it to make hand-pies or crisps or serve it warmed over ice cream. It also makes a great holiday gift item.  It will keep for 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator or a year or more in the freezer and I like to store it in small containers to make it easy for the kids to grab for snacks or lunches as well.  This is one of those things that is going to make your house smell great and your mouth water while it simmers all day!

1 comment:

Kateri said...

Someone just gave me a half bushel of "drops"--I am looking forward to making a big batch of apple sauce with them. Yours looks so good!