Applesauce is one of the staples of my freezer. I always have some on hand to use as a binder/egg replacer in bars and cookies, make applesauce muffins, and spoon over pierogies and latkes. Apple season is finally upon us, so I figured I’d walk you through my steps for processing and preserving this versatile ingredient.
If you like your applesauce chunky and “homestyle,” you have it made in the brisk autumn shade — and you probably don’t need my advice. But if you’d prefer an even texture akin to that of store-bought applesauce — particularly useful in baking — stay tuned.
Years ago when I first got really into homesteading and canning, my grandmother gave me a chinoise — a conical sieve with relatively large holes that is often used for canning in her part of the world. I’d place the chinoise in its stand over a bowl, ladle my cooked apples into it, and then pound them through the holes a tablespoon at a time with a rounded wooden dowel. Good workout though it was, 30 minutes in I could usually be found sitting on the applesauce-splattered floor, near tears with frustration.
Needless to say, I’m over the moon about my food mill, and I highly recommend that you get your hands on one if you are able. (Perhaps I love mine twice as much because I found it in someone’s trash can!) Having one of these gadgets makes making applesauce silly easy — you don’t even have to peel or core the apples! Just chop, cook, run them through your food mill for two minutes, and eat. The result is applesauce indistinguishable from what you’d find jarred in a store — but better, of course, because it came from apples you picked down the street, and it’s free of sweeteners, preservatives, and packaging waste.
- several pounds of apples
- lemon juice
- ½ c water; more as needed
- sugar, cinnamon, and cloves as desired
- Roughly chop apples.
- Lightly sprinkle apples with lemon juice (for color and tartness).
- Place chopped apples and water in a large, thick-bottomed pot.
- Cover pot and bring to a boil. Quickly, liquid should start to cook out of the apple chunks, which will help cook them down further.
- Simmer apples over low heat until they’re very soft and can be easily mashed with a large spoon or potato masher. Stir apples occasionally, and if necessary, add a small amount of water and/or reduce heat to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
- Place food mill over a large bowl and add as much of the apple mixture as will reasonably fit.
- To avoid making your applesauce too thin, let the mixture sit in your food mill for half an hour so any excess apple juice can drain out. (You can discard the syrupy liquid or keep it in your refrigerator for flavoring drinks — try stirring some in with your seltzer!).
- Turn the handle of your food mill clockwise, pressing the apples through the sieve.
- Every several turns, rotate the handle counter-clockwise half a turn; it’ll scrape up any skins and seeds blocking the mesh.
- Continue rotating handle clockwise until only dry, tough skins and seeds remain in your food mill.
- Transfer applesauce to containers and refrigerate or freeze until using. If you want flavored applesauce, you can stir in sugar and spices at this point. If you’ll be freezing your applesauce, be sure to leave room at the top of your chosen containers for expansion.
As a bonus, you can turn your leftover apple skins (or cores) into a stove-top room freshener! Take all your trimmings — cores, peels, and bruised parts — and put them in a small pot on the stove. Add an inch or so of water and stir in a few warm spices — a cinnamon stick, a dash of nutmeg, a couple of cloves, whatever you like. With the lid off, bring water to a boil. Simmer mixture over very low heat and your house will be smelling like pie in no time! If the water boils down, just add more; the goal isn’t to burn anything, just to release the spicy, fruity scents. Once you’re finished for the day, turn the burner off and put a lid on the pot. You can reuse it day after day if you wish.
P. S. If you don’t live in the mythical autumnal fairyland that is the Northeastern U.S., don’t fret! Grocery stores in the states throw out bushels of apples year-round.