Apple season is drawing to a close, but there's still time to put up applesauce. I admit that I haven't put up applesauce since my oldest was a baby. Now there's another baby in the house so I'm grinding apples again, but admittedly the applesauce is more for me than for her. I really enjoy the homemade version of applesauce. Honestly, I don't even buy that stuff in the store unless I need it for a recipe. But this applesauce...the stuff I grew up on...I think it makes an excellent side dish, dessert, or afternoon snack. It's also good for baking those reduced fat cakes and muffins too.
So to begin, you need some apples. I used 1 peck of Cortland and 1 peck of McIntosh for my sauce this time. It's a matter of taste. Just pick your favorite saucing type apple. Here they are getting washed up in my sink.
Like many of my projects in the kitchen, my children are right there with me, either under foot (I know...safety, safety!) or helping out. Applesauce was no exception. This was a fun learning experience for my oldest. You know, I'd never cut an apple through the center horizontally to show her the star? She was so excited about this. It's the little things....
The great thing about applesauce is that the prep is really easy. You don't have to peel or core. Just pull off the stem, cut out any really bad spots, and quarter the apples before throwing them into a great big pot. I had to use two pots. My mom has a water bath canner that is great for cooking all of the apples. Maybe I'll steal that too now that I have her food processor and Victoria Strainer. After the apples are quartered, I add about a cup of water and a stick or two of cinnamon. Now I cover and cook those apples over medium to medium high heat for 35 minutes or until tender. Make sure that you stir them every once in a while. Apples are high in sugar. They will stick to the bottom and burn.
What on earth is a Victoria Strainer? It's this contraption below. This one is over 30 years old and has been in my home (or should I say my parent's home) for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up this baby turned out tomato juice and sauce, homemade V8 juice, grape juice, and of course, applesauce. I'm sure that I'd discover some other uses if given the time to research. I'm not sure how much my mom paid or where she even got it. She did mention something about an Amish store. I Googled it and as it turns out the Squeezo strainer that we have now retails for about $195 new. Pricey. However, it does boast that they're built for a lifetime of use. Since ours still works like a charm after 30+ years, I'd say that's accurate. I also found a Back to Basics brand strainer for $60, so there are less expensive models out there. It's kind of a pain to set up and clean, but it is super easy to use. Even a pre-schooler can operate it.
Now my apples have cooked down to this
I use a large liquid measuring cup to scoop the apples out of the pot and dump them into the top of my strainer. Be sure to remove the cinnamon sticks if you used them. They tend to jam up the strainer.
Now just start turning the crank and the applesauce squeezes out through the strainer
The waste- skin and seeds fall out of the end and into a bowl.
I kept dumping the applesauce from the bowl that was "catching" into a bigger pot. Once all of the apples had been squished into applesauce, I added 1 cup of sugar and stirred it up. My ratio was 1 cup of sugar to about 10 quart of applesauce. The sugar thing is just to your taste. Obviously, the sweeter the apple, the sweeter the sauce. You don't have to add sugar at all. My advice is, start with a small amount, stir, and taste. You can always add more. But the only way to balance out too-sweet applesauce is to buy, wash, quarter, cook, and strain more apples to add in. And that's a lot of work.
Stay with me...we're on the home stretch now. Finally, I took quart size freezer bags and ladled that warm, yummy applesauce into them. You can use whatever freezer containers that you like. Bags just happened to be convenient this time. A couple of freezing tips: first, remember that food will expand when freezing, so leave a little headspace, about an inch or two when filling your containers. Also, I find that it's much easier to label my containers before filling them. Just describe the contents and date. Now you're ready to put them into the freezer. Here is the fruit of my labor. Ha ha.