Applesauce is so easy to make, and so good homemade, that it’s a wonder more people don’t take the time to at least try it. It doesn’t take that much more time to make a large batch than a small batch, and once it’s canned for the winter you’ve saved a significant amount of money on a healthy fruit supply in the months to come.
The biggest barrier to applesauce making is the drudgery of preparing the apples. My stepfather gave us this corer-peeler a while back, which he found at a garage sale. It’s spectacular. I can core, peel, and slice 5 apples every 3 minutes with this sucker, from start to chunks in the pot. One of the best kitchen investments you’ll ever make, and it requires no fancy power or hard-to-clean parts. This thing is the key to applesauce making.
The apples come out of the device looking like this (above) and with a few quick chops they’re in small chunks and ready to be tossed in the pot. At this point, they’re also ready to be dried in apple rings (we have many jars of these as well) or thrown into an easy pie filling.
Cooking the applesauce itself is easy. Just keep throwing chunks into a large pot, with heat set on a lower medium (maybe 4 on a 10-scale stove). You don’t want the lowest ones to burn, but you want good heat. Add some water, maybe the equivalent of a few inches. Stir regularly, as the lowest layers slowly liquify and the upper ones cook slowly. Over time, and this may take an hour or more, the stirred mass will get softer and mushier as it approaches the consistency of applesauce. You may need to add more water if you notice it getting dry, or starting to stick to the pan.
Throw in sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste. I can’t give amounts, because this completely depends on the type of apple used and your own tastes. It’s very easy to keep adding small amounts and retasting until you get what you want. To make things more efficient, you can start cooking just the first few apples, then keep throwing the freshly cut ones in as the sauce cooks down. Then you can easily do other chores while it cooks, returning to stir it briefly.
Once it’s done, it can be canned for winter or just put in refridgerated jars for use over the next few weeks. Buying a large batch of apples for sauce can feel expensive, but it’s still a lower cost than buying the finished product, and it’s of better quality. Also, because applesauce doesn’t care about blemishes, you can ask orchards if they have rejects or seconds that are physically unappealing but perfectly sound; you can get an especially good price on these otherwise unsellable apples. This is also true for pick-your-own; make a point of getting the odd apples that others aren’t picking, thus avoiding their waste. Most of our apples come from our neighbor’s trees’ extras, and don’t cost us a dime.
In any case, applesauce is a great example of easy food preservation that anyone can try. It’s a great winter food, and would also make a good baby food if you’re trying to move to more healthy, whole baby foods (I had a customer ask about that; good for her). I have it labeled as Summer and Fall because of the long apple season and the many chances you have to give it a try.