When the cooler weather starts setting in, I want to huddle up in my kitchen and make lots of food to get me through the winter. Jams, breads, granolas, soups, you name it. One fall I even attempted to make bacon, pioneer style, as though I would need to be able to hole up for at least two weeks at a time. Applesauce is one of the hibernation foods I like making most. Growing up, my mom made applesauce almost every week in the fall and winter. We never had any kind of jarred applesauce because making your own is so easy. As a kid, I relished the chance to use the food mill and magically turn yucky boiled apples into sweet applesauce.
When I grew up and went to culinary school, I learned that food mills are a chef’s secret for making mashed potatoes and sauces. The recipe below calls for a food mill, so you don’t need to peel or core your apples and you can have an eager kitchen assistant help turn your apples into sauce. Another huge plus? Making your own applesauce allows you to control the amount of sugar in your applesauce. In fact, most of the gourmet applesauce recipes below are unsweetened, so I don’t add any sugar. We’ll get you started with a base homemade applesauce recipe, then move onto some tasty variations!
Applesauce Base Recipe
1 large soup or stockpot or Dutch oven
1 food mill
1 large glass bowl
glass containers or plastic containers for refrigeration
2-3 pounds apples (the type of apple depends on the recipe, but I use Cortland for my everyday, go-to applesauce)
pinch of salt
1. Rinse apples, then quarter. If using a food mill, don’t worry about seeds and stems.
2. Place apples and a pinch of salt in a large pot, then cover with cold water so that we water comes up about 1 inch above the apples.
3. Bring apples to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching on bottom, until apples are soft and almost falling apart, 25-30 minutes.
4. Set food mill over large glass bowl. Transfer (be careful, it’s hot!) boiled apples and any remaining water to top of food mill, then crank through into bowl.
5. Transfer applesauce to preferred storage containers and chill immediately in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Applesauce will keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
If you do not have a food mill, peel, core, and remove all stems and seeds from apples, then cut into 1-inch cubes. Cook apples until soft, then mash with a potato masher until smooth.
Homemade Applesauce Variations
Applesauce with Berries
Add 2-3 cups fresh or frozen berries to pot with apples, then cook and mill together.
Applesauce with Pear
Use yellow apples to match pears but reduce the amount of apples to 2 pounds and add 1 pound of fresh pears, then cook and mill together.
Honey and Thyme
Use yellow apples to showcase the green thyme. Cook and mill apples as usual, then add 1 tablespoon fresh, minced thyme leaves and 1 tablespoon honey while applesauce is still hot.
Traditional Apples and Cinnamon
Add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg to pot with apples while they cook.
Vanilla and Raisin
Use yellow apples to showcase the raisins. Add ½ teaspoon vanilla, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ cup raisins to pot with apples while they cook. Mill as usual, then add another ¼ cup raisins to bowl with warm applesauce and allow to steep for 10 minutes before transferring to storage containers.
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