Yesterday, our house was filled with the overwhelming, amazing smell of baking apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. It wafted throughout our house and into our backyard. It was a reminder with the rainy weather that fall will soon be here.
Steve and I are pretty lucky, okay, extremely lucky, that we have family, friends,and neighbors who care about us. We received a call on Saturday morning that Steve’s dad’s neighbor, Don, had an early variety of apples for us. We stopped out there later that day and were handed a full bushel of tiny, tart, green apples. Don also let us know that we had another bushel if we wanted it. We decided one bushel should be plenty as Don had stated that these early variety apples were basically only good for applesauce.
Being that I’ve never made my own applesauce, but love my grandma’s homemade applesauce, I figured I’d call her to see what she did. Yes, I have tons of applesauce recipes in a gazillion cookbooks that litter my house. However, my grandma makes a great applesauce, so why wouldn’t I use a recipe I already know that we all love?
Grandma and Don both suggested to me to just quarter the apples and cook them like that. Being that the apples were so tiny, it would have taken forever to peel, core & cut the apples. Don suggested baking the apples and my grandma suggested throwing them in a pot with just a little water. So, I decided that I’d do it both ways and see which way I preferred. If I had been smart, I would have thrown some in the crockpot to cook as well.I did set up my apple peeler, but it just broke my apples. Sad.
I have to say, Don’s baking strategy was better for me. My house smelled amazing, clean up was easy, and the apples were much easier to push through the strainer. Now, to Grandma’s credit, I think I put too much water in my pot with the apples and didn’t let them cook long enough. These were a bit harder to push through the strainer and after the batch of those I was ready to never make applesauce again. Luckily, Don’s baked apples just fell through the strainer.
After baking the apples and pushing them through the strainer, you have applesauce. Unsweetened, natural applesauce. It’s not a lot of work on your part, just time consuming as it really is quite a lengthy process to bake the apples so they fall through the strainer (about 40 minutes or so). I would have left my applesauce like this, but because of the tartness of the apples, I knew that the boys would never eat such a tart sauce on it’s own. Don suggested throwing the candy cinnamon red hots into the sauce to turn it a pink color and flavor it before freezing. Steve thought this was an ingenious idea. I thought it was disgusting. I didn’t want to wreck my natural applesauce by putting a processed candy in it. Grandma always flavors her with cinnamon and a bit of brown sugar. Since I adore Grandma’s sauce, that’s the way I went. Lots of cinnamon, a little bit of lemon juice, and about a quarter cup of brown sugar for five quarts of applesauce. I know, I know. I should have used agave nectar or maple syrup. But to be honest, with it being the first applesauce, I wanted to make it right once before messing with it. And, the little bit of sugar I used won’t hurt any of us.
After mixing my spices in, I ladled the warm, deliciousness into my quart-size canning jars. I processed them in a boiling hot water bath for about 30 minutes. Longer than I needed to, but I’m pretty sure I have air in a few of the jars and was hoping to kill the bacteria. We’ll see.
I did two batches of applesauce due to the constraints of size of bowls, room in the canning bath, and my oven space. I ended up with nine quarts of applesauce and one pint that I threw in the refrigerator.
During this whole process, okay at least the cutting and baking part, Steve had taken the boys to run an errand for us (actually to pick up a new ceiling fan for our bedroom since ours died and you’ll understand the importance of this if you read this post). When the boys returned, my second batch of apples were still baking and Charlie walked into the kitchen and told me that the whole house “smelled like love.” Nothing makes me smile more than when the boys appreciate the work I put into making their food and are genuine about it.