Before I begin, I'd like to note that there are many different ways to make applesauce. Some people swear by a food mill, for example. I don't use one for applesauce because:
1) It removes most of the skin, and the skin adds a ton of nutrition and flavor.
2) It involves cooking the apples with their seeds. Apple seeds contain arsenic, and the idea of having that cook into the applesauce just doesn't appeal to me!
The method I now use is just as easy as using a food mill (maybe easier!), but doesn't have problems number one and two, above.
AND you don't need any special equipment. If you like your applesauce lumpy, an ordinary potato masher will do. If you like it nice and smooth, I recommend using an immersion blender; I bought a $25 Oster and have used it successfully for years. In fact, I like it so well, I got rid of my traditional blender. (Immersion blenders are stick like, and you put them directly in the pot you are using; this saves time - and cleanup.)
I usually use free apples I find in public areas, the wilderness, or neighbor's yards. It's amazing how many people have old apple trees but don't have the time or desire to pick the apples. And they are usually thrilled if someone wants to come pick them; it saves them from cleaning up a big mess under their tree.
For applesauce, you really can use any type of apple. If they are scabby or wormy, that's fine! (That just proves they are organic!) If they are apples the wind has sent to the ground, that's fine! (In fact, windfall apples are traditionally what applesauce is made from.) If they are crab apples - even the type that taste awful to eat raw - that's fine! (My family's favorite applesauce is made with crab apples. One note, though: If the crab apples are so small you could eat them in one bite, they are a real pain to core. Instead, I'd use other apples for applesauce and can those tiny crab apples whole and spiced. Click here for other things to do with crab apples.)
Also, I do recommend organic apples. Yes, you can remove the peels of non-organic apples, but that's a pain, removes much of the nutrition, and frankly, doesn't remove all the pesticides. Especially since you'll be cooking down and concentrating the apples, you'll want them chemical free.
How to Make the Best Tasting, Easiest Applesauce Ever
You will need:
A cutting board and knife
A large pot
Potato masher (optional, but recommended)
A blender (optional, but recommended; an immersion blender makes the job really easy)
Cinnamon (optional, but recommended)
Bottled lemon juice (optional, unless you plan to can the applesauce)
Boiling water bath canning equipment or freezer bags
1. Set up the cutting board and get out your knife. Have a handy place to put cores and bad sections of the apples; I use my counter top compost bin, but a large bowl works fine, too.
2. Wash a few apples at a time, then, one at a time, cut them in quarters. Slice off the cores on each quarter and cut away any bad spots. Toss the cores and bad spots into the compost bin or bowl. (Note: It's okay to give a little of these to the chickens, but their eggs will start tasting "off" if they eat too many fruit peels. I prefer to compost apple scraps.) For
large apples, it's a good idea to cut the quarters into smaller chunks.
|Removing the cores.|
3. Place the apple pieces into a measuring cup. When you have a total of 9 or 10 cups, toss them all into the large pot.
4. Add 3 cups of water to the pot and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the apples are tender.
5. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon. If you like, add sugar. (If you're using crab apples, you'll definitely want sugar. Use about 2 cups. For non-crab apples, I usually start with 1/2 cup of sugar, then add more to taste, if necessary.)
|Cooking down the apples.|
PLEASE NOTE: Lemon juice is not optional if you are canning applesauce! If you don't add bottled lemon juice, your jars may become a breeding ground for botulism.
8. If you like lumpy applesauce, carefully use the potato masher on the cooled mixture until you're happy with the consistency. Otherwise, use the immersion blender to make the sauce smooth. (If you use a traditional blender, add the apple mixture in batches.)
|Pureeing the applesauce with a stick blender.|
10. If you want to freeze the applesauce, allow it to cool before spooning it into freezer bags or jars.
To can the applesauce, working one jar at a time, ladle into prepared jars, leaving 1/2 in. headspace. Bubble and add a lid and ring. Repeat until the jars are full, then process pint or quart jars for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. * (If you aren't an advanced canner, please review the basic canning guidelines here.)
Makes about 5 pints.
NOTE: I usually double this recipe because I make large quantities of applesauce at this time of year, and a double batch fits my canner just about perfectly.
* NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.