Apples. Applesauce. Apple butter. Apple crisp.
Changing leaves and cool breezes mean that Fall is here! And in the Fall we go apple picking! If you have not been, then you are missing out on one of the true pleasures of life. That and this healthy homemade applesauce.
When we lived in Santa Clara, we’d make the trip down to Watsonville at least twice a year, to Gizdich Ranch. Aka . . . our little slice of heaven on Earth. Before moving to Utah, my family lived in Gilroy, California, garlic capital of the world. (No joke – I’ve tried garlic chocolate ice cream at the Garlic Festival and it was fabulous.) When we were little kids, my parents would take us to Gizdich Ranch to pick our own strawberries. And Gizdich has a very clear eat-as-much-as-you-want policy while you’re picking. Mom and Dad always said that they should have just weighed my little brother, instead of his bucket, since most everything he picked went straight into his stomach. When I moved back to California to live in Santa Clara, I never thought the ranch would still be open. I was thrilled to learn that it is!
Apple picking in the fall is the BEST. Lugging buckets in between the rows of trees . . . seeing just how high you can get to pluck the very best apples . . . gobbling a slice of apple pie, freshly baked by the Gizdich bakery. Ahhhhhh . . . take me back!
The next best thing is getting home with 20+ pounds of apples. I usually plan out a laundry list of apple goodness. But the goodness I ALWAYS make includes applesauce and apple butter. These two recipes go hand in hand because apple butter can be made from the scraps leftover from making applesauce. Word to the wise: get yourself an apple peeler/corer/slicer.
Unless you enjoy chewing peel in your applesauce, be diligent in peeling the apples. I run the apples through my peeler/corer/slice–isn’t there a better name for these things?? We’ll call it the super PCS. Anywho, I run the apples through my super PCS and then use a knife to remove any last bits of peel. (Reserve all peels, cores (even seeds), and chopped-off bits for apple butter!) I also chop the apple slices into sixths to speed up the process of breaking down the apples.
And that’s all applesauce is–breaking down the apples. I like to use a mix of apples to get the best flavor. (I usually aim for roughly 8 baking apples (Granny Smith, Newtown Pippin) and 4 sweeter munching apples (Gala, Fuji). (Tip: set the cores to the side to keep track of how many apples you’ve sliced and diced!) My preferences: (1) I like to have a few soft chunks left in the applesauce; (2) Sugar-free… or at least no added sugar! I don’t like my applesauce too sweet to start–you can always sweeten later with honey or maple syrup; and (3) I like the applesauce a bit thicker. My friend Natasha and I call it “rustic” applesauce because it made us feel a little bit country.
DO NOT get impatient and rush this applesauce. The medium-low heat is key to breaking down the apples without burning them. If, at the end of the hour, you want less chunks, just continue to cook the apples and just keep mashing, just keep mashing, just keep mashing. If you want thinner applesauce, add more juice a 1/4 cup at a time. Once it is to the consistency that I want, I usually just let it cool and store it in the fridge as is, since I prefer it with no added sugar. But you have options . . .
Sweeten using brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar if you like. Just add little amounts until it tastes right.
Flavor using your choice of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, or maple syrup.
If you feel like a snack, eat it cold–straight out of the fridge. If you feel like dessert, try warming it in the microwave for a bit and throwing it over some vanilla ice cream. Warm, tender apples . . . cold vanilla ice cream . . . quite possibly one of my top ten foods. And THAT is saying something.
What would make your top ten??