Recipes / Sides / Sweet

Warm Weather and Applesauce

Growing up in a household with a garden ruined my palette for lots of store bought foods and produce. And the funny thing is that for the most part I didn’t even know that everyone in the world didn’t have fresh vegetables for most meals and that they didn’t have home made strawberry jam in their basement freezers. Among the things that I took for granted growing up was the applesauce that my parents made. I was shocked the first time I had store bought applesauce because that bland, chunky goop filled with hard bits of seed and core did not even closely resemble the smooth, tangy applesauce that I was used to.

Apple Sauce by St. Louis Photographer Jonathan Gayman

Here’s a little applesauce story for you from my childhood: My parents have a small row of fruit trees at the end of the garden including several apple trees. I remember one fall my mom sent me out to pick apples from one of the trees and after several minutes of carefully plucking the ripe apples from the branches, young Jonathan got impatient. So he climbed up in the tree, grabbed a couple of branches and shook the apples from the tree. Young Jonathan did not realize that apples falling from a tree tend to bruise, and bruised apples are less likely to store over the winter. Young Jonathan’s mother was not amused. Interestingly enough, I remember the many pints and quart mason jars of the applesauce mom made from the bruised apples, but I don’t remember the punishment that I have no doubt was meted out on me.

In any case, the recent acquisition of a food mill has had me thinking about all the stuff that I want to grind up, and although I’m a few months late to take advantage of apple season, I decided to give applesauce a try. I emailed my dad and asked him for the recipe and this was his response:

I couldn’t help but chuckle when you asked for my applesauce recipe. It’s quite simple: apples, water, and sugar. Period! The secret to good applesauce is the flavor of the apples you choose – a more tart apple gives better flavor. Any of the “delicious” apples give you a very ho-hum applesauce flavor. I cut up the apples so none of the little black “whiskers” from the core or from the blossom ends remains (the black stuff shows up in the sauce), put them in a pan with a little water (variable as to how much moisture is in the apples) and cook till mushy. Run thru a sieve (I have the crank device) to remove the seeds and skins, add sugar to taste and you have applesauce. I like it thicker with less water, Mum prefers a thinner sauce. Add water to make it thinner. That’s it! (Oh, I forgot: sometimes I break a few Vitamin C tablets into the sauce to preserve the green color.

And it turns out he’s right. It is ridiculously quick and easy to make a very tasty applesauce. I used a combination of apples that I was able to get my hands on, in this case 8 or 10 granny smiths and a 3 or 4 of fujis, cored them and copped them up into quarters. I tossed these in my beautiful new sky blue cast iron dutch oven along with three cups of water.

I turned the burner onto medium heat, put the lid on and walked away for half an hour. When I came back the apples were soft and mushy. Also, very hot. My new dutch oven totally rocks.

Next it was off to the food mill, careful not to burn myself. My mill has three size settings for the grinder, I used the middle one. I probably could have gone even smoother with the smallest size, but I think a little bit of texture does the trick.

And that, my friends is pretty much it. Boil your apples until mushy, run through a food mill, done. You can also choose to add a crushed vitamin c as my dad suggest to preserve the color (which I did). You can also add sugar if you’re like. We like our applesauce on the tart side, so I only added a scant half cup of plain old white sugar to mine. You can also add cinnamon but I chose to add that when serving rather than mixing it into the sauce.

Use it on your potato pancakes, or in apple sauce baked goods, or just as is with a little cinnamon on top for breakfast. My mom likes to have applesauce with cinnamon and some walnuts cracked on top, which is delicious as well. Once you make your own applesauce you will never buy store bought again. And make sure to enjoy this warm weather we are having!


  • Mike
    February 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    If you like tart applesauce, try Lodi apples. They’re the first of the season in Central PA, July actually. You have to get and use them early. Try them with no sugar. Amazingly tart; I love homemade Lodi applesauce. It’s tough to find Lodi in NYC, though I did find a small batch at the Union Square greenmarket last summer.

    • ShootToCook
      February 15, 2011 at 11:23 am

      Yeah, my dad recommends Lodi apples as well. Not sure if I can get them here in Missouri but I’ll keep my eyes open during apple season this fall.

  • M Wilkinson
    June 27, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    We are looking for Lodi appled in the St.
    Louis Area. Let me know if you know where
    I can find them. Thanks

    • ShootToCook
      June 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      I’m afraid I don’t know of any place specifically, but I’ll keep my eye open when I hit the farmers markets…


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