Who doesn’t love applesauce?

applesauceIt amazes me now — why did I ever buy a jar of applesauce when it is glidingly, kindly easy to make?

Old training.

Most of us my age (and younger) grew up with packages around the house. Everything arrived already processed and neatly labeled before we could shove spoons of that food into our mouths. And jars of applesauce tasted pleasing — and always the same. Every single jar tasted exactly like every other jar. I guess that was the point.

But, since I went gluten-free, I have found an unexpected joy, one I never could have predicted would be waiting for me: making all my food from scratch. Oh sure, there are times that the Chef and I stop at the grocery store around midnight, after he is done with the restaurant for the night, and I have finished pounding out another part of a chapter. We wander the empty aisles together, kissing by the toothpaste, then search for food readily available. (Normally, I make food for him, ready as we walk in the door, but on some tough writing days…) He finds a pesto and mozzarella sandwich, I buy my favorite hummus and some carrots, and then he grabs a bag of potato chips. They’re okay. I’ve checked them for me. We go home and watch South Park and eat our packaged food. But that’s only occasionally, when I’m pushing a deadline. And there’s no way that those potato chips taste anything as imperfect and indelible as the potato chips we can make at home.

Homemade, touched by human hands, simple and free — that food always tastes better than what is in packages.

So, I’ve gone crazy this autumn, buying apples. Pippin Cox, Honeycrisp, Gala, Fuji — they have all been offered at the farmers’ market, and I have been buying them all. As fast as I can eat them (and apples are excellent distractor foods while writing), I just can’t eat them all. The other day, I looked at the piles of pink-tinged apples, the red splotches, the green bits and the stems poking up, and I panicked. How could I let these apples, grown east of the mountains and handed to me by the men and women who grew them, go to waste?

“Pumpkin, what should I do with all these apples?” I asked the Chef.
“Make applesauce,” he suggested.
Well, I didn’t know how to do that yet. Of course, the Chef did. And he told me. And now, I can tell you.

Of course, grandmothers across this country have known how to make this for generations. Everyone has a slightly different recipe. This one works for me. I’d love to hear your variations, if you have them.

Plump and slightly tart, lovely mush with bites of slightly crisp apple bits — this is my imagined ideal of applesauce.

I’m never going back to a jar again.

APPLESAUCE

8 apples, peeled and sliced thick (this works better if you have a few varieties)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 nub of fresh ginger, sliced thin
1 vanilla bean, snipped into tiny pieces
1/2 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon (if you are using traditional cinnamon, make this 1 t)

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a large saucepan. After it has boiled, allow it to go for a few more moments, then add the ginger, vanilla bean, and cinnamon. Let them bubble and mingle for a minute or two.

Add the sliced apples to the pan, stirring to coat all the slices with the sugary-spice syrup. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally.

When is it done? “When it looks like applesauce,” the Chef told me. Hm, helpful. But actually, he’s right. It will probably take about fifteen minutes for the apples to break down and begin to mush. Before that, you may wonder if this is ever going to work out right. Have patience. It will.

Continue to cook until you have reached your desired consistency.

Serves four.

13 comments on “Who doesn’t love applesauce?

  1. fringes

    I found your site through the NoBlo randomizer. I really really like it. It’s one of the best food blogs I’ve read.

    I may try to lose the gluten in my family’s diet for health reasons, but I don’t want to make us intolerant to it as happened to a friend of mine when she deleted it from her diet.

    I think I’ll hang out here for tips on how to make it work.

    Thanks!

  2. Denae Saidy

    I am sooooooo Glad that you have a place out here on the WWW to put some great GF recipes. I have many food allergies and its hard for me to avoid them all. I am allergic to almost everthing that there is to be allergic to including, wheat, soy, casein (cow milk), peanuts, shellfish, apples, bananas, tomatoes, and many others, the list goes on and on for me… I have decided that rather than try to avoid all of the things that I am allergic to I would be better off just limiting them. Wheat/Gluten is the only thing that I have chosen to eliminate totally. (my husband and I had been trying to concieve a child but we unsuccessful untill I went GLUTEN-FREE)Now I am 2.5 months pregant and so worried about not giving my child enough nutrients. The hardest thing is that I cannot find a support group of women who have been on GF diets during pregnancy. Any suggestions?

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  4. Amy Jaye

    WOW, I was instantly transported to my childhood, when grams would make applesauce with the apples from her orchard. Us kids would take turns smashing them through the sieve until our poor little arms couldn’t smash any more! There is no comparison between store bought and home made, I still sigh when I have fresh applesauce still warm from the stove.

    Yum — you made my day!

  5. Angela

    When I first made applesauce, I guessed… it turned out great! I like to be able to ignore my food, at times, and come back and have it done!

    So I threw halved and cored apples (any kind), don’t even have to peel them, into a cassarole with some apple cider, cinnamon sticks, and what ever else stikes my mood (a little sugar IF they aren’t sweet enough)… I LOVE the idea of ginger and vanilla bean-yum… and covered with foil, placed in a 350 oven for 30 minutes to poach (until knife tender) while I relax.

    Then you can smash them or throw them in a food processor. I also enjoy adding the first of the spring rhubarb (and some sugar) to that poaching liquid, for a beautiful pink sauce. You should give it a try!

    Angela

  6. alyce

    My applesauce started as a recipe from somewhere and became:
    4 or 6 or 8 or however many apples i want to buy, macintosh or fuji or gala or braeburn or pippin or a mix, cored and quartered (skin on)
    lemon juice from one lemon (or two if using a lot of apples)
    water to cover bottom about 1/2 inch up
    i sprinkle maybe 1/4 cup of sugar to balance the acid from the lemon
    throw all into thick-bottomed saucepan
    cook, stirring
    strain
    taste, adding extra sugar if desired
    i like my sauce pink & a little tart
    best with ham

  7. Malia

    Next time try making it without the sugar (or less). I find the natural sweetness of the apples is enough for tasty applesauce…

  8. Rachel

    Hi Shauna,

    What a fab post! I was struggling with the pile of apples I picked up at my farmer’s market, too. Applesauce in England is a completely different beast (one which I still don’t understand) — sticky, overly sweet sauce made to accompany meat. When I make applesauce I add some lemon peel (shaved with a peeler, so easily removed after cooking), a cinnamon stick and 1/2 vanilla pod. I don’t tend to add sugar to mine, though.

    I also use the apple peel (but make sure the apples are un-waxed/organic). I peel them from stem to the bottom of the apple to create small strips. I toss the strips in a little oil (I like walnut), cinnamon and maple sugar (in equal quantities-about a tsp of each for 3 apples worth). Then put them on a silpat in one layer into a very low oven. I would say for about 1/2 hour.… but do check them. They crisp up beautifully and are a great snack, or garnish if you are serving the apple sauce as a dessert. :)

    Congrats on your 200th post! I look forward to reading the next 200.

  9. Angela T

    I am glad to have a resource to learn about gluten-free strategies and recipes. I was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Since, gluten is causing me to have high cholesterol and aggrevate my thyroid gland, I am looking for ways to eliminate it from my diet. Please continue the good work by providing people with lifestyle changes. Thanks!!!!

  10. Anonymous

    Unfortunately, my son is apple allergic so applesauce is now persona non grata at our house. I came up with something I can substitute in all the recipes calling for applesauce with only slight alterations to the recipe: the spices have to be much lighter handed or they overpower the taste. The substitute is : Pear Sauce. Homemade from scratch. The biggest difference other than it’s always pink is that you have to slow cook it or it scorches. Great pear recipes on the pears website. Enjoy everyone!! Edie

  11. Ellen

    YES!

    I made this tonight in a frenzy while packing for my own birthday party and an impromptu camping trip to the biggest island in Germany! Wow. Crazy stuff.

    Thanks for the recipe. My friends will be delighted at our “orphan’s Easter brunch”!
    Hoppy Easter to you and yours,
    Ellen

  12. Gimpy Colon

    We do a lot of apple picking in the fall and have found that you can make applesauce in the crockpot… just throw the works into the crockpot, turn it on, and soon… you’ll have applesauce.

    Cheers!