Cooking Spree: Homemade Applesauce

It’s a question that paralyzes me every time. That summons the angel to one shoulder and the devil to the other.

“Would you like chips, bread or an apple with that?”

I try to behave when I eat at Panera Bread, and choose that apple to accompany my meal instead of more bread (delicious!) or potato chips (decadent!). But, instead of keeping the doctor away, I just collect a lot of tiny apples that I never eat.

Then last week I came home with a bag of apples someone brought my family from a nearby orchard. So I stared at those, alongside my Panera stash, perplexed. What do you do with such abundance?

I could have made a tart or a pie, but I was trying to eat decently healthy.

I could have eaten them raw, but that would have lasted about six hours before I never wanted to see an apple again.

So I decided that when life gives you apples, you make applesauce. It seemed the easiest way to use them up and make something I was excited to cook and to eat.

Now, I actually never buy applesauce from the store — it’s just not my go to snack or side or dessert. But I like it, and I’d never made it at home. I think I was intimidated, believing it was complicated and took all day to make. I blame that ’80s movie, Baby Boom (remember that one?), when Diane Keaton “inherits” a baby, moves to Vermont and starts a business in which she destroys her kitchen making applesauce all day. So cooking homemade applesauce wasn’t on the top of my cooking adventures list.

Turns out it’s a snap.

This is one of those “throw it all in a pot” recipes, where you don’t have to be so exact on the measurements. You can let your creativity flow. I’ve seen plenty of crock pot recipes for applesauce on Pinterest, but really, once I chopped the apples and threw the other ingredients together,  I had perfect applesauce within an hour. I kept it as natural as possible, not adding much sugar. And, unlike most things you can buy in a jar, I know exactly what I put into it.

Homemade applesauce is nothing to be scared of, and the reward for the little time you put in is so worth it. It’s going in my regular fall recipe rotation … or I’ll have it handy the next time I collect half a peck of Panera apples.

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Homemade Applesauce

8 small to medium apples
1 cinnamon stick
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
Zest and juice of half a lemon

Optional: 1 tablespoon bourbon or brandy

Peel and chop the apples into half-inch or so cubes. Throw them all in a small or medium saucepan.

Add one cinnamon stick and the brown sugar. Feel free to add more sugar, or use regular granulated sugar if you wish. Remember, there are no rules. Zest half a lemon and add the zest to the pot. Slice the lemon and juice one half into the apples. If you’re daring, add a tablespoon or so of bourbon or brandy. It’s totally optional, but the alcohol will cook off and give you another hit of flavor.

Turn the heat to medium and, stirring often, bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and cook on medium to low heat — stirring every 5 minutes or so — for about 30 minutes. The apples should break down as they cook and as you stir.

At the end of 30 minutes, I removed the cinnamon stick and used a potato masher to further crush the apples. Mine ended up being a little chunky, but that’s okay by me. You could also put the applesauce through a food mill, a blender, a food processor or use a stick blender to get it ultra smooth, if that’s your preference.

 

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