I love apples! It is one of my favorite things about Fall. I like apple in pretty much any form but apple cider and applesauce are my two favorites. Josh and I had a favorite apple orchard in Pennsylvania that we would get our apple from. I usually make applesauce at least once every Fall but this enterprise was a lot less expensive when we purchased apples from an orchard rather than going to the grocery store! This weekend Josh talked me into buying the apples and I am really glad he did!
I saw this recipe on Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meals and it was published in her first book. In my opinion, this recipe takes longer than 30 minutes but definitely less time that the old fashioned all day crock pot method my mom used when I was a kid (though who could argue with a recipe that makes your house smell like applesauce all day?) Rachel speeds up the process by using apple cider or apple juice instead of water, much in the same way you add flavor to a savory dish using chicken stock. She also uses Macintosh apples because they have softer flesh that breaks down more quickly during the cooking process. I tend to use a mix of soft and hard fleshed apples to get the characteristically chunky homemade applesauce texture. In PA I would typically use a mixture of Macintosh, Cortlands, and Northern Spies. Sadly, Northern Spies are rarely seen in grocery stores and Cortlands are not a variety I’ve seen down here in Arkansas at all (it is hard enough to find Macintosh!) Instead I used a mix of Macintosh, Granny Smith, and Honeycrisps.
Here are the ingredients as they are listed in the cookbook. I have to tell you that I have never actually used these measurements. The recipe calls for 8 apples but I almost always end up pouring in too much cider so I add more apples. I actually like adding some apples after the applesauce has started cooking because they won’t cook as long and as a result will add extra chunkiness. I also never measure the sugar or spices; I just add them to taste.
1 cup apple cider
A couple of pinches cinnamon
A palmful of brown sugar
A pinch nutmeg
A pinch ground ginger
For this batch of applesauce I used 5 Macintosh, 2 Granny Smith and 3 Honeycrisp apples.
I start by cutting the apples into quarters. I usually cut up 3 or 4 apples at a time to try to minimize the oxidation of the apples. I use a three bowl set up for skinning and cutting the apples. One bowl has the quartered apples, one bowl is a garbage bowl for the skins and cores and the apples are sliced directly into the pot I plan to use for cooking the applesauce. This is one of the only recipes where I use a garbage bowl. I like the concept but I usually feel that it is a waste of a clean bowl. However, this three bowl set up is perfect for this recipe because it is portable, in case you want to cut your apples in front of the TV.
I core and skin the apples, slice them and cut them into small pieces. Don’t worry about uniformity because it just adds texture to the final applesauce. Smaller pieces will melt into the sauce more quickly while larger pieces will hold their shape creating a more chunky sauce.
Cutting up the apples takes between 30 minutes and an hour depending on how many apples you cut up. This is just an estimate as I haven’t timed the procedure. I actually really enjoy it so I don’t care how long it takes.
Once all the apples are cut up, it is time for seasoning and cooking. Pour about a cup of apple cider into the pot. I almost always pour in some cider then decide it is not enough and add more, only to then think I’ve added too much. If there is too much liquid, you can add more apples and/or simmer until the sauce reaches the desired thickness (if there is not enough liquid add more cider!)
I add the sugar and spices a little at a time so as not to obscure the flavor of the apples. The cider adds some sweetness and some apples (honeycrisps) are sweeter than others so the amount of sugar will depend on the natural sweetness of the apples. The applesauce I made this weekend did not need much sugar. I tend to have a heavy hand with the seasonings but you should season to your own taste. Rachel suggests two parts cinnamon to one part nutmeg and ginger so I try to keep to those ratios. I taste the applesauce several times as it cooks and adjust the amount of spices and sugar throughout the cooking process.
Bring the applesauce to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer until the applesauce has reached the desired consistency. I find this usually takes 30 – 45 minutes but I have cooked it longer. I never really keep track of the time but rather keep my eye on the applesauce: stirring, tasting and adjusting the seasoning as the applesauce cooks. If you cook at a higher temperature this step may take less time. This step is really objective as it is based on your preference for the texture of applesauce. I like mine chunky but not too watery so I like to cook down the cider but I still want lots of chunks.
Yum! This applesauce keeps well in the refrigerator and is good hot or cold. I usually warm it up for 1-2 minutes in the microwave and eat it for breakfast.
This recipe is adapted from the recipe for Homemade Chunky Applesauce in Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals.