Saturday, February 12, 2011

Simplest Applesauce

If I could use one word to describe my cooking style, it would be simple. My favorite recipes and foods are usually the simplest, with few embellishments and incredibly easy preparations. Case in point: roasted root vegetables and plain cheesecake (it seems I can't get through a post without mentioning cheesecake). I'd so much rather eat a roasted sweet potato with little more than salt and pepper than a concoction that adds a myriad of different flavorings and ingredients so you can hardly taste the sweet potato-ness in the finished product. 

Take apples. I love apples. All kinds. I don't think I've ever met an apple that I didn't like. From Pink Lady to Golden Delicious to Honeycrisp (swoon) to the ubiquitous Granny Smith, I love them all. There is something so satisfying to biting into a crisp apple, juicy and sweet, with a hint of tartness coming through toward the end.
Plain apples, eaten out of hand, are one of my favorite foods. In my mind, they are perfect as is. Sometimes, though, when the mood strikes, I love to make a batch of applesauce. Usually I get the craving for applesauce around the holidays, or when the temperatures drop and a spoonful of warm applesauce seems the perfect antidote to the chilly weather. Keeping true to my simple is best philosophy, I make my applesauce with nothing but apples and water. It's almost embarrassingly easy, but the end product is proof that this strategy works. Fresh apples don't need anything else to taste wonderful. They already have the whole sweet/tart balance going for them, and when cooked down, I think the flavor concentrates into something greater than the sum of its parts.

Make this in the dead of winter, when you've had your share of citrus, to serve alongside any number of dishes. It would be great as a sweet side to poultry or pork, atop pancakes (sweet or savory) or waffles, or as an accompaniment to spice breads or cakes. As for me? I enjoy it alone, with only a spoon and perhaps a sprinkling of cinnamon for some warm spiciness. Yup, typical.
My Favorite Applesauce

Like nearly all foods, I enjoy my applesauce with some real texture so I leave it pretty chunky. If you like your applesauce smoother, or are using it in another application where smoothness is desired, you can use a foodmill to get it more evenly pureed. One of my favorite things about this "recipe" is that it's incredibly adaptable depending on how much applesauce you want to make. I usually make this around the holidays (it's a mainstay on our Thanksgiving table) so I make a large batch. You can adjust the proportions accordingly depending on how much you want to make. I find that sweet/tart apples work best for applesauce because they result in an end product that's sweet without being cloying. Golden Delicious (my favorite apple to eat out of hand), Pink Lady, Jonagold, Gala, and Honeycrisp are all excellent varieties perfectly suited for applesauce. Another great thing about applesauce? It's perfect for using apples that have seen better days or are just languishing, uneaten, in your crisper. This technique also works great with pears, although "pearsauce" just doesn't have that same ring to it, does it?

Yield: 10-12 servings

8 large to medium sweet/tart apples (see note)

Peel and core the apples. Slice them into medium chunks (about 1 1/2-inch pieces) and place in a large pot. Pour in enough water to come halfway up the apples. Heat the apples and water over medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until the apples are very tender. With a potato masher (you could also use a wooden spoon and a bit more elbow grease), mash the apples until they form a chunky sauce. For a smoother applesauce, transfer the whole mixture to a food mill and process the apples until they reach the desired consistency. Transfer back to the pot.

At this point, the applesauce will be a little loose. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the applesauce for 20 to 30 minutes, until some of the water has evaporated and the applesauce is thick. Store the applesauce in the pot or in an airtight container for up to a week. Serve warm or cold.

P.S. I know I said that this year I wanted to post once a week. I also know it's been two weeks since my last post. Unfortunately, this past week was filled with three tests, a project, and lots of homework assignments. Since one of my other New Year's resolutions was to maintain my grades, I see this as a trade-off. I'm hoping to resume my minimum of one post a week from here on out, though. Thanks for reading, as always.


  1. a post from you always brightens my day! (and with google reader, I hadn't realized it had been TWO weeks since I read one! I think you made a wise decision about the trade-off). your applesauce is amazing and I love that it's so simple - and yes, I think it definitely deserves the "est" superlative :-)

  2. my mom cooks applesauce like this! i always drown mine with cinnamon though because im a cinnamon fiend.

    hope your school load lightens up!

  3. simple is best-i've also gone the applesauce route for those apples and pears that are on their last legs. i have to add cinnamon and clove-i do love those spices with fall/winter fruites. love warmed applesauce over vanilla ice cream.

  4. Ohhh, girl. You know I love me some applesauce. I've never made it with pears - and saw a recipe recently with cranberries added...

    Love you!

  5. I was just thinking about making applesauce this morning! I used to make it a lot when my kids were babies, but got out of the habit. The store-bought kind is so flavorless.

  6. I love homemade applesauce...after you make it there is no going back! Yum! :)

  7. i would like to swim in this applesauce!! delish.