Applesauce is a standard member of any self-respecting pantry.
It works for all kinds of things. It’s one of the first foods we give to babies. It’s a great lunchbox-filler or after-school snack. Warm it up, add some cinnamon, and it becomes a quick side dish. It even stands in for butter or oil when we want to make our baked goods a bit healthier.
Because it’s a pantry staple, and because it is so easy to make, it’s a food that just makes sense to preserve when apples are in-season, local, and abundant. Bonus points for heirloom or organic varieties, in my opinion (more on that in another post).
In my part of New England (Massachusetts), apple season generally starts near the end of August, just as the peach trees are putting forth their final effort for the season, and kids are starting a new year of school.
Apparently, this year’s weather has been nearly ideal for the apple crop, with cool spring temperatures and a recent spell of relatively dry weather resulting in branches heavy with fruit.
I tend to wait for apple picking until September, even though I know there are some early fruiting varieties that show up in local orchards around mid-August. Maybe it’s my NH roots, but to my mind, August is really about stone fruits and raspberries.
Last weekend was my first trip to the orchard for apples this year. The kids and I drove up to one of our favorite nearby orchards because it was a gorgeous day and I knew the Honeycrisp were available for picking.
It was crowded, but not so much that we ever had to wait in line for anything. The Honeycrisp trees are located in a satellite field, so we took a hayride to avoid the kids’ melting down (or just melting – it was actually pretty hot!).
Naturally, we took the opportunity to cool down with apple cider slushies at the farm stand afterwards.
So here I am with a 20 lb. bag of apples…of course they will get eaten if I just put them into the refrigerator drawer and wait patiently. But, as I mentioned, it just makes sense to preserve something when it is local, in-season, and abundant. So I put twelve aside for eating, and then got to peeling, coring, and slicing the remainder.
Having one of these apple slicers really makes the whole process easier.
I put all of the apple slices in my biggest pot. I poured in about a cup of apple cider from the jug I bought as we left the orchard, and adjusted the burner to medium-high.
I let the apples cook, stirring occasionally to distribute the heat and discourage scorching.
When it had cooked enough that only a few chunks of apple remained, I used my immersion blender to smooth it out.
I ladled it into my prepared jars, processed in a hot water bath, and stored the cooled, labeled jars in my pantry for the winter.