Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Week on Waste: Easy Homemade Applesauce

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on $10/day.

Oh sure, I could post this in the fall when apples are cheap and abundant and just falling off the trees. But the thing is, in the fall, apples tend to be really yummy--crisp, fresh, and perfect. They beg to be eaten as they are or to be baked into sweet oven-dependent confections like pie and crisp. In the summer, apples are usually coming to us from cold storage. They're a little pricier and generally just not as tasty. And yet we buy them anyway. Maybe we have a hankering for one, maybe we're making a salad that requires a few, maybe our CSA throws some in to fill in the gaps before the summer vegetables have come on crazy strong. At any rate we wind up with some apples. And those apples are mushy or bland or mealy. We could throw them away or feed them to our compost or make something sinfully sweet out of them. Or, I have discovered, we can make applesauce.

Why have I never made applesauce before? Because I remember it as a big fall project. My mother used an enormous metal appliance for making applesauce, which looked to be right out of a torture chamber. I can't even remember what it did, but its memory and the thought of trying to clean such a thing has intimidated me all these years. Not only that, but we would can our applesauce. Canning is not my idea of a pleasant afternoon activity in mid-July.

Yet when I found myself with several almost rotting apples from my CSA, I remembered a recipe I'd seen from a site about making baby food. She had just softened them in a pan. I figured that if it didn't work out, I had a toddler and could pawn the applesauce off on her.

I made it and, oh, oh it was so so easy and so so good. Tart and sweet and interesting. It could be made chunky or perfectly smooth. You could make just a little if you had a mere 4 apples left. Or you could make a whole lot more if you wished. With my mushy apples it took only about 10-15 minutes on the stove. Do you know what else? I bet you could make it in a crock pot if you had a bunch of apples. I plan to give it a whirl next time.

And if you do end up with a booty load, just throw some in the freezer.

Easy Homemade Applesauce
adapted from smittenkitchen
serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes (possibly less if your toddler isn't helping you)
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Cost: that of a pound or two of apples

4 C largely diced apples (I bet pears would work too, or a combination of pears and mushy apples)
1/2 C water
a few grates lemon rind (1/8-1/4 tsp) or perhaps a small splash of juice--you want it to help keep the color of your sauce
a good dash cinnamon (1/8-1/4 tsp)
2-4 Tbsp sugar (optional)

Note: If your apples are actually crispy, the cook time will likely be longer.

Put all ingredients in a pot and allow to simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Give it a stir every few minutes. The apples will begin to break apart. When they're completely soft, you can leave the sauce chunky or use a potato masher to mash the fruit (which is what I did).

Taste a bite (make sure it's not too hot) and add sugar if you like. My apples were quite tart to begin with so I added 2 Tbsp sugar. This gave my son reason to accuse me of making our applesauce less healthy than that from the store. I believe that he is officially at the age of reason when and only when reason involves challenging your mother.


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