One of the great pleasures of a sunny fall day is the juicy, sweet crunch of a new apple, fresh from the orchard.
Sometimes a trip to the orchard yields such a bounty of apples that it is impossible to eat them all fresh. This can be particularly true if you get “drops.” Most food safety sources say that “drops” should be cooked before eating because of toxins that can develop on apples bruised by a fall to the ground.
One of my favorite ways to cook apples is to make applesauce. On its own or with cottage cheese or yogurt, it makes a delicious breakfast, side dish or snack.
You can make applesauce by peeling, coring and cooking the apples with a bit of water, then mashing or processing them to the desired texture. If you have a cone strainer or food mill, you can try the method below, which retains more of the apple flavor and sweetness. The lovely pink color and flavor easily justifies the cost of the strainer or mill, if you are so inclined.
Different varieties yield different color and sweetness. McIntosh is one of my favorites.
Adding cinnamon adds spice and sweetness without calories or the health problems related to added sugar.
To prepare your apples, first wash them under cool water. Drain.
One at a time, quarter the apples, removing the blossom ends, stems and core. Place them in a saucepan. Most sources recommend removing the seeds as they harbor very minimal traces of a toxin.
Although it is unlikely that anyone would eat enough seeds to cause a problem, there is another reason to remove the core. The casings around the seeds do not soften in cooking and can slip through the food mill into your applesauce and have an unpleasant texture.
When you have prepared your apples, add 1/2 to 1 cup water to the pot so that the apples don’t burn before they begin to release their juice. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15-30 minutes or until soft, stirring frequently. Adjust heat to avoid scorching.
Put the pulp through a food mill or cone strainer. Season to taste with cinnamon. I use a heaping teaspoon for three pounds of apples. Allow the sauce to cool. Taste before deciding whether to sweeten with a little honey or sugar.
Ladle into plastic freezer containers leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Freezing best preserves the fresh flavor but has the disadvantage of having to wait for it to thaw before use. Being a high-acid food, applesauce also can be canned in a hot water bath, which has the advantage of being ready when you are.
If your applesauce makes it to the canning kettle or freezer without being devoured by your friends and family, it will make a lovely winter treat.
Joyce Amsden is a master gardener with the University of Vermont Extension.