Recently, our friends went apple picking and asked me if I would be willing to turn some of their apples into pie. I, of course, was willing, and used several of the apples they gave me to make my standard apple pie recipe. But I also ended up with several apples leftover and decided to go ahead and turn them into some unsweetened applesauce for their toddler, my godson.
This is the first time I’ve made applesauce, and I have three thoughts. First, I really had no idea it would be so damn easy. Second, I had no idea it would be so much better than the bland stuff you buy in a jar. And third, I have no idea why you would want to add sugar to it in the first place.
See, I tend to err on the side of decadence, and if I hadn’t been planning for this to be eaten by my godson, knowing his parents wouldn’t want him scarfing down something laced with sugar, I would have just defaulted to a run of the mill, sweetened recipe. As it turns out, if you start out with some good fruit, let it simmer for about an hour, and spice it up just right, it will taste perfectly tart and sweet on its on. And it also won’t taste watery and weak like every commercial variety I’ve ever tried.
So while it’s true that this applesauce is unsweetened, I struggle with calling it “unsweetened applesauce” because that makes it sound like it’s a bland punishment or like it’s second best to a sweetened variety. It’s neither of those things. It’s just a really good, really simple applesauce. My godson scarfed down two bowls the night I brought this over (while refusing the bite of pie he was offered!), so I think he agrees.
The flavor depends in large part on the apples that you are using, so you definitely want to use ripe, in-season apples. I also think a sweet-tart apple will give you a nice balance of flavor in the resulting apple sauce. The apples I used were primarily MacIntosh and Gala apples, but I remember seeing an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they argued that Pink Lady apples yielded the best applesauce. Since I’m giving this batch of applesauce to my friends, I think I’m going to have to go get some Pink Lady apples and make another batch for myself.
Notes: First, I didn’t peel my apples and pureed the skins with the rest of the sauce. This resulted in a slightly chunkier sauce, but neither my godson nor myself had any textural aversions to the skin. For a smoother product, just peel the apples before you core and quarter them. Second, the ingredients I’ve listed below just indicate the way that I spiced this batch. I erred on the side of more lightly spiced since this was going to be eaten by a toddler. As is, I think the recipe amount of cinnamon and cloves provide enough flavor without overpowering the fruit, but you could easily create a more heavily spiced version by adding whole cloves or even by adding a bit of allspice or ginger.
- 10-12 small or medium apples (more if your apples are on the smaller side, less if they’re bigger)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- Pinch of ground cloves
- Peel your apples, if desired (see the note above). Core the apples and cut them into quarters. Or, if you don’t have a corer, cut the apples into quarters and then cut the cores out. Whatever.
- Add 2-3 cups of water to the pot. The water should reach the half point of where the apples are in the pot. In other words, if your apples are about 4″ deep in the pot, you want to fill the pot with about 2 inches of water. You can always add more water if you need it, but you don’t want your applesauce to be too watery.
- Bring the water to a boil, and boil the apples on high for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, the apples should begin breaking down.
- Turn the heat down to low and add the cinnamon sticks and ground cloves. Give the apples a little stir to incorporate the spices, and then let the apples simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, stirring the mix occasionally. At this point, there will still be some chunks of apple, but the mixture should be starting to look a lot like applesauce.
- Take the pot off the heat, remove the cinnamon sticks, and put the applesauce into a food processor or blender. Puree the mix until smooth. Or, if you like a chunkier applesauce, just give the apples a couple of quick pulses.
This recipe makes about 4 cups of applesauce. It will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week in an airtight container, but can also be frozen for several months.