I can't wait to take Eh apple picking! She already loves to ravage my tomato plants, and apple (ap -pah!) is her new favorite word - I can't imagine what she'll do when she realizes she can combine her two favorite things in one adventure!
Since I had a few bucks left in the grocery envelope and we're out of apple sauce I decided to pick up some at the farmer's market this Friday. (I was also hearing "ap-pah, ap-pah, ap-pah!" incessantly). These particular apples, firm as could be, crisp and tart were perfect for exactly the plan I had in mind - apple sauce, homemade, piping hot, lots of spice.
I have really amazing childhood memories centered around apples. I remember being pulled up to the kitchen island, my mom on the opposite side, her hands moving swiftly and with deft expertise peeling the pile of apples before us. I would snack on the discarded pile of peels, plucking the bits with the most apple on them out of the bowl, while we talked about nothing in particular. We are very good at talking about nothing in particular.
Despite the fact that my mother doesn't really like to cook, year after year she would stand there, peeling miles of apples, helping me make apple crumble, apple cakes and apple pies for school. I was always fascinated with how my mother could peel an apple in one long ribbon, the knife blade always just a few hairs distance between the apple's skin and hers. I think of her whenever I hold a paring knife this way, peeling the skins of summer and fall fruits.
I love fall and the abundance it brings, the generosity of the earth and bakers. Delicate jams and full flavored fruit butters, pies and breads, a last ditch effort on the part of all of us to give thanks one last time before winter makes a fierce return. Best yet is how forgiving fall harvests are - a pumpkin cake can use more or less pumpkin, an apple pie needs no particular number of apples, squash gets cooked for however long until it is soft and subtle in taste. Apple sauce, good alone or great on top of pancakes, on the side of a beautiful piece of pork, or any other way you like it, is a perfect celebration of fall.
Start your apple sauce by peeling 8-12 apples. They can be disparate in size and variety, in fact I would encourage it. Slice them into chunks and toss them in a pot with 2-3 cups of water and 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice.
I like a nice spice in my apple sauce. In this case we used freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon. I used about a teaspoon and a half of nutmeg and about the same of cinnamon. You could also add allspice or a pie spice if you like. There are no rules for spice - add a little, see if you like it and add some more if you want, or add none at all and just enjoy the apple sauces as-is. Add in your spices and just 2 tablespoons of sugar and turn the burner on to medium-high.
Bring the mix to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or so. In the meantime think about what you are going to put all this apple sauce in, or what to do with the peels (you might try drying them for a crunchy snack!).
After 20 minutes the apples will pretty much fall apart with a good stir. What's left you can mash with a potato masher for a chunky consistency, or blend (I like to use an immersion/hand blender in the pot) until it is the texture you prefer.
Take a taste. Now is the time to add more sugar until you get the flavor you like. Some apples will sweeten with heating, others are sweet to begin with, and some are so tart it seems no amount of sugar could do with trick at first. In the end I probably used about a quarter of a cup of sugar for this recipe - and they were pretty tart apples to start. You may find recipes that call for much more sugar at the outset, but trust me, better off to add the sugar later than have an overly sweet concoction on your hands.
That's it! You've got homemade apple sauce. Try not to eat it all in one go, I dare you. By the way, it freezes well so save some for later!