Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rustic Applesauce

small bowl of rustic applesauce

Recipe by Robin

At our house, early apples fall before they’re fully ripe, and can be a bit buggy. But why waste less than perfect organic apples? My husband gathered them up, cutting out the cores and bug damage, added a squeeze of lemon juice, and left them in the fridge for us to snack on. But less than ripe apples had limited "a-peel." So, the next load of windfall apples, the volume of which required both of us to cut out bugs and cores, became rustic applesauce. Unlike my Mom’s applesauce, it contains apple skins, and is chunky rather than smooth, since it's not run through a food mill.
"Mountain" of Applesauce in a small bowl
Who Doesn't Love Homemade Applesauce?
We filled a total of 2½ one-gallon containers before cooking the apples down. In practice, you can core and de-bug as many apples as fit into a large pot, add a few cinnamon sticks and 1/3 to ½ cup water and cook it down slowly. Note that different apple varieties contain different amounts of waterApples will also vary in “mealiness,” which will affect the texture of the applesauce, and the amount of water needed. 

You will get to know your own apples throughout the season. Make your own adjustments to my recipe, noting the perfect amount of water, cinnamon, and sugar for your apples. You could choose to skip the cinnamon sticks and add a dash or two of cinnamon at the end instead, or eliminate it entirely.

While using a small amount of water is key to good applesauce, it’s vital that you don’t burn it. Keep the temperature low. Check in with the applesauce every half hour or so, stir it around, mash it down, and adjust the heat as needed. Check more often in the beginning, to be sure the water doesn’t boil off before the apples start getting soft. Towards the end, when the applesauce is getting very thick, is another time that you might need to lower the heat to prevent burning. 

Another benefit of long, low temperature cooking is enjoying the aroma of the cooking apples wafting through the house, a sure sign that fall is here. Some people have told me how to make quicker applesauce, but IMHO longer cooking improves both flavor and texture. Here’s to enjoying autumn’s most iconic fruit, even the less-than-perfect specimens!

Bowl of Applesauce with Spoon and Napkin
A Simple, Organic Anytime-Food
Rustic “Windfall” Applesauce
makes 10 cups

2 ½ gallons cut up apples, cores and bad spots removed
fresh lemon juice
1/3 - ½ cup water
4 cinnamon sticks
~4 tsp. sugar, optional
1-2 dashes apple pie spice, optional

Once you’ve cut the bad parts and cores out of the apples, most of your work is done. Squeeze fresh lemon over surfaces to keep apples from turning brown, especially if you can't make the applesauce right away.  Leave the peels on. Allow 2 ½ - 3 hours cooking time total. Use an 8 quart pot for 2 ½ gallons of apples. Put apples in pot and add water and cinnamon sticks, pushing cinnamon sticks below the top of the apples.

Turn heat to high till you hear water boil. This will only take a minute or two. Turn heat down immediately to medium low. Cover pot.

Every half hour or so, stir cooked apples up from the bottom and let uncooked apples fall lower into the pot. Smash the apples with the wooden spoon (once they start cooking and are soft). Stir it around and check to see it is gently cooking, NOT boiling vigorously.

Lower heat as applesauce gets thicker. Bear in mind that different apples behave differently when cooked. The mealier types will get thick quicker than the more watery types, and are less forgiving in terms of burning with too high heat. Better too little heat than too much. You’ll get to know your apples as the season progresses.

Stop cooking when it looks thick enough and apples are soft and broken up to your liking, about 2 1/2 - 3 hours total. Stir in sugar and apple pie spice to taste.

Cool before refrigerating. Enjoy hot or cold!

Pot Filled with Apples and Cinnamon Sticks
First Step: Fill Pot with Apples and Cinnamon Sticks
Apples in Pot Beginning to Soften
Beginning to Cook Down: Stir Often

Apples in Pot Soft and Saucy with Cinnamon Sticks
Mid-Process, Apples Turning Into Sauce

Pot of Cooked Down Applesauce
Applesauce Completed!


  1. much better than the commercial stuff, especially if you have an apple tree offering you free fruit.