Growing up in New England, picking apples fresh off the tree was a yearly event that announced the official end of summer and meant my days spent inside a classroom would not end for more than half the year. On an average trip, my family would bring home anywhere between 10 and 20 pounds of apples that would sit in large plastic bags in the basement for weeks waiting for their time to become pies, crisps, or cobblers.
Much later in life, I created an applesauce recipe. Applesauce is both incredibly delicious and easy to make. Unlike it’s jarred step-brother, homemade applesauce is adaptable to any ingredient changes you’d like to make including tartness of the apples, sweeteners used, and other flavor additives. This recipe uses gala apples because of their natural sweetness which allows me to cut down on the amount of sugar used. I’ve added a variation at the bottom of this page which uses bourbon as a sweetener and additional flavor.
I would like to first mention that I have long held an anti-unitasker philosophy when it comes to kitchen equipment. For those that do not know, Alton Brown coined this phrase on his show Good Eats. A unitasker is a kitchen gadget that can only be used reasonably for one thing. I have rid my kitchen of unitaskers with the exception of two that I could not live without. The first is a waffle iron and the second is an apple peeler/corer/slicer combination tool (pictured above). The advantage of this tool is that there is no usable fruit wasted when peeling or slicing the apples. If you work with apples annually or just simply love making apple pie, this is a must have tool that can be found in most stores that sell kitchen gadgets. If you do not have one, a regular peeler will do fine.
Ingredients (makes about 3 cups)
- 6 large gala apples
- 1/3c Light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter + 3 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp whole cloves
1. Start by peeling and coring the apples. Then, slice apples about 1/8 inch thick. Set aside.
Note: You can see in the pictures below the product of the apple peeler mentioned above. As it peels and cores the apple, it simultaneously spiral cuts the fruit as well. Run a knife down the middle and you have perfectly uniform slices.
2. Melt 2 tbsp unsalted butter in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat (a 7 on the dial). When melted, mix in sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Stir until combined. Let cook for two minutes.
3. Add 1/4c water. Do be careful as there will be quite a bit of steam rising from the molten sugar. Stir to combine.
4. Add apples to pan and mix until apples and spices are incorporated. Turn the heat down to simmer (a 2 or 3 on your dial). Cover and cook for 30 to 45 minutes until the mixture has reduced in size by 1/2.
Your house will be filled with wonderful smells after about 10 minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if neighbors started inviting themselves to dinner. I also would like to note if you are selling your home, this would be a great way to prepare before an open house. The aroma will fill your house and make it more inviting. This gets the same results as cooking an apple pie, but is much easier to prepare and cleanup is a snap.
5. Once the apples are cooked, remove from heat. Remove the cloves. While cloves are edible, they are woody and not pleasant to bite into. Let cool for 10 minutes.
If you would prefer chunky applesauce, use a potato masher to mash apples until desired consistency. Serve warm.
6.If you would like a smooth silky applesauce, place applesauce into a blender or food processor. If using a blender, wait until the apples have cooled a bit. The steam will blow the top off the blender and potentially could cover you will scalding hot sugar and apples. This would not be a pleasant part of your day. While pulsing, add 3 tablespoons of butter (one at a time) until incorporated into applesauce. Serve warm.
This can be made days ahead of time and warmed right before serving.
Eliminate clove and water and reduce brown sugar to 3 tbsp. Use a sweet-tart apple like macintosh or empire. During step 3, replace water with 1/2c bourbon. This is what I call Drunken Applesauce. Don’t worry, this is kid friendly as the alcohol will cook off during the simmering process.