In the midst of preparing all those homemade cookies and potato pancakes we need for Hanukkah, there is one food item that, while necessary for the latkes (in my opinion), is often overlooked, picked up at the last minute, and poured out of a jar. Yes, I’m talking about the applesauce.
Who among us hasn’t (at one time or another) just opened that jar of that sweet, gooey glop, poured it in a bowl and said, “Here you go kids, enjoy”? While I’m certainly guilty of that particular food infraction, at this time of year, as a gift to yourself and your family, you should try the extraordinary taste of homemade applesauce.
Making applesauce is very easy and the following recipes can be whipped up in no time. For the most part, you won’t even have to go to the store for any ingredients — except, possibly, the apples.
Applesauce (Master Recipe)
Wash, pare, and core 8 cooking apples. Add about 1/2 cup water and 1/8 tsp. salt. Cook in a covered pot until soft. Add about 1/2 cup sugar while hot. Simmer just long enough to melt sugar. Amount of sugar and water varies with sweetness and juiciness of apples.
For additional flavor, add sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, grated lemon rind or juice, or a combination of spices.
Yield: 8 servings
Honey applesauce: In the master recipe, substitute 1/2 cup honey for sugar. Add 1 to 2 tsp. grated lemon rind.
Minted applesauce: In the master recipe, add 1/4 cup chopped mint with sugar.
Orange applesauce: In the master recipe, add 2 to 3 tsp. grated orange rind with sugar.
Rosy cinnamon applesauce: In the master recipe, cook 1/3 cup red cinnamon candies with apples.
Spiced applesauce: In the master recipe, substitute 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar for granulated sugar. Add 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. grated lemon rind.
6 to 8 tart apples
Cinnamon to taste or 2 thin slices lemon
2/3 cup water
About 3/4 cup sugar (you can use brown sugar if you like)
Wash apples (do not peel), remove bruised spots, and cut in quarters. Place the cut apples in an ungreased baking dish. Add the cinnamon or lemon and water. Mix well, cover with foil and bake at 375º until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Place the mixture through a strainer and then add the sugar. Mix well. This is great either hot or cold.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
Baked Applesauce Variations
Creamed applesauce: Substitute 2/3 cup light cream for water. Add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg with sugar.
Honey applesauce: Substitute honey for sugar. Add 1 Tbs. grated lemon rind.
Maple applesauce: Substitute 1 cup maple syrup for sugar and water.
Orange applesauce: Add 2 Tbs. grated orange rind while cooking.
Cranberry Apple Butter
6 lbs. McIntosh apples, quartered and cored
1/2 cup water
2 cups cranberries
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. honey
In a large cast-iron casserole, combine the apples and water. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until soft, about 20 minutes. Uncover and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until it forms a thickened purée, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cook the cranberries with sugar over low heat, stirring occasionally, until a thick purée forms, about 15 minutes. Pass cranberry purée through a coarse strainer. Then pass the apple purée through a coarse strainer and return it to casserole.
Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the honey and the cranberry purée and stir until blended. Transfer the apple butter to a heatproof bowl and cool completely.