I’m thinking that applesauce might be a test of character. Let me back up far enough to explain this.
Our church sits in the middle of our small city, and every Monday evening 150-250 neighbors drop in for supper. These Community Meals are prepared and served by church groups from around the city and the just-outlying areas.
Twice a year our Sunday school class takes its turn. We love to do it. It’s work, but the people who come to eat are gracious and grateful. They enlarge our worlds.
We come up with a menu, divvy up who makes what, and cook most of the food from scratch.
Merle and I had shown up to help serve the meal when my friend Barb came walking toward the tables, carrying a gargantuan steel bowl of applesauce. It was the purest-looking, most glistening, golden applesauce that I have ever seen. I caught her eye and asked if she had made it. “Yes,” she said.
I know this woman can cook, so I bee-lined it to the kitchen area and swiped a spoonful from her back-up containers. Just as I expected, the applesauce was as purely fresh and sparkling to taste as it was to see. This was Eden. This was also the middle of the winter, so she hadn’t just whipped this up on a whim.
“Well,” I spluttered to Barb, “if I had made such extraordinarily flavorful applesauce, I’d have stashed it in my freezer and dribbled it out on special occasions for me and my most-loved ones.”
“Oh, I made some for us, too, but I made this batch especially for tonight,” she told me.
So with my hoarding, squirreling-away tendencies exposed, I asked Barb how she managed to produce this crystal-clear, heavenly-tasting sauce.
“I go to a local orchard at the end of August or early September [That would be NOW, folks!], and I ask for the sweetest apples that they have left. Usually I end up getting a mixture of varieties.
“Apples tend to be sweeter later in the summer. And I don’t want to add sugar.
“I’ve learned that a half-bushel of apples makes about 150 servings of applesauce, so that’s what I buy.
“Then I wash the apples well, cut them in half, and take out the blossom ends and the stems. I don’t worry about the cores, and I don’t peel the apples. The strainer I put them through after cooking them soft takes care of all that.
“I cook them in batches in a good-sized stockpot. All I add is an inch of water.”
Barb boxes the luscious sauce and sticks it in the freezer—until she brings it out in mid-winter and blesses the rest of us with her quiet generosity and this exquisitely natural goodness. “Homemade applesauce is just better than bought,” she says matter-of-factly.
Here’s an easy slow-cooker approach to making your own applesauce. Go get some late-summer apples and skip the sugar completely.
Note: If you want a smooth, finely grained sauce, you can drop peeling the apples (in contrast to what the recipe below says), and after they’re fully cooked, run them through a food press or strainer.
Fix-It and Forget-It 5-ingredient favorites, pg. 246
Makes 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking Time: 4½-6½ hours
Ideal slow cooker size: 3- to 4-quart
8-10 medium sized cooking apples, peeled, cored, and diced
½ cup water
scant ½-3/4 cup sugar, according to the kind of apples you use, optional
½-1 tsp. cinnamon, optional
1. In slow cooker, combine apples and water.
2. Cover and cook on Low 4-6 hours, or until apples are very soft.
3. Add sugar and cinnamon if you wish (or reserve the cinnamon and sprinkle over finished sauce), and cook on Low another 30 minutes.
4. Sprinkle with cinnamon at serving time if you wish (unless you’ve already added it in Step 3).
Tip: This applesauce will be slightly chunky. If you prefer a smoother sauce, puree or sieve the apples after they’ve been cooked.