Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A is for Applesauce

I make my own applesauce now. No big deal. No, actually: no big deal. It’s so simple, I almost don’t want to brag about it. After you make homemade applesauce, you feel lame calling it homemade—it’s like saying you make homemade ice cubes. Even if you make them in a Tetris mold.

My personal library service (that is, my sister) recently provided me with mom-favorite Laurie Colwin’s two kitchen essay compilations: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. These books have been bedside-table staples for twenty years, and yet, in my first reading this fall, they were completely relevant to topics we continue to wrestle with as home chefs. Laurie writes about her preference for organic meats, farmers’ markets, and wholesome cooking—and she does it well. So well, in fact, that she convinced me to roast my first chicken, which, unlike my adventures in applesauce, was an undercooked exploit.

Let’s focus on my success for now: Laurie’s applesauce recipe annoyed me at first. In her own words, applesauce is “so simple to make that it almost does not require a recipe.”

I once tried to make cookies without a recipe, and I now firmly believe there are some things that you cannot wing. As a first timer, I didn’t appreciate Laurie’s relaxed attitude. “Any number of apples”? WTF, Laurie? I need answers.
But Laurie Colwin was right: applesauce is a breeze. Once you get over the seemingly lackadaisical instructions, her method is very straightforward:
  1. Core and chop apples. (I use four to seven, depending on size, and I never have any leftovers.) Laurie and I agree that variety is best for flavor. I like to keep the peels on for reasons of both nutritional and indolent natures. Laurie sweetened the pot by asserting my peel-in “result will be a lovely apple pink.” Win win.
  2. Put apples in pot/saucepan and add half a cup of cider.
  3. Cook low and slow for about a half hour, stirring sometimes.
I deviated from the path by adding a cinnamon stick at Step 2—I recommend you do the same. Our apartment smelled like a holiday cheer factory.
I’ve made a number of batches in the last couple of weeks, all in a continuing spiral of neglect for the method. However, each batch turned out fantastic. One time I had no cider, so I added water and lemon. The next time I had no lemon, so I only added water. One time I left the heat too high, all the water evaporated, and the cinnamon stick began to burn. I added more water, reduced the heat, and ate half the ’sauce still warm on a slice of buttered toast a half hour later.

You can’t lose with applesauce. It’s the dish of champions.


    1. Amazing. When you said you made applesauce, I was expecting a labor-intensive hours-long process. This is super easy. And the perfect method. As witness to the cookies without a recipe situation, I was a little worried when you mentioned "any number of apples."

      I will make this. Nice post.

    2. I'm with Sarah re the nice post.

      I feel compelled to add that in the twenty years those books were bedside-table staples (and still would be if they hadn't been lost in Fac Ex), I never made the applesauce. I did make the chicken, but you were too young to remember.

    3. I made this the other night when I had leftover apples from my squash and apple soup! I just googled it and threw caution (not apples) into the wind and it was easy and yummy. It's pretty much impossible to mess up!