As American As Applesauce

At Summer’s end, one of my favorite activities to do to welcome in the next season is collect apples from the trees around the farm and make applesauce.  This is a warm, memory-making tradition for children.

Apple trees dot the Upstate New York landscape

Apple trees dot the Upstate New York landscape

Here in New York, many of the country hillsides are covered with apple trees of various old-fashioned varieties, some whose names have been forgotten.  There are an array of colors and sizes, blending in with the Autumn leaves themselves.

"Wild" Apple trees

“Wild” Apple trees

Many of these apples seem undesirable for eating out of hand, planted long ago by farmers intending to make many of them into hard cider and vinegar to store for the winter.  (As a child I was told they were “crab apples”.  I know now this name belongs only to the cherry-sized ornamental apple trees from which one can also, by the way, make sauce).  But a number of the apples are sweet and delicious to eat, even if a little smaller in size than we are used to.   Either way, they can be used to make country-fresh applesauce.

Autumn Bounty

Autumn Bounty

During a good apple year such as this, a great bounty can be collected driving about in search of abandoned trees along country roads, or if you have access to some land and folks happy to let you pick.  It is good to have a truck of some sort, for apples quickly add up in weight and volume.  It’s a great outdoor activity to take children out to pick apples, for they are agile to climb trees to reach the best fruits, and they are fearless in tasting and selecting the best varieties.

Amazing finds!

Amazing finds!

Once you’ve got a nice load of apples collected, or even if you grab some at your local market, you can make applesauce to enjoy now and preserve for use all winter.

Beautiful Fall colors

Beautiful Fall colors

Applesauce is easy to make using your crockpot.  If you have a food mill or grinder to remove skins, no need to peel the apples before cooking.  If you do not, and will mash them by hand or in a food processor, peel the apples first then cook.  Cut the apples free from their cores, either by using an apple-corer, paring into slices and removing the seeds, or just cutting most of the flesh free from the middle.  Fill the crockpot full of apple wedges, add about an inch of water in the bottom, and cover, cooking on low until they are totally soft, about 6hrs.

When the apples are soft, mash them with a grinder or food mill to remove the skins, and sweeten to desired taste.  How much sugar is needed will depend upon how sweet the apples were to start and which sweetener is used, whether sugar, honey or syrup.  It seems better to add the sugar after the apples have cooked, rather than adding it to the raw apples.  The cooking time and temperature of the crockpot will caramelize the sugar, adding a darker color and muting somewhat the sweetening effect.  If using honey or maple syrup, this over-cooking can bring out some of the more “earthy” aspects, which is not always a pleasant experience.  :/

Using my tomato press to grind and separate the skins

Using my tomato press to grind and separate the skins

After mashing to a smooth consistency, return to low heat on the stove to add the sweetener.  Add cinnamon, if desired.  You can also add raisins, nuts, other dried fruit, brandy, whatever the occasion calls for.  This is wonderful enjoyed warm or chilled to enjoy cold.  It’s a great snack for the lunchbox and after school.  Don’t forget this applesauce can be used to bake your favorite breads and muffins, too.

Finished sauce ready to eat

Finished sauce ready to eat

Fresh applesauce can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, or it can be canned to use all Winter.  I hot pack the sweetened sauce in quarts and process in a water-bath canner for 10 mins.  Or can some pints for gifts or a healthy addition to the lunchbox..

Remember, anyone can do this, even if apples are gathered at a u-pick, at farmers market or from the grocery.  It is so easy, delicious, and comforting, it is a great way to create family memories for children while begining to build excitement for the newly-arrived Fall season.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. sunhfarm
    Sep 24, 2013 @ 15:15:58

    Reblogged this on Sunny Hill Farm Blog.

    Reply

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