Monday, September 19, 2011
Homemade Apple Sauce
It has been an amazingly bad garden year around here, as it has been for most of the country. Insert your favorite regional weather gripe: too hot, too cold, too much rain, not enough rain, or just general weather funkiness. In particular, it has been a bad year for fruit. My key lime tree set about 12 key limes, only to lose all of them during a hot spell. (It can be too hot for key limes??) The u-pick strawberry farm had fewer, smaller berries (although they were yummy), and my in-laws report apple trees failing to set fruit. Indeed, this is borne out by one of my favorite fruit farms, which closed their u-pick apple fields for the year.
However, they did have enough to sell at the farmers' market, and when I asked about the best apples for sauce, the lady asked me how much I wanted to put up, then offered to bring me a half bushel of seconds for a lower price. Seconds are definitely the way to go for sauce; since you don't need pretty, unblemished apples, you can take ones with small bruises and irregular forms for a lower price. She brought me a half bushels of mixed varieties of apples, and I paid $18. True to my requested estimate, this was enough to put up 12 pints of homemade applesauce.
I loved this project, because I could control the sugar and spice, generating a great end product. I also tried putting up some apple jelly made with the cores; it didn't set quite as well as I might have liked, but this is never a problem in this house. Loose jams and jellies are yogurt and coffee flavorings, or pancake and ice cream topping. No waste here!
1. Wash the apples very well. I washed them with a dishcloth under running water. Even organic farms will have to do some spraying and pest control, so you don't want any residue, even if it is a natural product.
2. Core the apples and cut into chunks. Here's a tip from my friend (thanks, S.E.!): don't peel them. Boil them until they are soft, and the peels will slip right off. Run the apples through a ricer, which will remove the remaining skins, seeds, or other nasty parts. The sauce will be the only thing making it through the holes of the ricer.
3. Reheat the sauce until nearly boiling, adding sugar and spices to taste. I used about a half a cup of sugar for 2.5 quarts of sauce, along with about 2 t. cinnamon and 1/2 t. nutmeg. What you use depends on your apples and your taste. I canned multiple small batches instead of one big batch because Mr. FC&G and I were working assembly-line fashion.
4. Can in pint or quart jars, according to your family's need. Leave about 3/4 inch headspace. For either size, process for 20 minutes in a BW canning bath.
Fast: Putting up a half bushel of apples took about 3-4 hours, including the jelly experiment. Like so many things this time of year, a good evening of canning turns into good food for an entire year.
Cheap: Just figuring the sauce, my apple costs were 10.6 cents per ounce of sauce, and I spent about $22 total on apples, sugar, spices, and pectin for the sauce plus six 12-ounce jars of "jelly." I haven't bought store applesauce in years, but I imagine this compares very favorably.
Good: The best part of this project is customizing the applesauce to your own taste. I can hardly wait to crack open one of these jars and have applesauce as part of my lunches!
Posted by Jennifer Lorenzetti at 10:01 AM