Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Just a Little Applesauce

A few weeks ago I harvested all the apples from the trees in my orchard.  I stored them in crates in the cellar until I got a minute to sort through and grab out the sauce apples.  (When I chose trees to plant in my orchard, I purposely planted our favorite pie apple variety, our favorite sauce apple variety, and our favorite 'eating apple' variety, then threw in a few more for pollinators and potential cider some day.)

My preferred sauce apples are Cortland.  They have nice deep red skins, and white flesh, and are sweet enough that I never have to add sugar to my applesauce.  The perfect no additives recipe: apples, a little water. Done.

This year I had tried something new: pinching off half the immature fruit on each tree. It is the way you are supposed to maintain your trees for larger fruit, but so far I had been too chicken to try.  I mean, what if we had a big storm, or a big drought, and most of what I had left fell off the tree before getting to maturity (aka ripeness)?

Seemed like a big gamble.  Especially since some of the apple trees didn't have a whole lot of fruit to begin with.  But, I went ahead and gave it a shot.

Every single tree produced fruit nearly twice as large as in the past.  These were apples I couldn't close my hand around.  So, definitely a difference in how much of the tree's energy went into each fruit.

But, I didn't have a ton.  Some did fall off during the growing season for one reason or another.  And, shame on me, some did fall off before I realized it was harvest time all ready.  Those mostly went to the chickens since they were too far gone for me to use in the kitchen.

The Cortlands I had left, however, went into a batch of applesauce.

First I loaded them into the sink for a good rinsing.

Then I peeled, quartered and cored them before tossing them into my stock pot.  A cool thing about the deep red skin of Cortlands is that if you don't feel like peeling them, you can leave the skins on and end up with pink applesauce!  I, however, wanted normal colored applesauce this time around, so I peeled mine.

I added just a little water to the pot (1/2 cup or so to an 8 qt pot?) to help keep the apples from sticking to the bottom as they are beginning to cook.  Then I simmered them on medium heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the apples were nice and soft.

After that, I pressed them through my fruit/veggie strainer to get out any pieces of core or seeds I may have missed during the quartering and coring, and to give it that typical slightly grainy applesauce texture (if you want really smooth sauce, you can whiz your apples through the blender).  The sauce went back into the pot to be heated to a boil, then put into canning jars with 1/2 inch head space and water bathed for 20 minutes.

That's all there is to making applesauce.  No specific quantities or measuring needed.  That's what I love about making applesauce; doesn't matter if I have a ton of apples or just a few, the recipe needs no adjusting. It also doesn't need any ingredients other than apples and water.  Peel, quarter, core, cook down, strain, boil, jar, water bath.

I only got 5 pints of applesauce from my tree this year, but hey, 5 pints of 'free' applesauce (since I didn't buy any thing to make it) is better than no applesauce.

And, I did have a little left over that wasn't enough to fill another jar.  Eaten warm with a little bit of caramel ice cream topping stirred in, it was an awesome treat while I was waiting for the canner to finish processing.

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