timberland watches uk Good apples are the key to making great homemade applesauce
View full sizeMike Davis/The OregonianMaking your own applesauce is a labor of love, but a surprisingly easy one. Leaving the skins on the red apples will tint the sauce pink.
Now that I no longer get a new pair of shoes to start the school year, a bowl of homemade applesauce kicks off autumn for me. At the first hint of fall in the air, I track down a bag of Gravensteins, unearth my grandmother’s food mill and 20 minutes later I’m blissing out on spoonfuls of still warm sauce.
There is no bigger bang for your do it yourself buck than making applesauce. It’s easy, tastes so much better than the commercial kind and encourages the (choose one) chef, artisan, foodie, homemaker or mom within.
I’ve been making applesauce since I was a girl and have concentrated so much on the results that I never paid much attention to the process. Turns out, I do have one. I leave the skins on the apples because they often add a rosy tint to the sauce. I steam the fruit in a little apple juice or cider, rather than water, to intensify the flavor. I taste the sauce and, if it needs a little sweetness, I add sugar brown sugar, because I like the hint of caramel it adds.
Recipes included with this story: Basic Applesauce, Reduced fat Gingerbread Applesauce Cake, Orange scented Spiced Applesauce.
But, when it comes to food and almost everything else in life there’s always something to learn. Applesauce is no different.
First, the apples. After 50 plus years making applesauce, I’ve just learned that it often tastes better if you use a combination of apples. Dan Brophy, lead chef instructor at Oregon Culinary Institute, says mixing tart and sweet apples adds layers to the flavor of homemade sauce. In my defense, I grew up using apples from an unidentified tree in our backyard, which earns me some points with Brophy. He insists that the best applesauce is free made with whatever fruit you find growing in your neighborhood.
An applesauce aficionado, he also uses cider or juice just enough to keep the apples from sticking as they cook. Although he realizes some cooks don’t peel the apples, he does. “It’s easier to run them through the food mill without the skins,” he says. He frequently adds cinnamon, allspice, cloves or cardamom to his sauce and cans it so he can enjoy it all winter long. Stark St., will hold its 24th annual apple tasting Friday through Sunday. Fifty varieties of apples and pears will be available to taste, many for purchase. Cooking demonstrations, live music and children’s activities are planned. No admission or tasting charge.
In the Hood River Valley, the Heirloom Apple Celebration is Saturday and Sunday. Orchards along the valley’s traditional Fruit Loop will feature classic varieties that are often hard to come by or harder to store. Admission and parking are free.
Peggy Acott, who helps organize Portland Nursery’s annual apple celebration, says she’s “like a kid in a candy store” as she surveys the dozens of varieties usually available for tasting.
“I can wax on all day about applesauce,” she says. She takes a whole day every fall to make her sauce, canning maybe 40 pint jars and freezing some sauce in plastic bags, which she then stacks flat in her freezer.
“I love it when the apples are cooking, the house gets warm, the windows steam up and it all smells like apples,” she says. She grew up on commercial applesauce but discovered the joy of making her own about six years ago. She knows that a combination of apples yields the best sauce.
“Even two sweet apples taste different,” she says. “You can also pair a sweet and a tart apple, a mild and a spicy one, or spicy, sweet and mild ones.” She suggests using two or three varieties. “One year I used four and that was overkill.”
She believes in tasting the apples before you choose them. The same variety of apple will taste different year to year,
she says. Some of her favorite past pairings include Ginger Goldens, a creamy yellow sweet tart apple, and at least one other variety. Maybe Cox’s Orange Pippins, an old English variety known for being tart and crisp, or a Rubinette (a cross of Golden Delicious and Cox’s Orange Pippin).
You’re not likely to see these apple varieties at your supermarket, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make good applesauce. Granny Smith is a good choice when combined with something sweeter and a bit softer, such as McIntosh or Gala. Other good options are Rome Beauty, Gravenstein, Cortland, Winter Banana and Jonathans. Whatever varieties you buy, just be sure you’re getting fresh, fall crop apples.
As for peeling, Acott uses the old fashioned hand cranked tool that peels, cores and slices the apples. Then she cooks the slices in a little water, runs them through a food processor and never, never adds sugar. “If you choose your apples carefully, you don’t need sugar,” she says.
What she likes about applesauce is that it’s very rarely a failure. Aside from scorching the apples, homemade sauce is forgiving. “If a batch is too smooth, make a chunkier batch and mix the two together,” she says. “If it isn’t sweet enough, cook a sweeter batch and stir it in.”
Applesauce is also a good way for cooks who are “rabid recipe followers” to take off their training wheels and try cooking according to taste, she says.
Dollie Rasmussen, who’s lived by, with and for apples for about 50 years, wouldn’t know. She and her husband, Lynn, bought Rasmussen Farm in Hood River from his parents about 1960 and opened to the public three years later. She does not make applesauce.
“I did make a pie,” she says, “I think it was in 1989.”
The Rasmussens eat their apples fresh. She never had time to make even applesauce. But now that she and Lynn have retired the farm is leased by Julie and Patrick Milling she might give it a shot and, yes, she’d probably use a combination of apples. (Where have I been?)
“We really like Newtown Pippins. It has a good flavor and holds its shape,” meaning that Newtown applesauce will be chunky. On the other hand, some people like their sauce smooth, she adds.
“My grandmother’s favorite was Winter Banana,” Rasmussen says. “It makes a really smooth sauce and you need very little sugar with it.” But by the time this article runs, the Winter Bananas likely will be gone as are my own grandmother’s favorite, Gravensteins, which ripen in late summer.
But Spitzenburgs, the apples Rasmussen says made Hood River famous, will be a little late this year. Look for them in late October. “They are what apples are supposed to taste like,” Rasmussen says. “I wouldn’t add anything to that applesauce but a little bit of nutmeg.
View full size”The Apple Lover’s Cookbook” by Amy Traverso
The next level of apple
Photographs and the recipes they accompany are tantalizing, including: Apple and Chestnut Stuffed Pork Loin With Cider Sauce; Apple and Mustard Grilled Cheese Sandwiches; Quick Bread and Butter Apple Pickles.