A few months ago, my younger daughter and I were working away at the stove tracking three saucepans. Each held a different variety of apple, cut up, cooking slowly. We were testing the different apples to see which ones we liked best in our applesauce. We thought if we tasted each one alone, then tasted all the possible combinations of the three (or two), we could perfect the applesauce we love so much. This was serious work.
Eventually we both looked up and over at my older daughter sitting at the kitchen table, watching us with jaw dropped and eyes rolling. “When I leave for college,” she said, “You two are going to be like two little old ladies making applesauce every weekend.” She was only a little bit disgusted, and not fully wrong.
We are serious about our homemade applesauce. It’s sugar-free, a little spicy and delicious, and there’s usually some in our fridge from September through April. We like to keep ours on the chunky side, with some peel still on the apples, kind of like a cross between applesauce and a baked apple. To say we are addicted wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
After all that testing, we realized we love our homemade applesauce using just about any apple: It’s easy to make and very forgiving. We like it plain, in yogurt, or topped with raisins or dried cranberries or toasted, chopped almonds or walnuts…or all of the above.
Make some applesauce this weekend. I promise you will never eat the jarred kind again. And if you’re not an applesauce fan, try it anyway. It might just make you a convert.
PS: If you’re celebrating Hanukkah this week and trying out the latkes that Pam Gruber, mother of Kenny & Ziggy’s owner Ziggy Gruber, shared with us, this is the perfect accompaniment!
9 apples (we like to use 3 Honeycrisp, 3 Fuji and 3 Granny Smiths)
2 cinnamon sticks
3 whole star anise pods
1 teaspoon whole cloves
Peel the apples (we like to do this very roughly, leaving some peel on each, because the peel mixed in the applesauce tastes like a mushed-up baked apple), then core and chop them into 1-inch chunks. Put the chopped apples into a large pot with a lid (we use an 8-quart stockpot). Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves. Zest the lemon, adding the zest to the applesauce, then add the juice of the lemon. Mix everything together, turn the heat to medium-low and cover the pot not quite all the way. Cook the apples for an hour or so, checking every so often and stirring so that the apples don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Once the apples are soft, turn the heat off and keep the pot covered. Let the applesauce sit for another 30 minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves. Then, stir the apples with a wooden spoon to break them up. From here, you can leave the sauce chunky, or you can mash it with a potato masher or the back of a fork, or if you want super-smooth applesauce, you can puree it in a blender or in the pot with an immersion blender. Keep it in the fridge, but know that once everyone gets a taste of it, it won’t stay there long.
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