Have you ever had homemade applesauce before? It’s such a treat! It’s so easy to make and yields a completely different result than opening a jar of Mott’s. You can add your own spices, give it some texture by leaving small chunks of apple, or make it less sweet by controlling how much (if any) sugar you add. If you’ve got a surplus of apples this time of year, this is the perfect way to use them up.
There are lots of options if you want to experiment with flavors. Add a pinch of ginger or nutmeg. Throw in a few whole star anise. Try a pinch of cardamom for a slightly more exotic take. You can also use apple pie spice if you’ve got it on hand.
Applesauce is great as a snack warm or cold (with a cup of tea, my favorite) or as side dish on its own, but it also has lots of other uses! Add it to vanilla yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast. Or make apple pancakes. Try spooning it over pork chops or roasted pork tenderloin for that classic fall combination of pork and apples. Use it in your favorite applesauce baking recipes, like this moist applesauce cake. You could also continue cooking it down over low heat for another hour after pureeing (stirring frequently) to make a lovely, smooth apple butter.
Homemade Vanilla and Cinnamon Applesauce
yields about 4 cups
3 lb apples, peeled and cored, cut into 1 inch cubes (the best apples for sauce are Gala and Fuji, but Honeycrisp, McIntosh and Golden Delicious are great choices as well)
1 cup water
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and reserve both the seeds and the pod
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Put the apples, water, sugar and vanilla in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and simmer for 15-25 minutes, until apples are tender.
Uncover and let most of the water evaporate. It should look something like this:
Stir in lemon juice and cinnamon. Remove the vanilla bean pod.
Mash with a fork or potato masher if you like a more rustic texture (like I do). If you prefer a smoother texture, use an immersion blender, food processor or blender to puree.
Taste and adjust sugar or cinnamon if necessary.
Refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 5 days, if it even lasts that long!
Just a note: this recipe is not meant for canning. It has less sugar than you would use when canning, and you need to carefully control the ratios of sugar and acid for canning. May I suggest adding the vanilla and cinnamon to this recipe from Ball if you’re interested in canning your own applesauce? Their recipes are always safe and reliable.