The success of making applesauce lies in two factors: the apple itself and the pureeing tool you use. Choose a soft-fleshed and very sweet apple. McIntosh apples are generally the best for applesauce. However, sometimes they can be bland and impart a brownish (as opposed to pink) colour. Taste the apple before investing in 5 pounds and an hour or so of work. If you can’t find good McIntosh apples, use Northern Spy or Empire.
Now for the technique. I’ve seen countless applesauce recipes and Instagram posts that require you to peel and core the apples. But, if you peel the apple, you lose the beautiful pink colour that the skin can provide. Also, removing the core is a pain and can possibly waste a lot of good fruit. The best way to make applesauce is with a food mill. It may be an investment in another gadget, but trust me, you will save loads of time (and isn’t your time valuable?). When you use a food mill, you don’t need to peel or core the apples. You just remove the sticker (lol), wash the apples, cut them in quarters and throw them in the pot. Done! However, do not fret, if you don’t have a food mill. I would core the apple but leave the skin on. Once they are cooked, push the flesh through a strainer. If you want it smoother afterwards, you can blend it or puree it in a food processor. The moral of the story is…do not peel those apples before cooking them. You can also make “ugly” applesauce and puree the cooked apples in a food processor or blender with the skins on (I would do that if I did not have a food mill). A perfect in-season apple needs nothing added to make a delicious applesauce, unless you like a little cinnamon. You can add a tiny bit of sugar and salt to the overall applesauce to bring up the flavour if you are using less-than-perfect apples.
- 5 lb McIntosh apples, quartered
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1-2 tsp cinnamon, optional
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp white sugar or less, optional (see head note)
Makes 6 cups / 12 ½-cup servings
- In a large heavy-bottom pot, add the apples, water and lemon juice. Cover and turn heat to medium-high. Bring to a simmer and cook until the apples start to release some liquid, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and stir.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook covered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. While stirring, you can mash some of the apples with a fork or potato masher. The apples should be very soft.
- Let cool for about 30 minutes.
- USING A FOOD MILL: Transfer the apples, in batches, to the food mill fitted with the medium disk placed over a bowl, and process the apples through the food mill. Every once in a while, reverse the dial on the food mill to scrape the skin off the bottom, process again and then discard the solids as you go.
- USING A BLENDER OR FOOD PROCESSOR: First, push the flesh through a strainer. If you want a smoother texture, you can blend or puree the mixture.
- If the sauce is watery, return it to the pot and simmer over medium heat until thickened.
- Taste the applesauce for flavour. Add cinnamon, salt and sugar if desired (I generally never add sugar).