“Not Your Mama’s” Spiced Applesauce
Disclaimer: My mother makes wonderful applesauce. She adds a lot of cinnamon to her applesauce and also added sugar and takes the peel off the apples. My applesauce, while similar to Mom’s in that I like a lot of cinnamon, is different than hers because I add a few other spices and mainly because I leave the peel on and don’t add any sugar, making it super healthy. It’s really just as healthy as eating an apple except it’s cooked, spiced, and soft – what’s not to love!
We made our annual trek to the apple orchard on an unseasonably hot, sunny Fall day, which didn’t seem to fit the occasion. Will’s Apple Orchard is located just outside of Adel, Iowa, which is about 20 minutes from where we live, near Des Moines. The setting is picturesque, with rolling hills (yes, it’s Iowa, and it’s beautiful here!), a pumpkin patch, farm animals, and rows and rows of trees that were brimming with apples. We took a hayrack tour of the farm, which the kids loved, and got to take in the wonderful smell of apples cooking into all kinds of tasty treats, from donuts, to pies, to cider. I couldn’t wait to get home and fill my own house with this glorious smell.
I left with a carload of apples, and although it didn’t seem like the right time of year for applesauce making, I made it nonetheless. Seventeen quarts later (yes, we bought a lot of apples!), I’ve got a year supply of applesauce on my shelf. With two small children, we go through a lot of applesauce, and I didn’t want to run out like last year. I hope you enjoy my recipe!
Here’s the Orchard – what a beautiful place!
“Not Your Mama’s” Applesauce
Nutrition Info (per 1/2 cup): 77 cals, 0 g pro, 20 g carb, 0 g fat, 0 g choles, 0 g sat fat, 0 g fiber, 15 g sugar (all coming from naturally occurring sugar from apples – no added sugar), 2 g sodium
47 1/2 pounds total apples (the types and amounts of each I used are below)
Redfree (20 pounds)
Freedom (17 pounds)
Snowsweet (10 1/2 pounds)
12 inches fresh cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
5 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground cloves
Wash and trim off any bad spots off the apples. Core* the apples and cut into about 1 1/2-inch size pieces. Add the apple pieces to a large stock pot (enough to fill about an 8-quart pot is a good amount – see notes below). Add enough water to cover about 2 inches in the bottom of the pan. Add the cinnamon sticks and ground spices in batches roughly relative to how many apples are in the pot (don’t worry if it’s not exact, it will all get mixed at the end).
Bring the water just to boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes or until the apples are very tender, stirring occasionally and adding more water if needed.
Remove from the heat and transfer the apple mixture to a very large pot or bowl. Remove the cinnamon sticks to add to the cooking pot when cooking the remaining apples. Repeat cooking with the remaining apples and spices until all the apples are cooked. Mix all the cooked apples and spices together in the large pot or bowl. Be sure to remove and discard the cinnamon sticks at this point.
Press the cooked apples through a food mill in batches, saving the apple peels. Put the apple peels in a separate bowl for later. Once all the cooked apples have been pressed through the food mill, set the applesauce aside. Get out the food processor and add the saved apple peels in batches to a food processor. Cover and process the peels until they are very well pureed (they should be very smooth, like really thick applesauce). Add the pureed peels to the applesauce and mix well. Adding the peels will thicken up the sauce a bit. Of course, adding the peels makes for an added step of pureeing the peels, but it’s totally worth it for the nutrition that the peels add, and, it adds a lot of volume to the applesauce, so you get more bang for your buck!
Now it’s time to can the applesauce. You could simply put the applesauce in airtight freezer containers and freeze it at this point if you’d rather not do the canning step, but I need the freezer space so I opt to can my applesauce.
Fill a large water bath canner about 2/3 full of water. Cover and bring the water to boiling. Keep it boiling over high heat. Meanwhile, wash and sterilize quart or pint size canning jars. Sterilizing the jars means to simply put the jars in boiling water for a few minutes. Bring the applesauce to a gentle simmer in a separate pot. Fill the hot jars with the hot applesauce, leaving about 1-inch of empty space at the top of the jar. Add new, sterilized canning lids and rings (the rings don’t have to be new). Add the filled jars to the boiling water in the water bath canner. Make sure the jars are covered by about an inch with water (the canner will be really full of water). Return to boiling. Once the water is boiling again, cover the canner and can the quart jars for 10 minutes or the pint jars for 8 minutes. Usually you will need to leave the heat on high to maintain a good boil.
Carefully remove the jars from the water and set on a wire rack on the counter. The lids will start popping once the lids seal. If any of the lids don’t seal after a while, just store those jars in the refrigerator or transfer the applesauce from the jar to an airtight container and store in the freezer.
Let the jars cool completely and store on a shelf in a cool dry place. Enjoy!
You can make as much or as little as you’d like. Just adjust the amounts I have listed to fit the number of pounds of apples you start with. Also, the spices were all added to my taste, which of course may not match yours. So, please play with the spice amounts and adjust to your taste. In years past I have added chunks of fresh ginger along with the dry spices. This is really good too, but be sure to take out the fresh ginger with the cinnamon sticks before you run the apples through the food mill.
Starting with 47+ pounds of apples was a BIG undertaking, to say the least! I’m really happy to have 17 quarts of applesauce on the shelf in my basement, but I learned some things working with that many apples. First, you have to cook the apples in smaller batches. The main problem is that most people don’t have a large enough pot to hold that many apples. Now, I have an 18-quart stock pot with a really heavy bottom so I thought, great, I’ll just start cutting up the apples and throw them into the pot as I get them cut up, and maintain a simmer while I do that. I figured the apples can’t really overcook and as long as I keep the lid on, the moisture level would be fine. Wrong! The problem that occurred was that the longer the apples cooked, they started to burn on the bottom and a thin layer stuck to the bottom of the pan. Luckily I caught it early enough and could transfer the apples out of that large pan to a couple smaller pans and I didn’t really lose much. The apples didn’t take on a burned flavor either, which was a relief. But, I had a mess in my big stockpot that took A LOT of elbow grease to clean (and some deglazing with quite a bit of whiskey!).
The lesson I learned from that was to cut enough apples to fill a good size (but not too large – 6 to 8 quarts is good) pot and then start cooking them. Don’t add any more apples to this batch. Cook the batch until it’s done and then transfer it to a very large bowl or a very large stockpot (my 18-quart pot would have come in handy for this had it not been soaking in the sink!) to hold while cooking the rest of the apples. With the 47+ pounds of apples I started with, I would have done about 6 mini batches of apple cooking to get through them all. When done this way, it doesn’t matter if you get the spices evenly distributed among the smaller batches because I mix it all together at the end so that all the apples varieties mix to give the applesauce complexity and depth of flavor. This is why the very large stockpot would have come in handy – it would have held all the applesauce once it was all made.
I don’t give a water amount for the applesauce because it will vary depending on what apples you use. Apples can be more or less juicy, so you have to adjust the water amount as needed. You want to make sure there is always a little water in the pan to prevent burning and sticking on the bottom, but you don’t want too much water in the pan or your applesauce will be too thin. Of course, if you end up adding too much water to the pan, you can compensate later by removing the apples from the pan with a slotted spoon and then only adding a little bit of the liquid from the pan to the applesauce to make the consistency you desire. Just don’t throw out the liquid from the pan. You can use it like apple cider – it’s wonderful! You may have to dilute it with a little water but the flavor will be great.
When canning the applesauce, I like to have two large pots of water going. One is the water bath pot for the actual canning process. The other is a very large pot of boiling water to sanitize the jars in before adding the applesauce. I find it works best to use the two pot method because when canning this much applesauce at once, you can’t efficiently use the water bath canner to sanitize the jars (because you would have to keep adding water and taking it out between batches of canning and sanitizing due to water displacement with empty vs. full jars). I won’t go into a long explanation on that – just take my word for it! Plus, you can then be sanitizing and filling jars while a batch of applesauce is getting canned and then you are spending less time slaving over the hot stove ““ though it’s not really slaving to me since I love doing it.
When canning this much, I tend to work in phases. First I make the applesauce, and then I completely clean up and regroup before canning the applesauce. So, the applesauce may cool down between making it and canning it. That’s okay as long as it doesn’t sit on your counter for more than a couple hours. If you plan to make the applesauce one day and then can it the next, you must refrigerate the applesauce after making it. I’ve done this before too, although I couldn’t this year because with 47+ pounds of apples, I didn’t have enough fridge space for all the applesauce!
The most important thing to remember if you make the applesauce and let it cool before canning it, is to bring it back up to a gentle simmer before putting it in the hot, sterilized canning jars. This is for food safety measures. With the amount of applesauce I make, I also do this in batches. My water bath canner holds 7 quart jars. So, I fill my 8-quart pot almost full of applesauce and bring it to a gentle simmer. Then I can that batch, which is just about right for the 7 quart jars my water bath can hold. The process gets repeated until I’ve canned all the applesauce. Of course there is always a little applesauce that doesn’t fit in a jar. Just pop it in the fridge, or in my family’s case, spread it on some fresh homemade bread and enjoy a warm treat. This was one of my favorite parts of the day when my mom would make applesauce – getting to eat the warm, just made applesauce!
*About the cores…I got to thinking that there must be something that can be done with the leftover apple cores so I tried making my own apple juice/cider. I took the cores of half the apples I bought (so, cores from about 22 pounds worth of apples). I put them in a 6-quart slow cooker with 8 cups of water. I cooked them on high for 8 hours. The cores got really tender.
I strained the liquid and ended up with a very light tasting apple juice. When I cooked one batch of my apples, I added a little too much water, so I removed those apples from the water with a slotted spoon. What was left was spiced apple cooking water – about a cup worth. I added that to the apple juice I had made and it added a wonderful spiced quality. It was like apple cider but even better! So, you don’t have to waste all the apple cores. I didn’t even remove the seeds before doing this and I thought it was just fine. They got strained out anyway.
It was a good success in my opinion and now I have a couple quarts of homemade cider/juice to use for holiday parties. I just put this in the freezer since I knew I would be using it within a couple months.