I’ve made homemade applesauce dozens of times, never really using a recipe. In fact, it’s one of the first collaborations that my dad and I ever made in the kitchen. The entire family would go apple picking, and we’d bring the bounty home to sit in front of a football game while we peeled pounds upon pounds of apples for pies, crisps, and applesauce. My dad liked to add raisins, which are OK, I guess, but sometimes the classic raisin-less applesauce is all a person needs. So, one time when I was about 10, I hauled a bucket across our field to a lonely apple tree, and picked enough for applesauce without raisins, please, Dad. Our family “recipe” consisted of apples, water, cinnamon, and sugar. Sometimes, we’d use “red hots” (cinnamon candies) to flavor and color the applesauce. Just to let you in on a little family dysfunction (don’t worry – there’s more where this came from), my dad actually likes to watch The Grapes of Wrath when making applesauce. He says that stocking the freezer with quarts of applesauce makes him feel like our family won’t suffer the same fate as the family in the movie. I swear, he’s not a conspiracy theorist or even all that crazy. Promise. And if a little John Steinbeck action brings more applesauce to the table, then who am I to argue?
Homemade applesauce is the first food my mom makes for new baby grandchildren. In fact, I made gallons of it last year for my then-9-month-old son, careful that no sugar or artificial preservatives touched the all-0rganic sauce. This year, he ate two apple doughnuts on our way home from the orchard, two weeks in a row. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
This version of applesauce (The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, p. 155) required me to actually measure the ingredients, including the apples. What a new experience from dumping it all in a pot and seasoning to taste! It also called for baking the applesauce in the oven, rather than simmering on the stove. I had my doubts that the apples would actually bake down enough to make a smooth sauce, but I was pleasantly surprised. The finished product was easily mashed with a whisk. The Barefoot Contessa version also added a new ingredient to my applesauce repertoire: allspice. It may be a little too “different” for small kids, but I liked it. And yes, there is butter in the applesauce. Who knew you could add butter to applesauce?
The lovely apples for this applesauce were hand-picked by my family in Deardorff Orchard, near Waconia, Minnesota. I highly recommend Deardorff for a low-key family experience. It’s a small family-run farm, with a smattering of farm animals (horses, goats, rabbits), free admission, and free tractor rides. It’s not crazy-busy, at least first thing in the morning, and the setting is breathtakingly beautiful. They have the famous Minnesota Honecrisp and Zestar apples, which tie for my favorite eating apples. (If you haven’t tried these varieties yet, you’re missing out. But hurry – the season is short!)