Applesauce… with no baloney!

Fun factoid:

“Applesauce” means different things to different folks. Since I make up crossword puzzles for The New York Times and a few other publications, I thought it would be interesting to see how it’s been used in crosswords. Well, in the Times it’s appeared five times since 1995, clued thusly:

  • 2014: Poppycock
  • 2005: Bunk
  • 1996: Nonsense
  • 1995: Hogwash
  • 1995: Baloney

Not much of a recommendation for applesauce, is it? I think we can do better…

Easy, delicious applesauce

I have several friends and family who like a good quality applesauce with some oomph to it, so I try to can several quarts of it to get ready for the holidays. My daughter gave me a peeler/slicer/corer machine, based on an ancient design, that works much better than I thought it would and saves gobs of time. Also handy are a sharp, multi-blade chopper and your garden-variety potato masher.

Antique chopper, and a brand new Cuchina apple peeler/slicer/corer rarin’ to go. Magic!

All of this post is deigned for folks who have yet to make or can applesauce. It’s really quite easy, and a well-sealed jar of sauce will last a year or more.

You’ll also need (for about 4 quarts):

  • 2 to 3 tote bags of apples – Macintoshes, Cortlands, Granny Smiths, or whatever you like – one peck or more total
  • light brown sugar, about a cup and a half for four quarts
  • water
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • lemon juice – just a few squirts per quart

And, of course, a canner.

Now do these things:

  • Mount the apple peeler on a smooth-surfaced counter or baking table. Mine is a suction cup design that, if used the right way, locks down on our baking table so firmly it can survive serious collisions.
  • Peel, slice, and core the apples. I use a large plate for the detritus (cores and peels) and another large plate for the spiral-sliced apples, which I chop in half with a knife. Otherwise, they keep their slinky-like topology and I find it just too weird.
  • Dump the apple pieces into a large kettle with a solid bottom – lightweight pots can burn the apples. Add about a cup of water and turn the burner on fairly low. Add the brown sugar (again, about 1 1/2 cups, but you should do it “to taste”), some squirts of lemon juice, and stir in.
  • Now start chopping, right in the kettle! this takes awhile, but you don’t want large, clunky apple chunks in your sauce. My sauce has about pea-sized chunks, sometimes a bit larger. Also, keep stirring as you chop – the apples soften, of course, and start to get mooshy. Feel free to use your potato masher to finish them off.
  • Just as the sauce starts to bubble, add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. I never measure anything, but my guess is about 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and a scant teaspoon of nutmeg for each quart. Stir it all in.
  • Put the kettle on a back burner just to keep it hot, but not boiling.

Start canning… the simple “hot water bath” way

I could have added that you can get your canner water ready while you’re making the sauce. I end up putting in about 12 quarts of hot tap water in the canner to cover 4 or more quart jars. Put the burner on high, and with a jar lifter install your quart jars (without the lids) into the water, making sure they fill with water to the top. Cover the canner.

Inspect the jar lids to make sure they’re pristine and have no crimp marks on them – crimp marks show they’ve been used before and will wretchedly fail to work. Trust me! Don’t use used lids. I been there…

Put the lids and bands into a small saucepan of hot water, and heat gently on the stove. Do not let the water boil – it just needs to be hot. Also, lay out a clean dishtowel on a flat surface for the jars to sit on.

When the canner water starts to bubble, carefully take out the jars with the jar lifter, emptying their water carefully back into the canner. Set the jars on the dishtowel. Now get the applesauce bubbling gently again, and ladle it into the jars, using a funnel. Leave 1/2 inch head space at the top. Look for air pockets in the jars, and with a narrow wooden handle or dull knife poke into these pockets to release the air. Also, make sure the outside tops of the jars are clear of any sauce.

Remove the lids and bands from the hot water and seal up the jars. Hand-tighten the bands – firm, but not too tight. With the jar lifter, put the jars into the canner until the water just covers the tops of the lids. There may be excess water, which you should ladle out.

Get the canner water boiling again, cover, and set the timer for 20 minutes. When this is done, turn off the burner, remove canner lid and let the jars repose peacefully in the canner for 5 minutes. Then, take them out, set them on the dishtowel a few inches apart and wait for those satisfying “popping sounds,” indicating the lids have happily popped down to create a tight seal.

After awhile – half an hour or so – inspect the lids. If any lid hasn’t popped down, you’ve got a dud. Wait for that jar to cool, then refrigerate. It’ll last 3-4 months or so in the fridge.

That apple on the right may need to be eaten soon…


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Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.