The boys and I are out in Colorado for a few weeks, which means lots and lots of time outside on fun adventures from hiking to visiting farms to riding horses. One of the activities that the boys have been most excited about this trip is apple picking in the horse pasture. And can you blame them? I mean, how cool is it that we get to walk out into a pasture with horses grazing next to us while we pick apples from the trees that have been growing pretty much wildly there for as long as anyone can remember?! We are so unbelievably lucky.
The only pitfall is that the apples are quite tart. My 8-year-old will eat them pretty happily, but my 6-year-old has declared them to be too sour. The solution? Applesauce! If you have never made your own applesauce, you are missing out on such an amazing and very easy-to-make treat! Homemade applesauce is so much more flavorful than the store-bought stuff. Every fall I stock up on apples and make huge batches of apple sauce to freeze and then am so disappointed when we have finally run out, usually around February, and I open a jar of the store-bought stuff which barely even tastes like apples! Apple sauce is a go-to for us as a lunchbox staple either on its own or mixed with plain yogurt, when kiddos are sick with colds or stomach bugs and can’t manage eating too much, as the basis for cakes and breads, and even as a side dish on nights when I am making a new meal that I suspect one or both of the kids will have a hard time with.
Another reason to make this applesauce is that apples truly are a nutritional powerhouse. While we have always been a big apple-eating family, after I read this amazing list of the 34 health benefits of apples I knew I wanted to find even more ways to get them into our diet and applesauce is a great vehicle for that!
For those of you who are saying, “Yeah, right! Who has the time or talent for this?” I want to reassure you. This is a very simple make-from-scratch food! While many people do can their apple sauce (I did that one year), apple sauce is a great freezer food, so all you have to do is make the sauce, divide it up into freezer bags or containers (I like to freeze it in 2-cup portions), and throw it in the freezer for later. Plus between the far superior taste and the fact that you’ll have this wonderful stockpile for the winter, you will feel like a domestic superhero!
One final note, many applesauce recipes out there tell you to peel the apples. You can skip this step! Not only will it save you time and energy, but it also means that the nutrients in the peel (which is where many of the nutrients are) are included, so you get a nutritional boost for skipping a step, what could be better than that?!
Have I convinced you yet? I hope so! Now here’s how to do it:
- Apples (minimum 2 pounds, no max)
- Cinnamon (optional)
- Sugar (optional, I usually don’t add any sugar to mine, but if you are using very tart apples you may find you want to add a little bit of sugar, but use it sparingly, you really won’t need much!)
- Wash apples well.
- Cut them into quarters and cut out the cores. Chop the quarters in half one more time (big chunks are just fine).
- Throw them all into a large pot. Sprinkle cinnamon on, if using.
- Put a tiny bit of water on the bottom in the pot—this is to keep them from burning or sticking at the very beginning, but apples actually have a lot of water in them and as soon as they get warm they will create their own water to prevent burning and sticking.
- Heat the apples, covered, on a medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes or until both the flesh and the skin of the apples are very soft, stirring every once in a while to prevent any sticking that might occur.
- When the apples are soft, take them off the heat and puree either with a food mill or in a food processor in batches.
- Taste the applesauce to see if it needs sugar added. If it does, add a little bit at a time until it tastes right to you.
- Divide the sauce into 2-cup portions and put into freezer bags or containers. Let it cool to room temperature and then freeze.