There is nothing easier, tastier or more practical than making your own applesauce and apple butter. Cooking and pantry expert Catherine Pond shares her family recipe.
Apples are now at their seasonal prime in many parts of the country, with many new and heirloom varieties available at local orchards, farm stands and in grocery stores. And buying apples at peak season is worth the effort as their flavor and natural sweetness is far superior.
Making your own apple sauce or apple butter provides a lovely accompaniment for your holiday meals, makes a great hostess/or host gift or to even enjoy the literal fruits of your labor throughout the year, canned or frozen.
What’s even better is that to get a lovely rosy color infusion, you don’t need to peel them. I told you it was easy!
- Large kettle with sturdy bottom
- Foley Food Mill
- Large bowl
- Sharp paring knife or apple slicer/corer
- Canning jars or freezing containers
- Apples (any amount will do)
- Sugar (only if you must)
- Wash apples in large sink.
- De-stem apples and cut into quarters. (If you don’t wish to have rosy applesauce you will need to peel the apples first. Trust me, don’t!)
- If you're not using an apple slicer/corer then carefully carve out the seeded centers (this is not necessary but if concerned about cyanide intake, feel free).
- Place apples in appropriately sized kettle with 1-2 inches of water or more, depending on amount of apples used.
- Turn burner on medium low and keep an eye on the apples.
- As the apples cook, stir gently from the bottom and make sure that there is sufficient water but not too much.
- After a bit, the water will start boiling and further soften the apples.
- When apples and skins are sufficiently softened and have started to liquefy, stir and take off the heat.
- Place food mill over a bowl or another kettle and add apples gradually, while stirring. The apple mixture will sieve through into the bowl.
- Add cinnamon and sugar to taste, if desired. If the apples are at their peak, you probably won’t want or need sugar.
Applesauce will store in refrigerator for up to a week or indefinitely if you follow canning instructions. You can also freeze for up to a year.
Favorite apple sauce apple combinations
There are all sorts of apple combinations to try.
I like to mix Macintosh with Rome, Empire, or Winesaps, and some Pink Lady apples for good measure (and exquisite color).
Macintosh apples by themselves are excellent applesauce apples. You will want to check apple use recommendations as some are better for sauce and others hold up better for baking.
Once you have a shelf full of canned applesauce there are many delightful things to do with it. I like to use it in applesauce or spice cake and often mix a bit into my Thanksgiving stuffing, for moisture and flavor. It also makes a lovely gift at the holidays. And, of course, in a bowl all by itself.
I can’t make applesauce without thinking about my mother. She would send us on our way with a few quarts of it each time we visited her at our family farm each fall and it was my mother who taught me to make it.
Tips for Fool-Proof Apple Butter
One of my favorite autumn memories from childhood was going out to the Ohio countryside with my father to get his annual infusion of apple butter and apple cider at an old cider mill in Loyal Oak near Norton. We drank the sweet and nectar-like unpasteurized cider (rare to find now but still available) as a fall tonic.
My father liked to mix the dark and spicy apple butter into cottage cheese (delivered weekly by the Reiter Dairy to our back stoop) or slather it on toast.
Once we even traveled to the Coshocton Apple Butter Stirrin’ Festival, which will celebrate its 50th year in 2020. And Norton now hosts an annual Cider Festival which will take place on October 2-4, 2020. You can also find an annual Apple Butter Festival in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia each October.
There are many ways to make apple butter—from large batches to small. Many recipes include apple cider, as well, or sugar, and even dark karo syrup.
I have made it in the crock pot, on the stove top and in the oven. It is essentially cooked down applesauce with a redolent and intoxicating infusion of spice. When made properly, it thickens to a lovely and aromatic brown paste and can be canned as one would applesauce.
Here is an article, from 1982, on apple butter from The Washington Post. It offers many traditional ways of making it as well as more about its culinary history. It has a decidedly German and Pennsylvania Dutch origin.
Looking for more apple inspiration? Check out: 10 Clever (and easy) Ways to Use Up Apples.