Nothing beats the taste of homemade applesauce, and it’s so easy to make! Every year, starting in mid summer with the Gravensteins, and through late fall with Granny Smiths and Fuji apples, my father processes dozens of batches of applesauce from apples picked from his trees. He freezes them in large quart-sized mason jars for us to enjoy all year long.
The secret to my dad’s applesauce is that he adds a few strips of lemon peel to the apples while they are cooking, as well as some lemon juice.
The tartness of the lemon serves to intensify the taste of the apples, and helps balance out the sweetness of the sauce. The result is a refreshing, utterly delicious applesauce.
He also likes to mix other fruit in with the sauce. He’ll mix fresh cranberries in with the apples for cranberry applesauce, or stalks of rhubarb for rhubarb applesauce. Plums and pluots sometimes find their way into his applesauce too.
Apples vary in their sweetness level, depending on the variety and how late in the season they are picked. The amount of sugar you will want to add will depend on how sweet your apples are, and how sweet you would like your applesauce to be. This recipe is just a guideline, please adjust the sugar amounts to your taste. You can even leave the sugar out all together if you are using sweet apples.
If you use less sugar than this recipe suggest, you will likely want to reduce the amount of lemon juice as well. The lemon juice brightens the flavor of the apples and balances the sweetness.
- 3 to 4 lbs of apples (about 7 to 10 apples, depending on the size), peeled, cored, and quartered* (use apples varieties that are good for cooking such as Granny Smith, Pippin, Gravenstein, Mcintosh, Fugi, Jonathan, Jonagold, or Golden Delicious)
- 4 strips of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler to strip 4 lengths, zest only, not the pith)
- 3 to 4 Tbsp lemon juice (more or less to taste)
- 3 inches of cinnamon stick
- 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar
- Up to 1/4 cup of white sugar
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
*To prep the apples, use a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife and cut away the outer peel. Then quarter the apple and use a paring knife to cut out the tough core parts from the quarters. Or use an apple peeler corer.
1 Boil peeled, cored, quartered apples with lemon, cinnamon, sugar, salt in 1 cup water: Place the peeled, cored, and quartered apples into a large pot. Add the strips of lemon peel, the lemon juice, cinnamon stick, sugars, water and salt. (You might want to start with half the sugar at this point and add more to taste later.)
Bring to a boil on high heat, then lower the temperature, cover the pot, and maintain a low simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the apples are completely tender and cooked through.
2 Remove cinnamon stick and lemon peel, mash the cooked apples: Once the apples are cooked through, remove the pot from the heat. Remove the lemon peels and the cinnamon stick.
Use a potato masher to mash the cooked apples in the pot to make a chunky applesauce. For a smoother applesauce you can either run the cooked apples through a food mill, or purée them in a blender. (If you use a blender, do small batches and do not fill the blender bowl more than halfway.)
If not sweet enough, add more sugar to taste. If too sweet, add more lemon juice.
This applesauce is delicious either hot or chilled. It pairs well with pork chops for savory dishes, it's terrific with cottage cheese as a snack or light lunch, and it's great with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.
Freezes well and will last at least a year in a cold freezer. If you freeze it, make sure to allow enough headroom in your jar for expansion. At least an inch.