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 Homemade Applesauce
The secret to my dad's applesauce is that he adds a couple strips of lemon peel to the apples, as well as some lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, while they are cooking.
The tartness of the lemon or vinegar 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.
Make It Your Own: Add Other Fruits
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.
For more information on which apple varieties are best for baking, check out our Guide to Apples.
Love Apples? Try These Recipes
Customizing Your Applesauce
- Instead of sugar, you can use honey, stevia, Splenda, or another sweetener of your choice.
- Add different spices or a blend of other spices, like apple pie spice, five spice, or pumpkin spice.
- A reader recommends adding cinnamon red hots as the apples cook for a spicy red applesauce.
- Omit the sugar altogether. If you do, you want to add less lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, or omit it.
Got a Food Mill? Skip the Peeling!
If you have a food mill, you can skip peeling and coring the apples and instead just cut the whole apple into quarters. Then, cook as directed in Step 1. After the apples are cooked, run them through a food mill. If the applesauce is too thin, return it to the pot and cook it a bit longer, stirring often, until it’s the consistency you like.
Cooking the apples with the peels and cores extracts more pectin for an extra-silky sauce, plus it'll save you time.
Turn It into Apple Butter
Applesauce is the basis for apple butter. Once you make this, you have the start for our amazing apple butter, since apple butter is just a more concentrated, more sweetened version of smooth apple sauce.
Tips for Canning Applesauce
Because of the added sugar and the acidity from the lemon juice, this applesauce recipe is perfect for canning. Apples also have their own natural pectin, so you'll get a good texture.
If using a water-bath canner, process pint jars for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes at sea level. You'll have to boil for a little longer if you live in a higher elevation.
If using a pressure canner, process pints for 8 minutes and quart jars for 10 minutes at sea level. Again, you'll have to process your jars a bit longer the higher you are.
For more information on canning applesauce, check out this page at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Storing Applesauce for Later
If you're planning to enjoy your homemade applesauce right away, it'll keep for 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
You can also freeze applesauce for 6 months to a year. However, the texture will change a bit. If you plan on freezing your applesauce, make sure it's extra thick to help maintain the consistency a bit more. Defrost in the refrigerator and give it a good stir before enjoying.
If your defrosted apple sauce is too watery, you can also strain it with a fine-mesh strainer before serving.
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 like your applesauce. 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 or vinegar as well. The acid in the lemon juice or vinegar brightens the flavor of the apples and balances the sweetness.
In place of the ground cinnamon, you can cook the apples with a stick of cinnamon, just remove it before puréeing.
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.
4 pounds (about 8 to 10 apples, depending on the size) apples, peeled, cored, and quartered (Use apples varieties that are good for cooking, such as Granny Smith, Pippin, Gravenstein, Mcintosh, Fuji, Jonathan, Jonagold, or Golden Delicious.)
2 strips lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler to strip the zest only, not the pith)
3 tablespoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Up to 1/2 cup white sugar (can sub half with brown sugar)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place the peeled, cored, and quartered apples into a large pot. Add the strips of lemon peel, the lemon juice (or vinegar), cinnamon, sugar, 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 15 to 20 minutes, until the apples are completely tender and cooked through.
Remove lemon peels, and mash the apples:
Once the apples are cooked through, remove the pot from the heat. Remove the lemon peels.
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 using a stick blender or a standing blender.
(If using a standing blender, do small batches, and do not fill the blender bowl more than halfway.)
If the applesauce is too thick, add more water to thin it out.
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 (at least an inch) in your jar for expansion.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 12 to 16|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 22g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||10%|
|Total Sugars 18g|
|Vitamin C 6mg||30%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|