Applesauce For Grownups
Sweetened But Complex
- Servings: makes about 6 quarts. If you want to make more, just increase the other ingredients along with the volume of apples.
Despite applesauce seeming to be a quintessential American food, my favorite way to make it was learned from Julia Child. In her Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Julia uses a refined applesauce as the foundation for Tarte Aux Pommes. Instead of only sweetening with sugar, she adds flavor with brandy, citrus zest, and apricot preserves that have been silkened by pressing through a sieve.
You can use any apples you like but choose ones that are favored for eating by hand because these will add the most flavor to the finished applesauce -- you'll be tasting apples and not the added ingredients which are included to enhance, not replace, the apple flavor.
I always peel the apples before making applesauce. First, it saves you the step of having to put the apples through a mill to remove the skin. And second, if I have any concerns about pesticides or wax or anything else that may be on the apple's surface, peeling them solves that problem. The final sauce won't be as red as it would if simmered with the apples' red peels, but it will still have an appetizing appearance.
When choosing flavors to add to the apples consider using Calvados, which is a French brandy made from apples, similar to American Apple Jack, to replace the vanilla extract. It can turn a sweet dessert into one for grown-ups.
In this adaptation made for eating and not as the base for Julia's flawless apple tart, I've kept her complex flavor -- including the apricot preserves -- but use a slightly simpler method. Always make extra because applesauce is very versatile and is perfect to take to work for lunch, as a side to a pork roast, stirred into yogurt, or just eaten by itself, maybe with a ginger cookie.
- 6 to 8 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks to make about 8 cups when raw. Any eating apple, like Macoun or Macintosh, is a good choice. The bigger the flavor of the raw apple, the more flavor in the applesauce. And the smaller the chunks, the faster the sauce will cook.
- 1/3 cup apricot or peach preserves
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or Calvados
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Place the apple chunks in a large saucepan or other stovetop pot that has a cover. Cover and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes until soft and tender. Stir occasionally and keep an eye on the heat level to make sure the apples don't burn.
- Add the preserves, vanilla extract or Calvados, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon.
- If you want the sauce to be smoother, use an emersion blender or potato masher to eliminate any remaining pieces of apple.
- If you want the sauce to be thicker, with the cover off the pan, raise the heat and boil the apple mixture until it becomes as thick as you like. Any flavors will become more intense as the mixture reduces. The reducing will take about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Taste and add more sugar if you want the applesauce to be sweeter, more lemon juice if you want more tang.
If you do not want bits of peach or apricot in your applesauce, you can use Julia's method and first strain the preserves in a sieve. An alternative is to use inexpensive preserves, which typically are less generous with the fruit pieces in their jams.