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Friday, September 15, 2017

California Gourmet: Homemade Applesauce – Yum!

Apples from an 'Anna' apple tree: home garden, Redondo Beach CA

If you follow our blog, you know that our garden specializes in native plants suitable for S. California gardens. So this topic may surprise you, particularly if you haven’t actually visited Mother Nature’s Backyard garden.  The one non-native plant we grow is an ‘Anna’ apple (Malus domestica), trained as an espalier along our cinderblock wall.  The apple tree demonstrates how native and non-native woody plants can be grown in very narrow spaces.   Since ‘Anna’ is a low-chill apple, it grows well – and produces apples – even in S. California.

'Anna' apple (Malus domestica): Mother Nature's Backyard

Our ‘Anna’ is relative young (6th year) and most of our apples thus far have been picked by others (human or animal).  Fortunately, one of our members has a mature ‘Anna’ in her backyard – and a bumper crop of apples this year.  So this is a good time to talk about making homemade applesauce.  It’s easy, fun and we think the product is superior to the store-bought version, both in taste and nutrition.

Making applesauce is really simple.  Back in the day (1950’s and 60’s), girls learned to make applesauce in home economics class (too bad for the guys – they had to take wood shop!).  I suspect that many older readers learned to make this treat in school.  And if 7th grade girls in the Pomona Unified School District managed to make applesauce, then you can too!  It’s a great way to use a bumper crop (or less-than-perfect) apples.  And applesauce that’s been properly preserved can be safely stored at room temperature for 1-2 years – another benefit.

Applesauce can be made from any type of apple.  You can purchase your favorite type – or use whatever apples you have available (you can even mix varieties).   You can also make your applesauce as sweet as you like, by adding the appropriate amount of sugar or other sweetener.  You can also add spices (cinnamon; ginger; etc.) or other fruits, if desired.  In short, you can tailor your applesauce to the needs and tastes of the applesauce eaters.  

Homemade applesauce is delish!
Here’s our homemade applesauce recipe, with some notes and tips below.
 

Ingredients

Apples (any amount, but at least 6-8 apples)

Water (to cover apples in pot)

Sugar or other sweetener (to taste)

Spices or other fruits (berries) – optional, to taste


Directions

1.   Thoroughly wash apples.  Cut out any damaged areas.   Quarter and remove stem and seeds (we leave the skins on for better flavor).  Slice the quarters into ¼ inch slices; place slices in heavy pot or saucepan (large enough to fit all the apple slices with about 2 inches to spare)*.

2.   Fill pot with water to barely cover the apple slices.

3.   Heat pot on medium-high heat on stove until water starts to boil.  Stir occasionally.  Turn down the heat and simmer until the apples are cooked (mushy texture)*.   Stir as needed to keep mixture from burning on the bottom.

4.   Remove from heat.  Mash the hot apple mixture through a sieve (use a spoon and be careful – it’s hot!).   An easier way is to process the apple mixture using a food mill.*    The texture will now be smooth and ‘applesauce-like’ (but a bit runny).

5.   Return the apple mixture to the pot.  Add sweetener and spices (and/or berries) to taste.  

6.   Heat over low heat, stirring regularly, until mixture is the consistency you like. Be sure that the mixture comes to a boil (to kill any microbes).

7.   If preserving, ladle hot mixture into sterilized jars, cap with two-part canning lids and process in boiling water bath (10 minutes for elevations below 1000 ft.; add 1 additional minute for each 1000 ft. above 1000 ft.)*.   Store preserved applesauce in a cool, dark place (room temperature) for up to 2 years.

8.   If not preserving, cool the applesauce, then store in a closed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (if not gobbled up long before).  

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*Notes:

1.   Here’s what the sliced apples should look like.  They cook quickly if sliced.


3.   Here’s what the cooked apple ‘mush’ looks like at this point

Cooked apples ready to puree
4.   The food mill is a great piece of equipment if you do a lot of puree work. It’s a simple, old-fashioned tool and uses no electricity.  Food mills are made by a number of manufacturers and available in stores and online.  We use the Foley mill; it’s sturdy and lasts a lifetime.  Here’s what ours looks like.

A food mill makes quick work of the puree step

 

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We encourage you to send us your questions, comments and recipes (either comment below or e-mail to us at : mothernaturesbackyard10@gmail.com

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