• Posted by Califia Suntree on December 6th, 2010, 11:00 AM

    Q: I had some leftover apples, so I decided to make applesauce. It turned out OK, but I wonder if you have a recipe for it? And any recommendations on the best apples to use? Also, I wanted to avoid added sugar so I used ginger and nutmeg (because I didn’t have cinnamon). Any other ideas on seasoning?

    This is the perfect time of year to make applesauce (or pie, or butter, or cider), as the markets are loaded with apples that aren’t perfect, autumnal, just-picked beauties, but we aren’t yet sick of them as we may be come spring. (For me, when the first berries appear, apples become but a distant memory until September). Also, the wintry months are ideal for all those dishes that naturally go with applesauce: potato pancakes, stuffed pork loin, noodle kugel, goose.

    While I’ve certainly made applesauce over the years, I am no expert. So for this Ask Spooning query, I turned to Portland, Oregon, based food writer and expert in the domestic arts, LeAnn Locher. She has particular expertise in the areas of canning and food preservation—check out her podcast, Lelo Homemade, and fabulous custom canning labels on Etsy. She covers her easy overnight slow-cooker method for making applesauce on her blog, which I highly recommend. You can also do it stovetop, of course, but slow cookers don’t require monitoring and you get that nice, long-cooked texture.

    Here’s what Lelo had to say about apples: “I love a good mix of them, instead of all one kind. Unless you have a big ol’ tree that’s producing them, work with what the good lord gave you. I’ve used a mix of Elstar and McIntosh, and I love the Pippin.” She recommends having a look at the Kiyokawa Family Orchards website for an apple tutorial—nearly 65 varieties are covered, with descriptions, origins, and availability notes. (If you are anywhere near Parkdale, Oregon, have an in-person tutorial by visiting the orchard.)

    As for seasoning, “What’s applesauce without cinnamon? It’s the #1 spice for applesauce in my book. If you could have only one spice in your applesauce, that would be it. But other spices that are tasty in applesauce are allspice, cloves, ginger, and if you’re daring, a dash of cardamom. But a light hand with all of these, because really, it’s the wonderful flavor of in-season fresh apples that you’re wanting to taste, right? I often don’t add sugar, but I will if I continue on to the apple butter stage. I’ve heard of folks sweetening their applesauce with agave nectar or maple syrup, if sugar isn’t your thing.”

    Finally, if you want to can your sauce (or give it as gifts!), be sure to have a look at the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s applesauce recipe.

    (photo credit: Lelo in Nopo)

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