Anybody who has visited this space regularly over the past month knows that I like apples. I have posted stories about: discovering a wild apple tree; a recipe for skillet apple pie; the deep-fried apple beignets I made for Labour Day; and a spiced apple preserve made from apples picked with Not Far From the Tree. Well, the apples on another tree belonging to one of our neighbours at the cottage have ripened and they offered to let me have some so I decided to make apple sauce.
To find a recipe I looked first where I always do for mainstream dishes: cooksillustrated.com. Their recipe looked perfect in large part because it recommended leaving the skins on the apples while they cook. Not only does this method spare the drudgery of peeling many pounds of apples (greatly magnified when dealing with non-commercial apples because of their small size and irregular shape) but it adds a pleasant pink hue to the finished product and I hope that more of the skin’s nutrients are retained.
In all of my (relatively limited) years cooking I have never come across a recipe that suggests using a “light-bottomed pot”. Demands for heavy-bottomed saucepans and saute pans are common enough that, for me, they have become recipe background noise. All of this is to say that I was too lazy to get the heavy stockpot from the basement and used our much flimsier pasta pot instead. Always a less-then-optimal choice but in this case it was a particularly bad decision. Before the apples had exuded enough liquid to fill the pot the ones at the bottom and their sweet juice stuck to the bottom and burnt. Light-duty pots get hotter in spots and this makes the burning exponentially worse. Stirring helps but it is difficult to reach the bottom of the pot and effect any significant mixing while the apple pieces are still relatively dry and intact. My fingers are crossed that when I open the preserved sauce in a few months it won’t taste burnt.
While making this recipe I used a food mill for the first time in a long while. A food mill is a kitchen gadget with a slanted plate attached to a handle that rotates against a mesh screen. The plate forces the food against the screen and juice and flesh are pushed through while seeds and skins are reserved. The only keys to using a food mill are patience and occasionally turning the handle in the opposite direction for a cycle or two to clear the screen and redistribute the fruit.
Applesauce is recommended as a place for beginners to start canning. I assume this is because its even, semi-liquid texture makes getting rid of air bubbles very easy. As well, the relatively high acid level is apples makes this one of the safer things to preserve. I processed mine for fifteen minutes in boiling water. I used the recipe from the cooksillustrated.com without alteration (including the cinammon stick variation) and I encourage you to subscribe and check it out.