Growing up, we had three apple trees in the front yard: 1 Gravenstein and 2 Kings.Well before this pest moved into Western Washington, these three trees provided loads of applesauce, apple crisps, apple pies, apples for fresh-eating, and limbs for climbing. My parents weren’t champion arbor- or orchardists, but they watered, pruned, and picked, giving me a general sense of what it meant to have fruit trees. The Gravenstein, always the smallest of the three, survived several years with crutches after my aged grandfather backed the Imperial into it, finally succumbing to all manner of problems, while the Kings live on.
These days, I buy boxes of apples from Columbia Valley farmers, transactions orchestrated by some very diligent farm-to-consumer advocates. I feel Christmas as I haul the 40-pound boxes of Honeycrisp or Braeburn or Elstar into the house. Early in this growing season, orchards were hit with hail, causing cosmetic damage to much of the fruit. The organic fruit while scarred, is delicious and pest-free, but as it is ugly, is barred from selling through normal market avenues, so comes to me as a bargain.
Applesauce is easily made in two ways. First, the apples can be peeled, cored, and roughly chopped before hitting the pan, or second, they can be quartered, then food-milled after cooking to remove seeds and peel. Today I chose to do all the work at the beginning of the process, when I still felt inspired and motivated. Life can change rapidly in the course of cooking down a pot of apples!
Once the pan is full, I add only a bit of water to keep the apples from scorching until they start to let go of their own juice. Lidded, the cooking process doesn’t take too long, maybe 30 minutes. It is important to stir the mass, especially if using a large pot, as the natural sugars will burn.
After cooking, the sauce can be frozen or water-bath processed in canning jars. Water-bath canning is a great way to store applesauce when the freezer is full. The peels and cores can be cooked to make apple jelly, but today the chickens had an apple feast!
Applesauce is easy to make, can be made anytime, with most of the apple varieties commonly available. If you don’t have a nifty peeler like mine, use the standard hand-held version. If you don’t want to peel but don’t own a food mill, push the cooked apples through a fine mesh sieve. Allowing time for a unrushed experience, something as mundane as peeling apples or sievering the cooked fruit is quite meditative, bringing comfort to your soul, as well as your belly.