Homemade applesauce was a household staple when I was growing up. We would harvest from backyard trees and spend a day filling dozens of quart jars with smooth, barely sweetened sauce. It was the only applesauce I would to eat – except for my grandmother’s frozen chunky applesauce.
Grandma Tiny made applesauce well into her nineties, cooking one small batch at a time. The sauce was no sweeter than our home-canned jars, but her hand-chopped fruit somehow tasted different. I doubt she bothered to weigh or measure, and if the peels were tender, she’d leave them intact.
Once the sauce had cooked down and cooled, she’d just store it in the fridge for a few days or pour it into a pint-size tub to freeze. I could gobble up an entire container as an afterschool snack.
These days, most of my homemade applesauce pours into other projects, such as a base for Homemade Fruit Leather and an oil replacement in quick breads and cakes. A mix of apple varieties gives the sauce a more complex flavor. I like a hint of honey, but you can skip it or swap in another sweetener. A smooth or chunky version works for most uses, and you can always puree a stored chunky sauce on baking day.
Volume drives how I prepare and store applesauce. When I’m staring at several boxes of apples, out comes my mom’s food strainer and my great-aunt’s canning kettle. I then process multiple batches of this smooth sauce in a boiling water bath. You can find the complete canning instructions at TwiceAsTasty.com.
When I’ve collected a small bucket of windfalls or am using up fresh-stored apples, I return to my grandmother’s frozen chunky sauce. In past years, I poured it into containers or flattened it into bags to stack in the freezer. Now I find it easiest to freeze it in silicone trays that make 1-cup portions and then pop the frozen blocks, like giant ice cubes, into a gallon zip-close bag.
Frozen Chunky Applesauce
Makes about 6 cups
4-1/2 pounds apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider or water
2 teaspoons honey (optional)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Peel and core the apples; cut them into large chunks. As you work, add the apples to a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, tossing them with lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Stir in the apple cider, honey (if desired), cinnamon and nutmeg.
Bring the apples to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Decrease the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pan and cook for about 15 minutes, until the apples have softened; stir frequently for even cooking and to prevent the apples from sticking to the pan’s bottom. Remove from the heat.
Using a potato masher, coarsely mash the apples with their cooking juices. Cool, and then divide the applesauce among labeled freezer-proof cube trays, containers or bags, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Check that the sauce has cooled completely before transferring it to the freezer.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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