It's cold, rainy, and 52°F here in Vermont today. I'm wearing my furry clogs and drinking a frothy mocha to keep the chill away. But it's not quite enough.
I really want applesauce. Not just any old applesauce, and certainly not jarred applesauce. I want my Dad's applesauce from when I was growing up.
Growing up, my family wasn't affluent; indeed, far from it. Individual bags of chips or cans of soda were treats reserved for field trips; and self-serve sizes of desserts and snacks simply didn't exist for us. Instead, family-style was the way to go, and DIY at our house would have been spelled DIYODW as in Do it Yourself or Do Without.
Enter the aforementioned applesauce. After a day of apple picking at the orchard, the next step was to preserve that apple-y goodness for use throughout the season, long after the apples themselves would have been gone. While most of the household cooking was done by my mom, for some reason the annual making of the applesauce for freezing was my dad's domain, with me as chief assistant.
I would peel, he would chop. When the pot was full, in went a little water and a blend of sugar and spice. The pot was carefully tended to prevent scorching, and monitored until the apples had cooked down but some tender chunks remained. Many a burnt tongue can attest to how good the whole house smelled, and how hard it was to keep from having "just a taste!"
I'm thrilled to be able to share this with you through the magic of the interwaves. I've updated the recipe a bit (including finally writing it down!) to include two new ingredients, and to use a slow cooker to alleviate the need to tend the pot.
Let's get started on our Cinnamon Applesauce.
When you’re making applesauce, choose apples according to how smooth you want the finished sauce to be. Of commonly available apples, McIntosh will cook down the most; Cortland, a bit less; and Granny Smith will end up more chunky and hearty.
Back in the old days, we peeled and chopped by hand, and that remains my favorite method for this recipe. But if you have a peeler/corer/chopper, it makes the task fly right by.
As you know, apple cider is the result of pressing apples under pressure to release their juices. When you take that flavorful cider and boil it down as you would maple sap, you end up with a thick, sweet, and intense concentrate. Adding 1/3 cup of this syrup to your applesauce will boost the flavor to outstanding proportions.
For vanilla, we all know what vanilla does for our baked goods and sweet treats, so why not add it to applesauce to enhance the mellow fruitiness and subtle spice we crave?
Put the following into your 4- to 6-quart slow cooker bowl:
Measure out 2 teaspoons vanilla into a small dish, and set it aside to add at the end of cooking. I find if I don't measure out the vanilla early, I forget to add it later.
Set the cooker to high, and let cook for 2 to 3 hours. I know most cooker recipes don't want you to lift the lid, but for this one I do recommend lifting the lid occasionally to stir and break down the apples, plus prevent scorching from the sugar sitting in one place too long.
Besides, how are you going to burn your tongue, an essential part of the ritual, if you don't sneak a taste?
Once the sauce is cooked down and the apples are tender, add the vanilla; then take a potato masher (my dad's preferred implement of destruction), a whisk, or an immersion blender and "cream" the sauce to your preferred consistency.
As you can see below, I like mine a little chunky.
You can refrigerate leftovers for about a week, and freeze for up to 2 months in airtight containers. Imagine your guests' delight to have homemade cinnamon applesauce as a side with their Thanksgiving dinner – and your delight that you didn't have to lift a finger during Turkey Week to make it.
For me, it's comfort-food time, so I'll raise my spoon in a few minutes. Right now, I think I'll give my dad a call and see what's cookin'.
Please make, rate, and review our recipe for Cinnamon Applesauce.