Making homemade applesauce is so easy and incredibly delicious. No added sugar needed either. There is no store bought brand that can even come close.
There’s nothing like homemade applesauce.
Our family pretty much goes crazy over homemade applesauce. To us, it is one of the sweetest treats of fall. I literally process roughly 150 -200 pounds of apples over the course of the fall and winter months solely for the purpose of making applesauce. There is simply no comparing store bought applesauce with homemade.
Making homemade applesauce is not difficult, but it does require time. A secret dream that I have is to one day open up a little cafe where I can serve up “slow food”. Food that simmers long and slow has such complex and amazing flavor. Whether it is soup, stew, or this applesauce, you will be able to tell that there is something special in each bite that you take. So in a world of fast food drive thru’s and microwavable meals, take a few hours and enjoy the process of making slow food!
People often ask me for my recipe for homemade applesauce. I really do not have one. It’s all about the process. From selecting the best apple varieties to use, to cutting apples to the right size, and adjusting the cooking heat, follow these simple steps, and you will have success.
The best apples to use for homemade applesauce
I have found that the very best apple to use for applesauce is the Stayman Winesap. They have a tart sweet taste and are not too dry or too juicy. I find them to be the perfect apple for eating, making applesauce, or for use in any apple dessert. There are two problems with Stayman Winesap apples though. First, they ripen later than other apples, which makes their availability a bit limited. Second, they are not readily available at most grocery stores. You can not expect to walk into your local supermarket to find these beauties waiting for you throughout the year. Local orchards, however, typically offer these apples. Jump on them if you see them! A pot full of Stayman Winesaps will yield the most amazing applesauce that you have ever had.
When Stayman Winesaps are not available, I opt to use a mix of different apples for my sauce. With each apple bringing a unique flavor, your applesauce will have a complex taste. I typically will select a mix of Honeycrisp (a must), Jonagold, Pinata, Macoun, Cortland, Macintosh, or Gala. The more varieties you select, the more unique and flavorful your applesauce will be. I typically select four types. I would caution you not to use a mix of very hard and very soft apples. Their cooking times will be vastly different. Select apples of a similar texture for the best results.
Which apples to stay away from for homemade applesauce
I don’t believe that I’ve met an apple that I dislike. I simply love apples. However, in my honest opinion, there are some apples that do not make the best applesauce. Since my goal is to NOT add sugar to my applesauce, I opt to use naturally sweet apples that are full of flavor. While red and yellow delicious apples are popular at the markets, they really are far from being delicious. There are so many other options that have bolder flavors.
I also like a thick and hearty applesauce, therefor, I stay clear of apples that have a naturally high juice content such as Fuji apples. Last year I processed a box of Fuji apples for sauce; hands down it was the poorest tasting sauce that I have ever made and far too watery for my liking.
Lastly, I often steer clear of overly tart apples such as Granny Smiths (don’t hate me). I find that adding too much tartness to the mix spoils the sweetness that I want. It’s all personal preference though. If you’re a Granny Smith fan, go ahead and add a few in.
How many apples do you need?
Well, it all depends on the size of the cooking vessel that you will be using. I find that using small pots to make applesauce is not ideal. I use my good old (and I mean old) Revere Ware 8 Quart Stock Pot. This pot has history. Every little ding and scratch has a story. My mother first received this stock pot when she was married. It was a free giveaway at my father’s bank one year. About 15 years ago my mother passed it along to me. It has to be at least 45 years old.
To know how many apples to use, take your pot and fill it up to the top with the apples you want to use. The apples should pop over the top a bit. Once diced, you will have enough apples to fill your pot nearly to the top. Not too much. Not too little. Just perfect. It has worked every single time.
How to process apples for applesauce
First, begin by peeling all of your apples at one time. Processing any ingredient is quicker and easier when you do all of the same motion at one time. Once you have peeled all of your apples, use your apple cutter to remove the core and cut out apple wedges. For a normal sized apple, I cut each wedge into three segments. For larger apples that may not fit inside of the apple cutter, carefully use your knife to cut the apples into chunks.
The most important thing to remember here is size. Try to cut all of your apples into the same size (approximately). If you have very large chunks mingled with very small chunks, you are going to be left with overdone and underdone apples. No good.
Same size + same shape = perfect!
What to add to your applesauce.
Restraint wins here. For a stock pot this size (8 quarts), I add 2 tablespoons of water to the apples. That’s it. Adjust that amount accordingly for smaller pots.
Many of you will also want to add cinnamon to your applesauce. Do NOT add cinnamon to the apples while they are cooking. Cinnamon will be added at the very end of the process. I have found that adding cinnamon to the apples while they are cooking turns the cinnamon into a bitter syrup. It really taints the finished product. Add cinnamon at the end.
How to cook your applesauce
Slowly, cook it slowly. Do not be tempted to rush the process. Trying to cook applesauce quickly will often lead to the apples being boiled. This results in a bland, watery applesauce. Not what we want. Be patient and embrace the slowness!
First, place a tight fitting lid onto the top of the pot. Cook the apples over low heat. I have a gas stove and turn the flame to a 2-3 (1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest). Then, I set my timer for 15 minutes. At the conclusion of the first 15 minutes, remove the lid. You will not see much of a difference in the appearance of the apples, but you should hear a little bit of sizzling/bubbling at the bottom of the pot. Stir the apples. Be sure to use a very sturdy wooden spoon to stir the apples from the bottom of the pot. The idea is to transfer some of the apples on the top of the pile, down to the bottom of the pot.
Next, place the lid back on the pot, and cook for another 10 minutes. Again, remove the lid. This time your apples should have some bubbling activity along the side of the pot.
Once again, stir the apples, moving them from the bottom to the top. Place the lid on top, and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
This time when you check on the apples you should see a significant amount of liquid in the pot.
Stir through the apples several times. You will likely notice that some of the apples will begin to break down as they are softening up. The apples will look like this:
Lastly, pop the lid on top of the stockpot one more time. Cook for another 10-15 minutes. At this stage of the cooking process, you need to cook with your nose as well. As the consistency of the applesauce thickens, the chance of burning increases. Be sure to stir as needed, and if you smell even a hint of burning, quickly turn the heat off.
Finally, your apples should be cooked sufficiently. Now, using a handheld potato masher, roughly mash up the apples. Be sure to leave some apple chunks present. You will notice that you have a thick and hearty applesauce. Nearly all of the juices should now be reincorporated back into the applesauce.
The Finishing Touches
At this point, add in 1-2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Stir. The applesauce will be very, very hot. I allow the pot to sit, uncovered on the stove for at least one hour before eating. Personally, I find that the applesauce is most flavorful when it is allowed to come completely to room temperature
Any uneaten applesauce should be stored in an airtight container, kept in the refrigerator, and eaten within one week’s time. You may also opt to freeze the applesauce. I have a big bowl frozen in my freezer just waiting to be served with Thanksgiving dinner.
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