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My father, the apple hunter: September in Washington, and we would start looking for the right apples in grocery stores or on family adventures out towards the Blue Ridge. “Right” was Jonathans, a bright-red early apple here in the mid-Atlantic. Dad loved to use these apples for sauce because their red skin, left on for the cooking, would turn the final sauce a lovely pink. He’d gleefully make applesauce to use as a vehicle for whipped cream (lightly sweetened) or to pour over gingerbread. “Applesauce” was a seasonal fruit for us.
You’ll need a food mill to make this recipe with the skins on, or you can press a smallish colander into food-mill service. I still use Grammy’s Foley food mill, with a funny red wooden handle. It looks like a made-up kitchen tool, with a little twizzler on the bottom to scrape the applesauce off the holes.
Other varieties of apple are also good for sauce. Here on the East Coast, Paula Reds, Ida Reds, Macouns, MacIntosh and Romes are all good (this is one apple-use category where Granny Smiths lose out, scoring “bland” for both taste and looks). A mixture of apples is good, too, if you want to pick some for flavor, some for color. The trick is to make this applesauce in the the fall, with fresh local apples, and freeze it for happiness all winter long.
Dad’s Jonathan Applesauce
Makes about 5 cups
- About 3 pounds Jonathan or other variety of apple, washed, quartered and cored
- Sugar, if needed
Put a generous half-inch of water into a pot large enough to hold the apples easily. Add apple quarters. Cover pot, place on medium-hot stove, and bring water to a boil. Remove lid and cook, stirring mixture occasionally, until apples begin to get mushy (about 20 minutes). After the 20-minute mark, stir frequently to ensure sauce is not sticking; add more water by the half-cupful if sauce seems too dry. Keep cooking for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until apples have broken down.
When apples are good and saucy, remove pot from stove. Break up any recalcitrant apple-lumps with a spoon; let sauce cool, then put through a food mill to remove skins and any stray seeds. Taste sauce, and add a tablespoon or two of sugar if needed to brighten the flavor or take the edge off the tang. Refrigerate or freeze.
Photograph and recipe copyright 2009 Garside Group LLC