Last weekend I took the family out to a U-pick apple orchard for a bit of fun. We’d planned it for a week and I was really looking forward to it. So when we woke up that morning to grey skies, a light drizzle with rain in the forecast, and temps in the single digits (Celsius), we almost canceled. As the morning progressed the weather lightened. After a coffee, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea. So we packed up and headed out of the city.
When we stepped out of the car, I immediately detected a problem: I hadn’t thought to pack hats or mitts for anyone. My pre-schooler, who absolutely REFUSES to wear pants was in a thin pair of leggings. It was the first really Fall-like weather we’d had and we were clearly unprepared. Luckily, we’re all pretty good sports and headed into the orchard anyway with our apple collecting baskets in hand and the knowledge that we wouldn’t be spending as much time at the farm as we’d first guessed. The rain stopped just after the tractor and wagon got us out the back orchard and we (2 adults and 2 pre-schoolers) picked for maybe a half hour or so. We loaded ourselves back on to the tractor and made it to the car just as the downpour started again.
It was only after we got home that I took a close look at what we had brought home with us — about 50 lbs of apples. I didn’t think it was possible to pick so much in such a short time, in the cold and rain, with our hands in our pockets for much of that time! “Well”, I said, “I guess we’re making applesauce this week”. In fact, it looks like we might be talking about apples for the rest of October. This was the first time I’d made such a quantity of applesauce. I don’t have one of these fancy peelers, so I did it all by hand. Next year, if I do this again next year, I will buy a fancy peeler (or fewer apples). I did it all by hand and the peeling just took so long. I spent about a day and a half to get through the entire batch of apples, peeling, chopping, cooking and then canning. By far, the cooking and canning were the easiest steps. I already had a collection of canning tools from experiments in previous summers.
I picked about equal quantities of Courtland, McIntosh, Red Delicious, and Honeygold because that’s what the orchard had and so that’s what I cooked. I had picked the Honeygold and Red Delicious with applesauce in mind and the McIntosh were a nice addition too. I think adding the Courtland was a bad idea. These apples stayed crisp well after the others had turned to mush and affected the texture just a bit.
I chopped the apples directly into my largest stock pot (taking one of each variety in turn) and then when it was full I added about a cup of water. Then, on to the stove with heat until boiling. I then simmered with occasional stirring until I had some apples that were soft enough to ‘squish’. The pot came off the heat and onto a towel on the counter where I mashed the cooked apples with a potato masher. I prefer a thick, almost chewy consistency to a smooth one, so the potato masher was a choice I made in spite of owning a stick blender. I added sugar and cinnamon to taste, which for my palette, turned out to be no sugar at all and maybe a teaspoon or two of cinnamon.
The applesauce then went into some clean and dried 500ml canning jars with snap lids. I processed in a boiling water canner for 25 minutes. Of course, one jar was left unprocessed and was moved directly into the refrigerator for immediate consumption.
Voila! Applesauce! I’m pretty happy with the final product and I do enjoy applesauce quite a bit. However, I’m seriously considering not making it again. I actually enjoy the jar I buy at the grocery store, the one whose ingredients list is “apples, water”. I’m not sure I get much out of making it myself. In the category of ‘make vs. buy’, do you make or buy your applesauce? Am I crazy to prefer the store-bought variety to a day of peeling apples?
If you want to give it a try, here are the websites that I used to guide my way:
1. A guideline for those who have the fancy equipment.
2. A guideline for those of us doing it by hand.
And finally, Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian readers and a Happy Weekend to everyone else.