Last Saturday I bought a case of apples from my favorite apple orchard, Millstone Creek Orchards in Ramseur, NC. I have been getting my apples from there since 2012.
I enjoy visiting with Beverly, the owner, each year. On my first visit, I learned she had come back to NC to learn how to run the orchard from her father. After he died a few years ago, she carried on and has done some wonderful work there. Her dad would be so proud of what she’s accomplished.
Usually for applesauce, I like to do a mix of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples. The Goldens add just the right amount of sweetness to the combination while the Grannies provide body to the flavor. However, this year she talked me into getting a box of seconds. The apples only had small bruises or other imperfections; most I couldn’t even figure out what was “wrong” with them. My box had sixty pounds of Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Macintosh, Granny Smith, Arkansas Black and a couple other varieties I didn’t recognize. The draw of course was that I could get them at fifty cents a pound!
So, every night after work this week, I’ve been converting apples to applesauce. I can get 6 -10 cups processed for the freezer each night. Since I clean up each night, it’s an easy job to wash the apples in a little vinegar water, pull out the necessary supplies – cutting board, knife, bowl, lemon juice, trash bucket – and get started.
I have one more very important tool:
Timmy is always underfoot when food is being prepared, waiting for a “fumbled” bit to lick off the floor. He is very efficient but complains if I’m not being “clumsy” enough.
The biggest part of making applesauce is peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. I know the commercial canners just chuck the whole apple – peel, core, stem and all – into a big chopper. I don’t complain about all that stuff being in my store-bought applesauce. Somehow, though, I can’t do that for homemade. I used to have extra tools for the job, like an apple peeler-corer-slicer device that purportedly did all the hard work but I found that it wasn’t all that effective on any but a very few apples. It really just created more stuff to clean up (and that thing was not easy to clean!). So, I just use a knife to cut the apple in half, each half into half, and each quarter into half so the apple is in eight pieces. That is usually just the right size for easily removing the little bit of core and then slicing the peel off in one quick swoop.
If a slice is a little big, I might cut it again for easier handling.
The prospect of peeling a bunch of apples can be daunting. To ease the boredom and help me not feel so overwhelmed, I get a You Tube video going on my phone to occupy my mind. My current favorites are Cog Hill Farm and Living Traditions Homestead but Ted Talks or Dry Bar Comedy can also be entertaining.
As I cut, I put the prepared slices in a bowl. Every few apples, I sprinkle them with a bit of lemon juice and give them a toss. I prep about 14 – 20 apples per batch. The number depends on how long my back lasts.
When the bowl is full, I transfer them to a pot, add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan (to prevent scorching or burning), cover the pan, and cook them on medium heat for 25 minutes. No, I don’t add sugar to my applesauce!
After 25 minutes I stir the apples and give them a tentative mash with a potato masher. If they aren’t quite ready, I turn the heat down a notch and let them cook another 5 to 10 minutes
Then I mash them to the desired consistency. Be careful, the mixture is hot! If you want smoother applesauce you can run it through a blender but, in my mind, that’s just another dish to clean. I like it a little chunky, though, so my potato masher works great for me.
I let it cool for about an hour, ladle the sauce into sandwich bags, squeeze out excess air, and put them into the fridge. Then I clean the cutting board, knife, bowl, masher, and pot to use the next day.
Next day, while that day’s batch is cooking, I take the baggies out of the fridge, lay them flat on a tray, and put them in the freezer. They can be laid on top of each other. They will freeze together but can easily be separated and then stacked for efficient use of space in the freezer.
Well, after a week, I’ve processed a little more than half the apples. The peelings and cores and a few apples that got ahead of me were given to the chickens and a friend’s livestock. If I’d wanted to, I could have made Apple Peel Jelly out of the peels and cores but apparently I’m not that dedicated. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with feeding the critters or even adding to the compost pile. You do what you can!
Meanwhile, the peeling continues ….