Have a glut of apples? Make homemade applesauce for dinner tonight.
Each fall, I can’t help myself from buying apples by the bushel. I get so excited by the crisp air and the fresh-from-the-orchard apples that I inevitably buy too many—my eyes are bigger than my stomach. I bake pies and apple cakes and sauté fresh sliced apples for breakfast the way my mother did when I was a child, but my hands-down favorite thing to eat is homemade applesauce.
I remember my first taste of this applesauce. My mother was making Julia Child’s French Apple Tart—the original recipe that has a bed of well-seasoned applesauce on the bottom and a fan of apricot-jam glazed apples on the top. The brandy-laced applesauce was the best part of the tart for me, and a variation of that recipe is what I use to make lots of applesauce.
I love the process of peeling the apples, cutting them into rough chunks and placing them in my heavy enameled Dutch oven. I use whatever apples I have on hand—sometimes they are all the same and sometimes they are a mixed bag. I toss the apples with lemon juice, a little sugar and cinnamon to season them and keep them from turning brown. I add lemon zest for zing and salt for balance. I put the lid on the pot and wait patiently while the apples cook and give up their natural juices. In 15-20 minutes, they are ready to mash and give way easily with a fork or a spoon. You could serve the applesauce at this stage but the next step is what makes it exceptional!
Once the apples are cooked down to a rough mash, I add just enough sweet butter to round out the tart acidity of the apples and a splash of cognac to add a depth of flavor. The mixture is then brought to a boil, and simmers for 5 minutes until all of the raw alcohol is cooked away, leaving just the fabulous flavor. And, that is the secret to the best homemade applesauce you’ve ever tasted!
It’s old-fashioned and new fangled all at once and every time I serve it with roasted chicken or grilled pork chops, the re-sounding opinion is that “the applesauce was the best part of the meal!”
I couldn’t agree more! This recipe can be halved or doubled, easily! What you don’t eat warm, you can refrigerate and eat “leftover” for a week. It is the perfect utilization recipe for all those left over apples from your recent apple-picking adventure, but I also make homemade applesauce when I want to perk up a less-than-exciting meal and impress my dining companions with something unexpectedly delicious!