It’s a gray and chilly day here in Raleigh. A charmless rain has been falling all morning. It’s a perfect day to stay inside with a hot cup of coffee. Maybe make some waffles.
Instead, I am at the farmer’s market doing my weekly shopping. The hardships of a commitment to eating seasonally and locally.
But things are looking up. While many of my favorite summer crops are now just a memory, the fall produce is in full swing. So that means apples. And lots of ‘em!
In peak season from mid-August through November, there are over 7,000 varieties of apples available at market, ranging from the very tart to the delightfully sweet. Not all seven thousand were available at my market, but there were certainly enough to keep me occupied selecting my favorites.
My canvas bag overflowing with Granny Smiths, Honeycrisps and Fujis and feeling better about having to venture out into the gloomy morning, I’m home by nine. Coffee is brewing and that waffle breakfast is still in the cards.
Only now I have the makings of my favorite waffle topper.
Fresh applesauce is a joy. Not only is it just the thing my waffles needed, it also pairs well with oatmeal, pork chops or yogurt. Additive-free applesauce is a recommended baby food. It can also be used as a healthy substitute for oil in baked goods. And, not for nothing, it’s awfully good all by itself.
Making applesauce from scratch is surprisingly easy and carries all of the benefits that come with using fresh produce. Many store bought applesauce brands contain additives, coloring and more sugar than seems reasonable for a “healthy” treat.
But perhaps the best part of making your own applesauce is…well…making it your own.
Unlike store-bought applesauce, what you make at home can range greatly in taste depending on the apples you choose. Among the sweetest are Fuji, Gala and the Cameo. At the other end of the spectrum lie the Pink Lady and the iconic Granny Smith.
Using a blend of different types of apples in you applesauce can yield complex flavors tailored to your individual taste. I lean away from the overly-sweet and generally use a combination of a mildly tart apple like the Braeburn or Honeycrisp and a sweeter apple such as a Fuji or Gala. With those seven thousand varieties at your disposal, it should be easy to find a blend that satisfies the palate without the need for added sugar.
No special equipment necessary! Peel, core and slice about 3 pounds of apples. No need for a food processor, as the flesh will break down nicely in the cooking process and the familiar consistency will be achieved with little more than a spoon or rubber spatula.
Alternately, the apples can be washed and cooked without the effort of peeling or coring by passing the cooked results through a sieve or food mill.
Stovetop: Combine apples with just an inch or two of water in a heavy saucepan. Cover and cook at medium-high heat for 15 minutes or until the apples become soft and begin to break apart.
Pressure Cooker: Using a pressure cooker helps hold in that fresh apple flavor. Two minutes at full pressure in about an inch of water is all it takes to achieve applesauce.
Microwave: In a hurry? Combine apples with ½ c. of water in a glass bowl. Eight to 10 minutes on high will also do the trick.
While it’s still hot, stir in to taste whatever suits your fancy. Cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice are all popular choices, but even a little black pepper works well against the sweet sauce.
At this time, sugar may be added. But with the right apples, it may not not necessary. If you can’t resist a little brown sugar, I don’t think you’ll get any complaints.
Serve warm or keep refrigerated for future use.
Applesauce is also a terrific candidate for canning. Seal your sauce in sterile pint jars and process in a water bath for 15 to 20 minutes.
As for me, I’ve got waffles to make.