Friday, 20 September 2013

Recipe: Apple Sauce

a few thoughts
The wonderful thing about a fall farmers' market is that the produce just pours in. The tables of the fruit and veggie vendors' booths are heaping with beauty and colour, texture and variety... positively groaning under the weight of another successful Canadian local food harvest. It is an amazing sight to behold and it reminds me, once again, of the incredible good fortune we have to live in Canada where the food supply is not only safe and plentiful, but it is beautiful, nourishing and inspiring as well.

When I was standing in front of the Red Apple booth a few markets ago taking photos for the market's facebook page, I happened upon a woman asking Janja about making applesauce. She wanted a particular weight of apples for the recipe that she was following, and the desire to get that weight just right showed that she was new to the whole experience of canning applesauce.

I have been making applesauce for years and it is the simplest thing to make and can. You do not need a recipe as it is very, very, very simple and easy to do. Here are a few basic tips:
  • You want to choose an apple that is tart so that your applesauce has more flavour... I always choose macintosh apples as they're our family's favourites. 
    Applesauce can be unsweetened, like the one on
    the left, for baking or for people who do not have
    a sweet tooth, or it can be sweetened and flavoured
    with cinnamon, which accounts for the change
    in colour in the applesauce on the right.
  • When you buy apples at a farmers' market, there's a terrific chance that they do not come coated in waxy preserving residue, so for the purposes of these super simple instructions, only buy wax-less apples as you will not be peeling the apples.
  • Don't worry about unsightly blemishes in the skin. It is what's under the skin that matters.
  • Applesauce is a key ingredient in low-fat baking, allowing you to add moisture and replace a lot of the butter and oil with a wonderful tasting, low-fat alternative. So you can make this applesauce two ways: I usually make a batch of unsweetened applesauce for my baking, and a batch of slightly sweetened & cinnamon-ed applesauce for eating as a dessert or as a lunch snack in small, ziplock snack-sized containers. It can be frozen that way or canned traditionally using glass jars and a water bath. It's really up to you, and the amount of space you have in your freezer or pantry, but either way it tastes the same and has the same smooth consistency.
  • Don't worry about how many apples you buy as you can make this in multiple batches, one after the other, and process them in a canner once you've used them all up.
  • Once you start, I say, go all out. So buy a TON of apples and make the applesauce all in one go. That way the clean up only happens once. And you get into a rhythm of batches and find that it goes quite quickly and smoothly. And the tower of jars or containers, once you;re finished, is so very, very satisfying to behold!
And now for the secret tool in my arsenal: a tomato press. Really! I purchased mine years ago at Lee
Valley Tools (we have one here up at 184 Street, north of Stony Plain Road in Edmonton, but you can easily order them online and have them delivered to your door,2120). It is a relatively inexpensive addition to your canning kitchen (it costs under $40) and is easy to store. This is another one of those tricks that my dad taught me... being a woodworker, he LOVES Lee Valley Tools and they actually carry a wide assortment of inventive kitchen gadgets along with all of their high quality woodworking and gardening tools. The tomato press suction-cups onto your counter and easily removes the stems, peels, seeds and cores from the apples, pushing only the apple pulp out and into its catchment bowl. The result is that there is very, very little wasted apple and you get an applesauce with a wonderful, velvety, smooth & uniform consistency.

Apples can be found at our market from three vendors: AIG Osoyoos, BC Fruit, Red Apple and Steve and Dan's Fresh BC Fruit. All are wonderful suppliers of a variety of apple cultivars.
apple sauce
Less than a recipe, this is simply a method, so bare with me. There's nothing exact here. It can be made in multiple batches without even washing the pot because there is no sugar... just apples & water... used. So there's no burning. No sticking! And no stirring! The only thing I can say is...  You have GOT to try this! It is so easy!
tart apples, a whole bunch
water, a wee bit
cinnamon (optional)
white or brown sugar, honey or agave syrup (optional)
Wash your apples. Without peeling them, quarter them, leaving the stems, cores & seeds in place. This quite literally takes only a few seconds!

Select a large, wide pot. Put in enough apple quarters to fill the pot to a depth of about 2-3 layers of apples. Add water until it is about 1/4 of an inch deep. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Bring the water to a boil.

Take a peak. The apples will be done when they are steamed to the point where they sort of swell & mush and the peels start to curl back. This only takes about 5 minutes. If the liquid dries up, add more water.

Ladle apples into the tomato press and crank the handle, adding more apples as necessary to keep the hopper topped up. The residue that comes out the side I usually pass through a second time to get every last bit of appley goodness out of the batch. You will be so surprised when you see how little, and how dry, the compostable waste is at the end!

If you are making unsweetened applesauce, you are done. Ladle into jars for the water canner, or ladle into plastic containers or jars for the freezer. If canning, give them a hot water canning bath for 10 minutes at a full rolling bottle. Remove and cool to room temperature, refrigerating any jars whose seals do not "pop" into a tight fit. If freezing, simply pop them in the freezer once they have cooled to room temperature.

If you are sweetening your applesauce, simply stir in your choice of sweetener... white sugar, brown sugar or honey, one tablespoon at a time, tasting frequently until it suits your palette. If you are adding cinnamon, do the same, half a teaspoon at a time. Then can or freeze as above.

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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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