Monday, October 31, 2011

Preserving Floyd: mmm....Applesauce

Making applesauce creates a scent that smells like all the ripe apple trees of Floyd condensed into one and spilled into our house.  I swear it has the ability to attract the neighbors who arrive at the door with spoons in hand!
Applesauce straight from the jar, applesauce dressed up with spice and cream, applesauce topping pancakes and waffles, applesauce baked into cakes and pastries, applesauce glazing ham or pork, applesauce cooked down into butter or leather.  So many uses for applesauce!

A half bushel box of Stayman processing apples from Wades Orchard weighed in at around 22 pounds and cost $8.  It yielded 10 quarts of canned sauce plus a pint for immediate eating.  A quart of commercial store-bought applesauce runs around $3.  Our quart cost 80 cents and I know exactly what's in it and where it came from.

Unlike many applesauce recipes that are cooked on top of the stove and require watching and stirring to prevent scorching, mine is roasted in the oven, carefree.

Wash, stem and core your apples.  Peeling or not is up to you.  Leaving the peels on will impart a rosy color to the sauce.  The peels can be left in the sauce or milled or sieved out after the apples are cooked and mashed.  I prefer to peel the apples before cooking.  If you're not using a peeler-corer-slicer gadget, hand slice your apples about 1/4" thick.  As you slice your apples, drop them into a large roasting pan.  When the pan is full add 4 tablespoons of bottled lemon or lime juice and toss the slices.  Apples are an acidic fruit but, like tomatoes, they vary between varieties and individual apples.  So to be on the safe side add a little bottled citrus juice.  It'll also brighten the flavor of the apples but not be noticeable itself.
I fill my big turkey roaster to the top with apples, add the lemon juice and then pour in about a cup of apple juice.  You can use water in place of the apple juice.  The roaster is covered with foil and placed in a 400F oven.
The apples are ready to sauce when they are very tender and have collapsed to the point where the roaster is about half full.

Pull them out and hand mash them for a chunky applesauce...
...or run them through a foodmill, processor, or use an immersion blender for a smooth sauce.

The applesauce is ready to can.  The other advantage to roasting the apples instead of simmering them on top of the stove is the natural sugar condenses and the sauce requires no or very little additional sugar depending on your personal preferences.  Taste the sauce before canning.  If you like, stir in your choice of sweetener and spices to taste now.  I add just enough sugar to balance the tartness.  To the entire batch of 10 quarts of sauce I added a little less than a cup of sugar.

Ladle the hot sauce into clean warm pint or quart jars leaving 1/2" head space.  Remove air pockets as you fill the jars by tapping the bottom of the jars lightly on a well padded surface.  Wipe rims and adjust lids.  Process both pints and quarts in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes at sea level.  Adjust the time for your altitude.

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