The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

Ode to the Apple: Making Applesauce April 6, 2014

In a recent blog post, I talked about the apple as a sacred tree in that it provides us with bountiful, amazing cider. In this post, I’m going to walk through the art of making and canning applesauce. The applesauce I made when I was taking photos for the blog is hands down the best applesauce I have ever tasted in my life! I really like making applesauce because it connects me with the sacred apple tree (more on that in an upcoming post), its very healthy, and it can be shared and enjoyed with others.

Apples free from a neighbor's yard

Apples free from a neighbor’s yard

Finding Apples

The first thing you need to do for a good applesauce is to find your apples.  In my crazy quest last summer to pay homage to the apple, I tasted apples from literally hundreds of trees.  I realized then that not all apples are created equal.  A good applesauce requires a really delicious apple.  These apples a friend and I gathered from my neighbor’s house.  We have no idea what variety they are, but they are literally the most delicious apple–a little tart, a little sweet, excellent creamy flesh.  I used these apples to make my perfect applesauce.

Now you shouldn’t have to buy apples–lots of old apple orchards are out there, and most people (at least in this area) have apple trees in their front or backyards.  I have found that if you go ask to pick apples, most people will be happy to let you (especially if you offer some of the bounty in return).   You can also find apples in local parks and the like.  If you are gathering lots of apples, make sure you get some sturdy bags (we gathered with 50 lb feed bags – pictured in the photo above) because we were also going for bulk for making cider.  The other thing about making a good applesauce is that sometimes a combination of apples can yield the best results.  So I used a few kinds of apples for the sauce, but the bulk of them came from the incredible tree of the neighbor’s!  You should pick apples from the tree–pull gently and the apple will come off easily if the apple is ripe.

Lots of Apples!

Lots of Apples!

Besides being free, there are a lot of other benefits to gathering your apples wild.  First, they are almost certainly not going to be sprayed with pesticides–and since apples are one of the fruits that hold in the most pesticide, this is something you absolutely do not want to have in your fruit.  Second, you can find varieties wild that you can’t find in the store, allowing for very unique flavors (my friend and I found one apple tree that literally produced apples that tasted like cotton candy last year!)  Third, you are eliminating the use of fossil fuels associated with transporting apples over great distances (depending on your mode of transportation, you might still have some fossil fuel expenditure, but it shouldn’t be nearly that of a commercial grower).  Most of my apples were gathered within 3 miles of my home, or were gathered where I was already heading (e.g. I went to campus for the day, and stopped at the orchard on my way home to pick apples for an hour before heading home).

 

Coring and Peeling your Apples

You can core and peel your apples by hand. I used to do this until I discovered this great little device called an “apple peeler and corer.”  I found mine on Etsy for $10. I don’t actually know why anyone would do anything else–this is SO fast.  I can do enough apples for a huge pot in about 45 minutes–and its a lot of fun to use.  The one thing I will mention is that you want fresh, firm apples to use this little device. If they are too soft or mushy, they will fall apart and cause frustration.

Apple Peeler, Corer, and Slicer

Apple Peeler, Corer, and Slicer

The peeler, corer, and slicer works like magic, and it creates these awesome little apple spirals.  It also creates a great deal of apple peel, which I dehydrated and have been using for tea.

Apple peeled, cored, and sliced!

Apple peeled, cored, and sliced!

Cooking Your Sauce

Now that you have some cored, peeled, and sliced apples, you are ready to start cooking down your sauce.  One word of warning – applesauce easily burns!  Stir it frequently! The one thing that can do you in is having too high of heat and ignoring your applesauce.  I bought a beautiful long wooden spoon from a local craftsperson at the farmer’s market, and I use that spoon to lovingly stir my applesauce so that it doesn’t burn.

To speed up the cooking process and make sure my apples on the bottom don’t burn, I usually use my immersion blender to chop up the apples  (otherwise, this can be a really long process!)

Apples being processed

Apples being processed

Now how much you want to cook your applesauce down is a matter of personal preference. I prefer really chunky applesauce, so I cook mine a lot less than some others do (the store-bought stuff is all way overcooked, IMHO).  Here’s what mine looked like about halfway through the cooking process:

Cooking down the applesauce!

Cooking down the applesauce!

At this stage, I added a bit of freshly ground nutmeg and cinnamon to the sauce.  I also added a little honey for added sweetness–but my apples were pretty sweet, so not much was needed.  Once I had it tasting exactly how I wanted it, I was ready to can!

 

Canning Your Applesauce

Standard hot water bath canning applies here–you hot water bath can your applesauce for 15 min. One of the important things to remember is that applesauce EXPANDS A LOT during canning, so you want a full 1″ of headspace on your pint jars.  I have not had applesauce explode on me yet, but many people I’ve spoken to about it have!

When you are finished, you will have some of the most amazing applesauce you have ever tasted.  It is likely you will be unable to eat the drivel that they call “applesauce” in the stores ever again. And you’ll be one step closer to self-sufficiency and more sustainable living!

 

Enjoying your Applesauce

Canning any kind of food preserves that food at its peak freshness, saving it for you to savor in the cold, dark months of winter.  As I finish this blog post, I eat a bite of my most delicious applesauce straight from the jar, and look back with fondness on those wonderful apple-filled months leading up to Samhuinn.  I think there is real magic in making and preserving applesauce–apples are such an abundant gift from the wild and we can preserve that gift for years to come.

Advertisements
 

10 Responses to “Ode to the Apple: Making Applesauce”

  1. Pearl Says:

    Sounds delicious. I will approach some orchards when I am ready to start canning. How long will the apple sauce keep? Thank you

    • Willowcrow Says:

      If you can it, it can keep for years. I doubt you’ll have it that long–my applesauce is nearly gone and it was only in the fall when I made it 🙂

  2. nicky Says:

    We made a lot of apple sauce last autumn-just from one tree-it was a bumper crop. I don’t bother pealing to be fair so saves all that time. Also if anyone does not want to bother with canning-freezing is ok too. Just pop in freezer bags. Nutmeg sounds like a good addition. I use cloves and cinnamon etc. Nutmeg would be nice. I agree with you so much nicer to have non sprayed, lovely old varieties of apples. Also I added some rosehip sauce to some of my batches-adds a lovely colour and nuance to the flavour.

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Nicky,
      I love the idea of a rosehip sauce! How do you make the sauce? The rosehips are in season that time of year…..

      I don’t usually freeze much. We get a lot of power outages out here, and I’ve found that freezing foods is taking a risk for long-term storage. In the winter of 2013-2014, we went 12 days total without power (5 at one point, 4 at another). Its cold, so its not a big deal for frozen foods (you just stick them on your porch). But now that its in the 50’s, it would be a bigger problem!

  3. Danae Says:

    My favorite applesauce combination: Alexander (old Russian apple) and Wealthy (one of the great American apples 🙂 ).
    – avella

  4. Karen Fisher Says:

    We also can our own applesauce, although without benefit of the paring device. My husband literally sits on the couch for hours chopping up apples. He says he doesn’t mind, just watches games on TV and chops stuff! And the sauce is so much better than any tasteless watery commercial sauce. (Seriously, do they even put any apples in it?)
    🙂

  5. Hi Willowcrow,
    Made some awesome apple sauce this year again! These are heirloom apple that were planted by the Irish immigrant settlers here in Potter county Pa. Also known as the “Forbidden Trail” area.

    Made so many jars of apple pie filling last year – so I did not make any of that this year.LOL

    Wondering if there is any uses for wild rose hips? We have so many here. I was going to harvest them but wanted to know if you have any ideas …

    I missed out on the hawthorn berries this year. everyone dropped with all the rainfall and winds.
    Strange weather patterns –
    Annette

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Hi Annette,

      We had the most epic apple harvest here last year, but this year, there is hardly an apple to be seen. I brought some back with me when I was visiting family and made a bit of applesauce, but nothing like I did last year!

      I use rose hips in tea, most often. The tea is very high in vitamin C & A, and also has slight laxitive and diuretic qualities. Quite good when you are feeling a little clogged up! You can also make an oil of rose hips that is good for skin, especially dry skin (the vitamins help). It has a lot of other uses, but I mostly use it medicinally. I have friends who make jelly out of rose hips–quite an interesting and delightful flavor!

      The best hawthorn harvest I ever had was after a big storm; I just picked them up off the ground and gave thanks to the tree by offering it apples. Those hawthorns turned into the BEST medicine :).

      Dana


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s