Aaaahhhhh... There's nothing like fall to bring up visions of ripe, delicious, healthy apples. I was lucky enough to score a large amount of freshly-picked apples from my aunt's backyard apple tree - she sent me home with bushels of beautiful fresh apples! I didn't want any of them to go to waste so I sat out to get those apples preserved.
I used an apple peeler/slicer/corer to peel all those crisp apples and found I could peel, core & slice an apple in about 6 to 8 seconds! There are many things you can do with the peels, anything from using them to make your own apple cider vinegar to just composting them. We fed them to our chickens & hogs and they loved them and nothing went to waste.
Cook Apple Slices
Now I packed all those raw apple slices in my large 6-quart slow-cooker and added about 1/2 cup water. The apples will release much of their juice as they're cooking but adding a bit of water right at first will keep the apple slices from scorching in the meantime. Then I turned my slow cooker on low and allowed those apples to cook down. Now as long as you don't allow them to burn I'm not sure you can overcook the apples, you're wanting to cook them until they fall apart. Depending upon your slow cooker they can usually be ready in about 5 to 6 hours, but I allowed my apples to cook overnight.
Now that your apples are fully cooked there's lots of juice that the apples have released. Some people leave the juice in their applesauce and just start blending but I find that by not removing the juice my resulting applesauce is a bit watery, so I opt to strain my apples. But I don't throw that juice away, it's delicious and healthy! I like to strain the juice to remove all the apple solids and then water-bath can the juice to enjoy as spiced apple cider during those cold winter months, heated and stirred with a cinnamon stick.
Blend Into Applesauce
Back to that applesauce, you're now left with apples that are cooked to super-soft perfection. Some like their applesauce pretty smooth, others prefer it chunky and of course it depends upon how you plan to use it. If you'll be using your applesauce to replace the oil when baking you'll want your sauce to be pretty smooth and without additional sweetener. I was after that as well as to use for snacking so I separated my applesauce into two bowls, one blended smooth for oil replacement and one left chunkier for eating enjoyment.
The easiest way to turn those cooked apples into applesauce is to simply use a stick blender and blend them to the applesauce consistency you prefer. My apples were already sweet enough without adding anything else but if you like a sweeter applesauce you can stir in a little sugar at just a tablespoon at a time until you get it to your own sweet perfection. Maybe even stir in a little cinnamon if you like.
Freeze or Can To Preserve
It's easy to section off single-serving portions of your homemade applesauce into freezer-safe containers and pop them in the freezer where they should stay sweet and delicious for several months. If desired you can also water-bath can to preserve your applesauce — it's super easy and quick and your applesauce will be preserved in reusable canning jars for grab-n-go convenience. I placed mine in 1/2-pint canning jars and canned it in a water-bath canner for 20 minutes.
Since there are variables to canning such as altitude and equipment, for your specific circumstances be sure to consult your canner’s manual and also make sure you read and understand the USDA’s recommendations on safe canning and follow their directions closely – food safety is important.
Tammy Taylor lives and works on a Northeast Texas ranch, where she writes about home cooking, gardening, food preservation, and DIY living on her ~Texas Homesteader~ blog. Connect with Tammy on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. Read all of Tammy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.