I love this time of the year. Here in Chicago, Winter’s relentless, Spring’s nonexistent, Summer’s hot & humid, but Fall, beautiful, wonderful Fall is our reward for putting up with the rest of the year’s weather. The days are warm, the nights cool, the lakefront a thing of beauty and the Park, which borders the Lake for pretty much the full breadth of the City, gradually transforms from lush green to a multi-colored patchwork. As nice as that all sounds and is, truthfully, there’s but one thing missing and, surprisingly, it has little to do with my adoptive home but everything to do with the time of year. It’s apples. I love apples. Cook ’em, bake ’em, turn ’em into sauce. Give me a pie, a tart, a crisp, a cobbler. How about a muffin? A piece of cake? A slice of bread? A stack of flapjacks? Or, if all else fails, just give one to me raw. Believe me, you cannot go wrong offering me apples in any way, shape, or form.
So, for years, when Fall rolled around, I set about making pies and cobblers, with an occasional loaf of bread or a baked apple thrown in for good measure. This all changed 2 Summers ago when I bought my Roma Sauce Maker. (Do you hear a harp? I always hear a harp when I mention that strainer.) I bought it to process my tomatoes before freezing but I quickly learned that it was good for making apple sauce. Well, that was a game changer around this place.
In prior posts, I’ve mentioned the two boys that live above me with their Mom. The oldest, like most kids, loves sweets of any kind. The youngest is his polar opposite and doesn’t like sweets. Period. This poses a problem for me. I’d love to bring them ice cream, cookies, or whatever it is I’m making in the kitchen but I shy away from it because I don’t want the little guy to feel left out. That, however, was before my Roma Sauce Maker came home. (C’mon! You had to have heard that!) The Li’l Guy, you see, loves apple sauce. So, this time of year, he gets all the apple sauce he wants. That was, until very recently. Now, I CAN, which means the apple sauce I make today can, and will, be given to him next May when I give his brother some cookies, or, in July when I make ice cream for the house. And, best of all, he can still have plenty of apple sauce now, too! There really is an upside to this canning business. Who knew!
Now, as for the sauce, I am by no means an expert but I have had some pretty good luck with it. To begin, I never use anything but apples, a few ounces of organic apple juice, and a pinch of salt. That’s it, no sugar whatsoever and, for that matter, no cinnamon either. I use about 4 kinds of apples, all sweet, for every batch of sauce. This week, as shown, I used Molly Delicious, McIntosh, Honey Crisp, and Regal Gala. Because they’re so small, I selected 7 Galas and 6 of each of the other varieties; their total weight being 10 and a half pounds (4.8 kg). Although there’s no need to core or peel the apples when you use a strainer or food mill, you still need to cut up the apples. So, I used my corer/slicer and, in about 10 minutes, had all of these in the pot and ready to go. Since I don’t add sugar or cinnamon to my apple sauce, there really isn’t a recipe to share. Instead, I’ll give you the steps that I follow and, as you’ll soon find out, making apple sauce isn’t at all difficult.
First off, select apples known for their sweetness — i.e., Gala, Honey Crisp, McIntosh, Pink Lady, Fuji, Delicious, Macoun, and Golden Delicious, to name a few. Begin by washing all the fruit and, if you have a strainer or food mill, cut the apples into equal-sized slices or chunks. If no strainer, peel and core the apples before chopping the apples. Place the apple pieces into a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add 4 to 6 oz apple juice and simmer, stirring frequently. You want the apple slices to be soft when finished. This could take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending upon your stove, the pot, the amount of apples, and whether you’ve offended the gods that morning. Once soft, pass the apples through your food strainer or food mill, separating the peel, core, and seeds from the pulp. If you haven’t a strainer or food mill, once the apples are soft enough, you can mash them with a potato masher or force the pulp through a sieve. No matter which method you use, place the resultant pulp into a sauce pan. This is when I season it with a pinch of salt. You may wish to add sugar or cinnamon, to taste. If you’ve chosen your apples carefully, however, I think you’ll be surprised to learn just how sweet it is — and how totally unnecessary the sugar is. At this point, you can place it in your fridge where it will last about a week; cool it and freeze it; or can it.
If you chose to can it, according to the Pick Your Own website, you will need to re-heat the sauce; use clean, sterile jars that are still hot; use sterile tops and lids; and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes if using pint containers or 20 minutes if using quarts. Once removed from the boiling bath, place on a towel-covered baking sheet and place in a spot away from drafts where they will remain undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours.
My 10 and a half pounds of apples resulted in 6 pints of apple sauce. I canned 3 pints and froze the remainder in 6 single cup-sized containers. He doesn’t know it yet but there’s going to be one happy little boy living above me.
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OK. One last time. Roma Sauce Maker! All right, this time I agree with you. I couldn’t hear the harp because the fanfare was blaring. You did hear the fanfare, right? Right?
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