Don’t sit under that apple tree. Make apple sauce!

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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56 thoughts on “Don’t sit under that apple tree. Make apple sauce!

    • Yes, I admitted it! I’ve done that which I’ve vowed to never do: CAN! And this will be one tasty WInter as a result, with all the jelly, jam, corn relish, and now apple sauce! Speaking of corn relish, was that corn relish I saw in your post for today? I hope you’re planning to post the recipe. It looks like it has tomatoes and I’d love to try it.

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        • Sometimes the taste-testing is the best thing about the canning/pickling process. I thought relish because I came across a few recipes for corn relish with tomatoes. For my tastes, I’d rather have a salsa. Good luck with the tests. I, for one, can’t wait to see the recipe!

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  1. I heard the fan fare!! and I am so thrilled because I have always frozen my apple sauce, I never add sugar, i would not add cinnamon in a million years and i have apple trees.. woo hoo. But I have not put the sauce into jars .. YET! Sometimes in the winter I serve the apple sauce Hot with a pork chop. It is an old dutch thing evidently. You know, that if you add a handful of raw chopped apples to my scone recipe, you will have scones that You and your young friend upstairs will love, they are my fav. c

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    • I’ll enjoy ’em but he won’t. It’s apple sauce or juice or nuttin! And as I just mentioned to David, I, too, love apple sauce with pork, especially pork chops. I’ve got 2 more batches to make. This one was for the Li’l Guy upstairs; the next one is for friends; and the last will be all mine!!!!

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  2. John, you had me captivated from beginning to end! I miss the Fall time so much, the turning colors and cooler crisp breeze. And of course the apples! There’s no picking apples where I live! Those are some lucky little boys living above you! Btw, I knew you’d be canning again soon!!

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    • So, Florida’s Spice Girl is not only a wonderful cook, she’s psychic, too? Well, to be honest, I thought I’d be canning again, too. As inviting as the South’s year-round warm weather is — and as bad as our Winters are — I’d still miss the seasons’ changing if I ever moved. Besides, if I moved away from here, I’d have to get a new screen name and what a mess that would be!

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    • Thanks, Greg. I probably enjoy giving him the apple sauce every bit as much as enjoys receiving it. Their Mom has done a wonderful job raising these 2 boys. And, yeah, that (cue the harp) Roma Sauce Maker came in handy earlier when I made strawberry jam, too. It really is a handy tool.

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  3. I couldn’t agree with you more about fall in Chicago. I LOVE it!!! I do enjoy summer too, but fall has to be my favorite. I just wish it was longer. I’m also a crazy apple baker, sauce maker this time of year. We haven’t hit the apple orchard up yet though. I’m going to have to try your applesauce without the sugar. I usually always add sugar to mine (grandma’s recipe actually), but I’d feel a lot less guilty about eating it all day long if it was sugar-free. And that tool looks fantastic. I think I did hear the harps!

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    • Oh, Kristy. For me, Chicago on a sunny October day just cannot be beat — just don’t think about January or February and you’ll be fine. If you choose the sweet varieties of apples, you really won’t miss the sugar. I actually had a couple friends who didn’t believe me when I told them it was sugar free. Try it. You can always add sugar if it isn’t to your liking — but I bet you won’t 😉

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    • You would love Autumn in Chicago, guaranteed! There are apple trees near Zia’s home but the fruit is too insect/worm infested to be of much good. The deer love them, though, and all Winter they pass within a few feet of her windows, on their way to a dinner of frozen apples. I’ve a feeling that you already have plenty of delicious ideas regarding your parents’ apples. I hope you share some those recipes with us.

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    • I am so with, Mandy! I cannot open a jar without a spoon in my hand. That’s why it’s important that I make it without sugar. I can eat ia all day long, guilt-free. Yippee! And you have a good evening!

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  4. I know what you mean about fall and apples. After living in two different apple picking areas in this country, we were disappointed by what we found in Utah (ok, but not great). We’re looking forward to getting a ton of apples this year and experimenting wth different ideas.

    btw-congrats on the Bears win…impressive.

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    • That’s what’s so great about apples. They are so versatile that you can pretty much cook them any way you want and have a great dish as a result. Thanks, re: da Bearz. As long as the injuries are kept to a minimum, our defense will keep us in contention. If our O-line gives Cutler some protection, we should do all right. Those are 2 really big ifs and I wouldn’t put my money on either of them happening But, what do I know?.

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    • Thank you. Yes, apples are so very versatile and I love every way that they can be prepared. Your Aunt Catherine’s oatmeal cake sounds good. I hope you’ll post the recipe for us.

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  5. We love apple sauce, and I usually just make it fresh as required, one batch at a time. Perhaps this year, I will try to can.
    Years ago, we were in the little Alp town called Appenzel in Switzerland that was well known for the cheese Appenzeller. Our lunch had to be something with Appenzeller cheese, of course. Our friend who lives there strongly suggested we try the mac and cheese (Appenzeller, of course), and they served it with warm apple sauce. OMG, soooooo good. Now, whenever we have mac and cheese, it’s always with apple sauce!

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    • I never would have thought to put apple sauce with mac & cheese. Now that you’ve mentioned it, however, I have enjoyed apple pie with a slice of cheddar. I am going to try this next time I make mac & cheese. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  6. I love your post about the fall and the sweet apples. I want to go get some right now and order a Roma Sauce maker and follow your method.
    Making something so delicious and sharing it is a wonderful feeling for everyone!
    I paid an arm and a leg for a few Honey Crisp apples but it was worth every penny.

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    • Thank you, Ruth. I know what you mean about the price of the Honey Crisps. SInce i use at least 4 varieties in every batch of sauce, I really can’t take advantage of whatever bulk rates that may be possible — unless I want to purchase a minimum of 4 x 1/4 bushels. So, I buy them all by the pound, and I don’t mind one bit. I get to do what I love, and that’s play in the kitchen. I share the “output” with friends and family who just happen to some of the most appreciative people on the face of the planet. Truly a win/win situation.

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    • THank you for your comments, my fellow Apple Lover! They are, for me, the perfect fruit. The trees blossom beautifully in the Spring. The harvest is relatively long, as one variety gives way to the next. And they are versatile, adding their own special goodness to so many great dishes. Yes, I love my apples!

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  7. I love apples too, and would most definitely eat them every way you described. I’m getting so excited just thinking about what I’m going to bake with them this fall. Your homemade apple sauce sounds delicious, and that’s really sweet what you do for the boys living upstairs. I’m sure he’ll be ecstatic come next May!

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    • It’s a great time of year, apples and all! These boys are my “crew.” They help me garden, mow the lawns, we even had a lasagna day where we made a tray of lasagna for their Mom. They’re good kids and if they like what I’m cooking, they are more than welcome to some. Gotta keep ’em fed for the next assignment!

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  8. John, your blog is so informative for anyone who has not made applesauce before. I agree with you…I don’t like to put cinnamon in applesauce because it changes the color so much. Since our apples are never sprayed with any chemicals (even organic ones), I like the color the sauce becomes when a few of the peelings are added to the pot. Even without your wonderful machine, it is not hard to take them out and the sauce has such a lovely rose color.

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    • Thank you, Karen. At its heart, this blog is intended for the younger and future generations of The Clan, most of whom will never have seen or tasted Grandma or Great-Grandma’s cooking, let alone saw it prepared. By going step-by-step, I hope to make these recipes less daunting and thereby increase the odds that they will be prepared. Today apple sauce, tomorrow homemade fettuccine Alfredo!

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      • John, I think the future generations are so lucky to have the recipes from your wonderful family. Many people that are just learning to cook have not grown up in a family of wonderful cooks like yours. We have to make sure that family traditions are carried on…even if it is from someone who is not part of someone’s immediate family. I think you are doing a wonderful job in making sure that traditions and Italian recipes will live on. My hat is off to you for your efforts.

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        • Thank you so much, Karen, for your kind words. I wish Mom were still here to see how well-received her recipes have been. She and her Sister, “Zia,” never thought themselves to be the wonderful cooks that we all admire(d). At least Zia has not only witnessed the blog’s growth but her grandchildren are beginning to follow some of the recipes. I couldn’t be happier.

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  9. Glad we´re all out in the open now re the canning …. bet it´s a relief! I am very jealous as apples here in Andalucia are seriously horrible – huge, flavourless, spongy things. Wish I´d bought some back from the north (just got home and realised we forgot to buy some). Enjoy your lovely autumn weather!

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    • Welcome home, Tanya! Hope you had a great holiday. Yes, it’s all out in the open now. I can. With jars of jelly, jam, preserves, ketchup, apple sauce, and corn relish about, I had no choice but to confess. Sorry to hear of you poor apple selection. It’s hard for me to grasp that apples aren’t available everywhere for cooking. I just take it for granted that everyone has access to them. As I’ve been told, that isn’t the case at all, even here in the US. I had no idea. 😦

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  12. Well.. where was a year ago?! Thank goodness you sent us all back down memory lane to take a peak at another apple recipe! I love that you don’t use sugar whatsoever.. and the mixture of apples is heaven! I’m also patting you on the back (virtual) for reminding me that I really didn’t have to peel my apples at all.. and I have a food mill too.. so that means I didn’t have to buy that apple corer (shhhh don’t tell anyone I could have saved my money and bought something else). Love this post and your “I Can” metaphor!! xx

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    • I just wrote, and lost, my reply to this comment. It was a real beauty, too. Probably worth an award or two.
      Had I not bought the sauce maker, I know I would have bought a corer. If there’s a gadget out there, I’ll find it a home somewhere here, no doubt about it.
      I like leaving the peels on the apples because it colors the sauce. Red delicious give the sauce a red tinge. I much prefer that to cinnamon’s brown.
      I started making my sauce plain when I learned the Boy Upstairs liked it. Using the sweet varieties of apples really does make a difference. As I said, I’ve had friends question me, doubting that the sauce was sugar free. Of course, they don’t get sauce anymore. How dare they question the Bartolini Kitchens! 🙂

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  13. Just discovered your blog and I’m thoroughly enjoying it!

    Agree about no sugar necessary in applesauce. Never thought to freeze some, but I will this year. I like to use Macs and Cortlands … both can be hard to find down here in Louisiana.

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    • Welcome, Cindy. I’m glad you’ve liked what you’ve seen so far. There was a tim when I refused to can anything. Freezing apple sauce was a sure way to preserve it without giving botulism to every who ate my apple sauce. ThE way they ship things these days, I’m surprised about the apples. On the other hand, you can get good gumbo and étouffée. Things have a way of balancing out. 🙂
      Thanks for dropping by, Cindy, and taking the time to leave a comment.

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