One of my most vivid and earliest memories of my childhood was going to an apple orchard when I was in preschool. The thing I really remember is watching all the apples on the bouncy conveyer belt and then the most delicious apple juice I’d ever tasted (turns out the apples also tasted like no other apples I’d ever tasted. Which, I guess, is kind of what happens when you eat it straight off the tree rather than from the other side of the world. Also, not from our kitchen counter, which is where my mom kept our apples because she liked them mealy. As I got older, I made lots of these culinary discoveries that led to a life of food blogging: butter instead of margarine, grilled cheese not made in a microwave, cold cereal that wasn’t plain Shredded Wheat sprinkled with All-Bran.)
That whole experience led to a life-long obsession with apple cider. Not the drinky-drink kind of cider, just the fresh-from-an-orchard-tasting murky brown stuff. I love it. Like, last meal kind of love. And brew it up with spices? It doesn’t get better.
I feel the same way about applesauce that I do about apple juice–I’ll eat it in a pinch, like in the hospital after I have a baby or when I lock myself in the bathroom while hiding from my children. But really, it’s pretty low on my list of snack foods, kind of in the realm of Goldfish crackers and bubblegum-flavored yogurt in a tube. But this apple sauce? I could eat it with for every meal of every day. It’s like a mug of spiced cider, only applesauce. Does it have stuff in it that regular applesauce doesn’t (vanilla…a little brown sugar if you want…a tiny bit of butter, because, you know, butter)? Yes. But that’s what makes it so amazing. And your house will smell so amazing that you may or may not try to imagine ways you could make this every day.
You’re going to need 5 pounds of apples. Stick with apples you would actually want to eat, and mix and match them however you want. Good choices are Braeburns (tart-ish and crisp), Fujis and Honeycrisps (a good balance of sweet and tart) and Golden Delicious (sweet). I made this particular batch with mostly Braeburns because they were on sale, with a few Honeycrisps thrown in for sweetness and I probably would have made it more half and half, at least, because I ended up sweetening it up quite a bit at the end.
Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. This will be painful and feel like punishment if you’re doing it all by hand, but if you have an apple corer peeler, it will be like a carnival. Just kidding, it won’t, but it will be very easy and fast (and absent of clowns, which is a plus.) Place the peeled, cored, thinly sliced apples in a large Crock Pot.
Squeeze the juice of a small lemon over the apples, add about 1/3 cup of water, then sprinkle with cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger, and a little nutmeg.
Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the apples easily fall apart into an applesauce-like consistently. Add a teaspoon each of butter butter and vanilla as well as a pinch of salt and blend with an immersion blender until desired consistency is reached. Add brown sugar or maple syrup to taste (I probably wouldn’t add more than 1/2 cup, but that’s me; a lot of it depends on what type of apples you used. Also, keep in mind that it will taste sweeter when it’s cold, so less is more here.) Serve warm or refrigerate until ready to use (you can refrigerate this up to a week or freeze it for several months.) I also bet you can can it, but I’ve never made quite that much and we go through it so fast that it’s never come to that. This makes about 6 cups of applesauce.
Spiced Cider Apple SauceRecipe inspired by this one from Allrecipes
5 pounds apples (Braeburns, Fujis, Golden Delicious, and Honeycrisps are good options), peeled and thinly sliced1/3 cup waterJuice of 1 small lemon1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon1/2 teaspoon ground cloves1/2 teaspoon ground ginger1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg1 teaspoon butterpinch of kosher salt1 teaspoon vanilla extractBrown sugar or maple syrup to taste (optional, see recipes notes)
Place peeled, sliced apples in a large crockpot. Add lemon juice, water, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the apples easily fall apart into an applesauce-like consistently. Add butter, vanilla, and salt and blend with an immersion blender until desired consistency is reached. Add brown sugar or maple syrup to taste (I probably wouldn’t add more than 1/2 cup, but that’s me; a lot of it depends on what type of apples you used. Also, keep in mind that it will taste sweeter when it’s cold, so less is more here.) Serve warm or refrigerate until ready to use (you can refrigerate this up to a week or freeze it for several months.) Makes about 6 cups of applesauce.