Good stuff, hot or cold; not just for the toothless among us. In much of North America a probably-infinite variety of apples grow abundantly in the wild, and seem to me to be one of Nature’s intended main carbohydrates for a wide variety of mammals throughout the winter. It is said that they are not native to North America, but they have certainly made themselves at home without crowding out natives. The following prep notes are with wild in mind. If you have no access to wild apples, be sure to acquire either certified organic or unwaxed apples straight from the tree at the orchard because here we retain the skins. Modern cultivated apples tend to be more watery and sweet and often need to be cooked down more than advised here.
PREP TIME: not fast, and depends on how much you do. Filling a 16 qt pot with cut apples takes about an hour and will yield very roughly 6 quarts of sauce after a 2-3 hours of slow cooking
Wash if needed, but don’t peel the apples. Much of the flavor of apples is in the skin, as well as the nutrients. Surface spots are not really a concern. What needs to be cut away are brown and weird areas inside. Occasionally wild apples will be blemish free, but more often than not they will have parts that need to be trimmed off. Rather than waste a lot of time cutting pieces off the surface first, do this: Core the apples quickly by cutting from top to bottom around the core into five pieces. Standing and using a full size chef’s knife, rather than sitting with a paring knife, will really speed things up. You will have crescents of apple with skin along the back/curved side. Now you can quickly inspect the crescent pieces and hack off any undesirable parts.
The core will have been left standing with perhaps a bit too much good flesh protruding at the five corners. How much time and how many apples you have will determine whether salvaging those bits is worth it. Working on an average size portable cutting board, you can process 4 or 5 apples in a minute, and then transfer the boardful into a pot with 1/2“ of water on the bottom. Begin heating on medium-low, covered, while continuing to cut and add. Stir well after each addition. It will easily stick and scorch if heat is too high or they’re not stirred enough.
When all apples are in, heated, and fairly well broken down, puree in a blender or processor in batches at high speed. (An immersion blender won’t adequately process the skins.) A second pot or bowl will be needed to receive the puree. You may want to leave some apples chunky, for a more lively sauce reminiscent of pie filling.
After tasting a cooled spoon of the sauce, add spices into the blender/processor with the apples, if desired. Wild apples vary in flavor so much. So far this year I’ve sourced from a single incredibly abundant tree and made 79 quarts, with another batch left to do tomorrow. These apples are very lemony and don’t work at all with cinnamon. (Yes, 79+ quarts is an overwhelming quantity, but since the wild trees generally set a good crop only every other year, I won’t do any next year. I also have a 14 quart canning pot, which is a game changer.)
Put sauce back on medium low heat and bring to a boil, stirring almost constantly to prevent sticking. Proceed to can per standard guidelines in a boiling water bath. Pressure canning isn’t good for applesauce.
Laurie Goodhart and her husband co-founded and operated two certified organic artisanal goat fromageries, Nettle Meadow in Warrensburg, NY from 1990 to 2005 and Domaine De Courval in Waterville, Quebec from 2006 to 2017. She created and trademarked the multiple award-winning cheese, Kunik. For more about her how her life experience brought her to develop time-saving ways to eat as much nutrient-dense food from her local environment as possible, see this previous post
Goodhart lives in upstate NY and continues her work as a professional artist and avid home gardener. Since 2007 she has devoted most of her studio time to an extensive body of work collected under the concept, Remnants And Residents Of A Lost Sanctuary Of Aphrodite.
Laurie can be reached through her website, lauriegoodhart.net