Last month, I bought a big bushel of beautiful Honeycrisp apples. They were snappy, crisp, and sweet (with just the right amount of tartness). The apples pictured here are the ugly ducklings of the apple family. With the beautiful Honeycrisp apples, I made several quarts of apple pie filling and, by the time I was done, ran out of enough to make applesauce. I was a little bummed, but not enough to go and buy another box of them.
Then, this past week, as I was at my parents' house (remember the quarantine of my husband?), we were raking leaves and I noticed that one of the next-door neighbors' apple trees was still laden with fruit. I pointed this out to my mom and she commented, "Oh yeah. She said that she was done with all her canning and wasn't going to be able to use the rest. She said that I could pick any if I wanted." Well, of course, I jumped at the idea. The neighbor wasn't going to use them, Mom wasn't going to use them. What a waste! So I got a box and went to pick.
Mom warned me that the neighbors hadn't sprayed them and that they might have tiny little worm holes or bruises. Sure enough, most of the apples did. Some were eaten completely through. Others were barely touched, with only a little round circle on the skin, as if the bug just took a nibble and moved on. So I selectively picked. In The Tightwad Gazette, the author mentions a concept called "selective squeamishness", where you move past the initial 'ick!' reaction and realize that it's not so bad after all. Like black bananas.
After I picked the apples, I went inside and cut on the opposite side of the bug bite. Sure enough, the untouched half was perfectly fine. My parents' neighbor does the same thing with these apples - she uses them almost exclusively for applesauce. Like I said, move past the initial 'ick' and you realize that they're really okay. To me, these apples are a little dinged and bitten, but since they're not sprayed, technically, they're organically grown. Organic apples are expensive; I got mine for free.
Okay, so onto the process...
There are various mills and sieves which you can use to make applesauce. I've used the kind where push it by hand through a sieve and it took F O R E V E R. Applesauce is great and all, but hours of pushing soft apples through a sieve is hardly worth it. I suggest getting one like mine. It does cost more than the other kinds, but it pays for itself after a couple of seasons (depending on how you make, of course). Plus, you can use this food mill for other things, like tomato sauce and baby food.
So, if you have a handy-dandy food mill like I do, there's really not too much work. You don't even need to peel the apples. Simply quarter them (cutting around the questionable parts, of course) and put them in a pot of hot water to simmer. Cook the apples for a while - make sure they're really tender before you try to put them through the mill. I tried to run it through the mill too soon and it just made my arm tired. They need to be really soft.
Load the hot apples into the top of the mill. Don't force them down, just guide them.
Turn the crank and the apples feed through a strainer/screen, giving you the applesauce consistency. I don't have any idea how it does it, but somehow it magically separates the fruit's flesh from the skin and sends the unwanted stuff out the side (see that clear plastic thing on the far left). One note: once you've put all your apples through the mill, run the 'unwanted' stuff through the mill again. You'll be surprised how much more you'll get.
Once you've run it through the mill, put it back into a pot and heat over the stove until it boils. With applesauce, there's no specific recipe. You can simply add sugar to taste (or exclude it completely like I do) and season it with cinnamon. I always put a lot of cinnamon in mine. Once it is boiling, ladle the applesauce into hot jars. Adjust lids and bands. Process in water-bath or steam canner for 20 minutes (adjust your time according to your altitude - I had to add an additional 10 minutes to my processing time).
And there you have it! These apples would have just ended up on the ground, in the compost, or in the garbage and gone to waste. Instead, I got a delicious batch of organic applesauce (I tried it - yummy!). And you just can't beat the price...