A Saucy Afternoon…

Yesterday I made applesauce with my grandmother. Totally and completely by hand, the way she’s always done it, and her mother before her. Nothing plugged in, nothing humming (except us), nothing wasting electricity or making more dishes dirty (again, except us when we stopped for an ice cream break).

Several weeks ago I commented to Grandma that applesauce was the last thing I wanted to put up for this winter (after tomatoes, peppers, peaches and corn). Sure enough, true to her farm-girl, “get-it-done” nature, she went ahead and purchased a bushel of Macintosh apples for the job.

So, while my daughter took her afternoon nap upstairs in the old farmhouse, we formed a 2-person assembly line: Grandma filled the sink with apples. I cored them and sliced them in half. She cut them into chunks and filled up 2 big pots, placing them on medium heat on her gas stove. (Something I didn’t know but was glad to learn: when you use Macintosh apples in this way, you don’t even have to peel them!) When the chunks of apple were cooked to softness, we transferred them to her 65-year-old food mill (it is JUST like the aluminum one at right), under which we had placed a large mixing bowl. While one of us plunged the applesauce out, the other stirred a couple tablespoons of cinnamon “red hot” candies, a handful of sugar and a generous scoop of the plain applesauce over medium-high heat until the candies were completely melted and the liquid was a bright red color. This sauce was then mixed in with the plain, resulting in a rosy-pink colored, perfectly tart, cinnamon-y applesauce. (She’s been making it this way since my mom was a kid, but this was the first time I actually saw, and helped with, the process.)

Please note: My very kitchen-savvy Grandma cooks by the “toss and look” method – that is, toss in what you know by experience is the right amount, and it will look right (and turn out right). I do this too … sometimes to less-than-appetizing results. When my husband says, “Yeah…you don’t have to bother making that again,” I am fairly sure Grandma’s know-how was NOT passed to me. So I relish the chance to watch her, and hopefully, learn something.

In all, we froze 25 quart jars of sauce – half of which will probably be happily consumed by my daughter. So much the better. Thanks, Grandma.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2007. If you want to make larger quantities of applesauce, take a look at our Roma strainer. It’s big, fast, and all you have to do is turn the crank.

6 thoughts on “A Saucy Afternoon…

  1. You have inspired me. Our apple tree didn’t produce many apples this year because of the heat and irrigation water restrictions BUT I’m going to head off to one of our local orchards – they get more water than we do – and buy a few boxes of apples and get to work. I also do the “look and toss” method. Don’t give up. It takes practice. Remember, your family’s tastes are going to be different than others. Hint: Each time you look and toss, write what you did down (general terms “about a tablespoon” or “rounded tablespoon”) on a piece of paper and, if it turns out bad, chuck the paper. If it turns out good, you have a “recipe”. I now do everything look and toss and rarely come up with a “don’t make THAT again”.

  2. Thanks for the advice (grin). I do need to start writing things down – I mean, Grandma’s been doing it for 60 years or more! I know I have years ahead of me to mess up … I mean LEARN by experience. I do think those red hot candies make for a great applesauce, and then you barely have to add any sugar. Of course, it depends how you like it. Have fun and happy saucing!

  3. I make apple sauce each year and freeze it as well. I don’t even core the apples – just cut up, cook, and put through the mill. My mother taught me to do this. She said that most of the sweetness of the apple is in the core. It works great for me and takes a little less time.

  4. We’ve frozen apple sauce too. Our only problem was power outages, so we stick to canning. I did go and buy apples this morning and have them washed up, ready to “chunk up” for the pot! I have to run errands this afternoon but my hubby, who loves to can, is taking over the process for me. It’s going to smell wonderful when I get back. YUM!!!

  5. That is the way I make applesauce, too, Sarah! We have 4 apple trees – 1 crabapple (Jessica’s favorite climbing tree), 1 yellow apple, 1 green apple and 1 red apple. The yellow apple is soft and sweet – I can make applesauce with only cinnamon and NO sugar! Makes everyone happy and the girls wolf it down. I put it in pint jars so that one jar SHOULD make one meal. The green is the oldest tree (guessing about 100 years old) and didn’t give us much this year but made great Swiss apple pie. The red is very much like Macintosh but sweeter – yummy to eat – we got lots and still have lots on the tree – I am canning quarts of apples (no sugar) for pies, etc.

    Thank you for telling me about your new blog and thank you for putting me on the link.

  6. Thanks and welcome, Connie! Glad to have you. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Connie she is a real live history interpreter – visit her blog!