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.