Late summer means it’s time for one of my favorite traditions: Applesauce Day. For years, the kids and I have spent a day or two each summer making a year’s worth of applesauce with my mother. It’s a family tradition that grows sweeter every year.
This year, the day was extra-special because for the first time, we did not have to buy any apples. Our young trees produced a bumper crop of chemical-free, mostly worm-free apples. We did a batch of Transparent apples and a second batch of Summer Rambos.
Every family seems to have their own favorite apple varieties for saucing, but Transparent is our first choice. These greenish-yellow summer apples make a nice yellow sauce with a tart flavor. They don’t need much, if any, sugar. My grandparents grew this variety on their Iowa farm many years ago.
Applesauce Day in our house looks something like this:
- Start with 2-3 bushels of apples, which is about all we can handle in one day. Wash and quarter them, removing the hairy bits at the bottom of the core and any bad spots.
- Simmer them in Dutch ovens or covered stockpots on the stove with about 2 cups of water to prevent sticking. The apples start to smell amazing as they cook down. Stir occasionally to keep them from sticking.
- When the apples are mushy, run them through a strainer—either my mother’s vintage Victorio or my Roma strainer (purchased at Lehman’s, of course!). The strainer removes the peels and seeds and spews out beautiful steaming sauce. Collect the peelings in a bowl to feed the chickens, or add to your compost pile.
- Add a little honey or sugar to sweeten the sauce if needed. Then put it into containers, making sure to leave some headroom for it to expand when frozen. Once it has cooled to lukewarm, put the lids on and stick it in the freezer. That’s all there is to it!
I prefer to freeze my applesauce because it saves time and I think it tastes fresher. But if you lack freezer space, you may want to can your sauce instead. Basic instructions are below, but if you’re not an experienced canner, it’s a good idea to read the Ball Blue Book first. (Remember to always follow USDA recommendations when canning.)
- Pour the hot sauce into clean, sterilized quart jars and top with sterile lids and rings. Leave ½” headspace at the top.
- Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes, or check this handy chart if you use a pressure canner.
Of course, on Applesauce Day you get to have fresh, warm applesauce for lunch, sprinkled with a little cinnamon. Mmmmm! We’ll continue to enjoy the fruits of our labor—and the memories—all winter long.
Lisa Amstutz is a freelance writer and editor. She lives on a six-acre hobby farm with her husband, four children, and a menagerie of small livestock. Lisa is co-author of Local Choices and author of 40+ nonfiction picture books. Visit her online at www.LisaAmstutz.com.