3 Way Applesauce!

This year marks the first time ever in my life that I've undertaken the process of making applesauce. I love applesauce in many forms and applications and I've been a slave to expensive commercially jarred organic sauce for too long! When the first wave of this season's apples showed up, they were delicious Fuji apples but they had some spots on the skins and weren't too appetizing for out-of-hand eating. Plus, there were just so damn many of them!

I investigated several traditional methods of making applesauce. As far as canning applesauce, I'm particularly fond of the process on PickYourOwn.org, because the methods they describe seem to take all the best and none of the worst from other instructions I've read. However, that method does require a large sieve or food mill of some kind and I don't have one. Yet. Lucky for me, the same site offers an alternate method that doesn't require any "special" equipment and looks quite easy.

So, why am I not talking much about my actual applesauce-making experience? Well, friends, it's because I didn't use either of the methods I linked you to above. I just wanted you to be aware that they exist, in case you decide to set off on your own saucy adventure. But now that I've done that, I can get down to the real nitty-gritty and tell you what really happened.

I copped out!

We recently acquired a second-hand slow cooker, with intent to prepare well-planned meals in advance for dinner and leftover lunches. We've done some of that, and we'll do some more, but in the meanwhile, I've been using our slow cooker to do all the tedious work of making applesauce.

Ok, maybe not ALL of the work. I'm still responsible for peeling, coring and chopping up the apples and dumping them into the slow cooker. But from there, man, that little machine takes over and my applesauce is worry-free!

I found the basic instructions for slow cooker applesauce on Erin's Food Files and I developed 3 different recipes that you just HAVE to try. Really!

Here's the method I used for all 3 batches:

Peel, core and chop/crumble apples. Toss with lemon juice (see recipes) and add herbs and spices. Cover and set slow cooker on "low" for 6-7 hours (or overnight). Remove citrus peels and drain off liquid for later use. Mash/food process. Jar. Eat. Freeze. Can. Love!

THE CLASSIC
This is a no-fuss applesauce that really allows the flavors of your apples to shine. This recipe would be great to use as a baking substitute or for snacking anytime.

10-12 Fuji, Jazz, Honeycrisp or other similar red/sweet/crisp apple variety, peeled, cored and chopped/crumbled
1 Granny Smith apple
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 large pieces of orange peel

Place apples in slow cooker with lemon juice and toss to coat. Add all other ingredients and give it another toss to combine. Cook and store according to the instructions above.

SPICY APPLESAUCE
This batch has a nice kick to it, and I'm willing to bet it would be FANTASTIC as a topping for chocolate cake. I also like to put this one in my oatmeal.

12 apples (see previous recipe for note on variety), peeled, cored and chopped
2 Tbsp lemon juice or fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Fresh ground black pepper
2 large pieces of orange peel

Toss apples with juice, then stir in rest of ingredients. Cook and store according to the instructions above.

MORE THAN APPLESAUCE
Technically, this is closer to compote than applesauce. But who needs to get technical, anyway? This one's great on waffles, with soy yogurt or as a pastry filling.

12 apples (see above)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 large pieces of orange peel

Toss apples with lemon juice and stir in other ingredients. Cook and store according to the original instructions!

So, there you have it, folks. Applesauce 3 ways, applesauce for all occasions! Don't be afraid to experiment with your sauces, and keep in mind this little tip:

If you don't want one huge batch of a flavored or spiced applesauce, just start off by making The Classic. After 5 hours of slow cooking, transfer 1/2 or 1/4 of your apples to a large saucepan and add the corresponding amount of spices (cut by half or down to 1/4) to the saucepan. Simmer on low for an hour, covered, and then continue as you would normally with the draining and jarring!

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