November has settled into the Northeast. She turned her nose towards the air, sniffed, turned around three times on a pillow of auburn leaves, and flumfed down for a nap. The morning skies are now a bright, crisp blue, but by 4pm the layers peel away to reveal a biting cold indigo. We spent a perfect Sunday visiting friends in Connecticut, complete with a trip to an Apple Orchard to glean their last-of-season fruit for $1/pound. Averill Farm in New Preston, CT has been family owned for 200 years, and is pastorally perched on top of a hill, overlooking acres of trees and countryside.
We pulled a red flyer wagon behind us, and topped up half-bushel bags with technicolor apples. They all have inspired and ridiculous names, like Ida Red, Mutsu, and Rhode Island Greenings. After weighing in, we bought 3-year aged cheddar and a bottle of decent, non-sparkling hard cider, and admired the handsome baskets hanging from rafters in the farm shoppe. Then, after a sleepy afternoon nosing through Kent’s bookstore and antique shops, we carted our loot back to Brooklyn.
Waking up to 20 lbs of apples might seem a little intimidating, but the pleasures (and ease) of homemade apple sauce are unparalleled. Glop it onto morning oatmeal, spoon over savory pork or sweet potatoes, mix into batter to replace a portion of butter or oil, or give extra jars away to become a popular person. This recipe turns those pounds of apples into sauce overnight in the slow-cooker or the stovetop in less than 30 minutes.
– lots of apples (I used about 18, but as many as your pot can fit)
-1/4 cup lemon juice
– 1/2 cup packed brown sugar or honey
– 3 cinnamon sticks
– 10 cloves
-1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
– 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced thick
– Lemon Water: Fill your cooking vessel with lemon water: about 1.5 cups of water with 1/4 cup lemon juice to prevent browning as you work.
-Peelin’ time: If you have one of these fancy Apple Master Tool, amazing, otherwise, the peeling shouldn’t be too laborious with a regular peeler. Peel, core and cut into segments, and put into the lemon water right away. I use this great tool for coring and dividing apples much more than I anticipated. Hint: don’t peel the red ones– they add a beautiful deep color to the sauce and extra fiber.
-Spice it up: Toss in 3 cinnamon sticks, your sweetener (this is to taste, I don’t like my applesauce overly sugary so I go light), cloves, vanilla bean and ginger.
-Cook. Turn on the heat to medium-low, and let simmer with the lid loosely on until the apples are very soft but still have a little substance (about 25-30 minutes.) Or, if using a slow-cooker, put on low for 6-8 hours.
-De-Spice: Remove from heat, and discard any hard spices: cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla bean (push out any black seeds from the inside and discard pod.)
-Blend: Using a potato masher and/or immersion blender (I did both so as not to add too much air), and blend until desired texture. Let cool, and store in the fridge for up to two weeks
or the freezer in portion sizes for a long while.