The kids had their first day of school today — before Labor Day, which is an unfathomable act of cruelty in my book. Since I don't start until next week, I have a couple days to myself this week. I'm trying to wrap up the projects I didn't get to this summer, but I also needed to get through some piles of vegetables to preserve them. After freezing some extra eggplant and okra, I decided to do something with our early apples:
These are Snow (an heirloom variety on our 4-in-1 tree) and some windfall Galas that are ready early. They are pretty tiny, and some have blemishes (organic growing and all), so I decided just to sauce these up. I only had 1 1/4 pounds of apples, so this is a nice, manageable batch to work with.
First, quarter (or halve, if you have teeny-weeny apples like some of these) apples and remove the stems, and cut out any blemishes if necessary.
Next, put the apples in a saucepan and add just enough water to keep them from sticking (mine aren't covered, but they float just a bit), plus a nice splash of lemon juice:
Bring the apples to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. By then they should be soft enough to smush up into applesauce.
Now, if you have a food mill, use it:
It took me longer to put it the mill together than to it did to process the apples. It's so awesome. If you don't have one, then you can squish the apples through a sieve. I started that way, and it was a giant pain in the ass, so I switched to the food mill. I think if you don't have a food mill, it would be worthwhile to core and peel the apples before cooking them. That should make them go through the sieve more easily (or you could even use a potato masher instead, since you wouldn't have to worry about the seeds and skins). For me and my tiny apples, it was definitely worth it not to core and peel them first, because I got to sauce every usable bit of apple.
Anyway, now you take the apple sauce from the mill and bring it back to a boil, then simmer for 5 more minutes over low heat. At this point I stirred in about a tablespoon of brown sugar (more for depth of flavor than for added sweetness, since these apples are already quite sweet on their own), plus a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.
Because I am using really flavorful, fresh apples, I went really light on the spices and sugar. I want the flavors of the apples to shine through. If you picked up some dumb old Red Delicious apples at the store, you might want to add a lot more.
Once the sauce is ready, fill hot jars and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.
It turns out that a pound of apples yields about a pint of applesauce, so I have a sum total of one jar from today.
Well, one jar plus a little ramekin's worth of extra for my lunch. It's really good, and will be even better in the winter when there's no more fresh fruit to be had!