Last Autumn 2015, my son Liam mentioned that he’d like to make some applesauce like he remembered I’d made in his childhood. Liam’s son Calvin was a year old then and Liam and his wife Elisabeth were being very cautious to avoid additives, preservatives and unnecessary anything in his food. Liam knew I made applesauce, the way my Great Grandmother Block taught me, with just apples and a little bit of water.
And anything worth doing like this, is worth doing not only well, but in a big batch. Liam also wanted to learn how to preserve food in jars so this was a great opportunity. I picked up a bushel and a half of Cortland and Mackintosh apples from a local orchard.
On the agreed upon day, Liam arrived and we assembled all our supplies; large kettles, canning jars, lids, new seals, sharp knives, food mill… There was a nip in the air and it was nice to be inside, passing down and creating new traditions. We are fortunate to live in a part of New England that has many orchards, several with heirloom varieties of apples, peaches and pears.
We scrubbed all the jars and dunked each into boiling water, then flipped them onto a sterilized metal rack to drip dry. We dunked all the lids and rings too, plus any spoons, canning funnels etc. we’d need. Then we washed all the apples and spread them out on towels on the table to dry. They covered the entire harvest table top!
We put a large kettle on to boil with about 3 inches of water in it.
Then we proceeded to chop up apples and fill other large kettles with them. Note, we did not core, seed or peel them, just cut off and tossed any bruised areas, otherwise, the entire apple went in, in pieces. The kitchen grew steamy and smelled apple sweet. A nice way to spend a few chilly autumn day hours, with colorful leaves spiraling downward outside the window and Calvin spending quality time with his Grand-Pat in the other room.
As each kettle filled, we added a couple of inches of water and a lid and cooked the apples to mush. Then we put everything into the hand cranked food mill and sieved out all the skins, cores and seeds. The resulting applesauce was a rosy pink, taking not only the color from the skins but also the nutrition, flavor and sweetness from all the extra parts. The resulting sauce is not only sweet but has a mildly spicy flavor reminiscent of cinnamon.
We brought the sauce back to a boil and then rapidly filled jars, cleaning the tops with a clean towel and applying the seals and rings. We filled the hot water bath canner that was waiting with boiling water and boiled them for 20 minutes. We split the results. Liam went home with 16 pints. Not bad for about 4 hours work!
Between us, we had enough healthy applesauce to keep Calvin satisfied all winter, spring and summer! Thank you Liam for caring enough about your son’s food source to take matters into your own hands and Thank you for learning an old-time craft!
2016 Update: It was so much fun, we repeated the whole process again this fall! This is how traditions start and continue !