I grew up eating borderline-obscene amounts of applesauce. This was mostly because both my mom and my grandma made it every fall, and each had their own personal touch — which meant double the apple sauce eating for me!
My grandma's applesauce was light in color, much more like the interior of the apple than we're used to seeing with store-bought stuff. Her applesauce tasted tart, crisp and fresh. I always think of it as refreshing, but that might be because I'd so often find little bits of ice on my spoon. Grandma didn't always fully defrost before serving.
My mom's applesauce was the total opposite: warm, comforting, fragrantly spiced and almost the color of caramel. We would eat it so quickly — directly from the pot — that it never even had a chance to cool down.
Mixing and matching
I could never pick just one as my favorite, so I wanted to create an applesauce recipe that teeters in between those two.
I like my sauce lightly spiced (more like grandma) but seasoned enough that it deepens in color (like mom). The big secret here is Gravenstein apples. I'll do whatever it takes to get my hands on a box when they become available. Put simply, they just make the best sauce — so tart and full of flavor. Grandmas everywhere will approve.
From there, I add a bit of apple cider to the bottom of the pan to get the juices flowing, and to layer in another note of flavor.
I also throw in some nutmeg and a vanilla bean pod. The vanilla bean isn't essential, but I usually have them lying around anyway after I've used the seeds inside. There's still plenty of flavor in the pod itself, so I simmer the apples with a pod or two and end up with a lightly vanilla-scented sauce.
As for texture, I like to keep my sauce on the chunky side — that's my mom's influence. If you like yours perfectly smooth, like grandma does, you'll need to use a food mill or food processor.
Simple applesauce recipe
- 6 pounds Gravenstein apples (or other tart variety, about 8-12 large) peeled, cored and quartered
- ½ cup apple cider
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch nutmeg
- Pinch salt
- Vanilla bean pod (optional)
Add the apples to a large pot, along with the apple cider, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla bean.
Cover the pot and let it simmer over low heat until the apples are tender. Give them a quick stir every now and again so they don't stick to the bottom. Cooking times will vary a lot here depending on the type of apple you use, and even the weather. Don't rush it!
For a chunky sauce, just work your applesauce a bit with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon. For a smooth sauce, use a food mill, immersion blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth.
Applesauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week if it's covered well.