October 24, 2012

Apple Sauce - 2012

Here is the ingredients list of what I like to put in my apple sauce:  APPLES. That is it. It is my feeling that with the right variety of apple, sourced fresh and in season from a local orchard, apple sauce needs nothing else to be optimally delicious. The other year I happened to taste some commercial apple sauce someone had brought to work, purchased at Whole Foods. It tasted like insipid mush one might find in a paper factory compared to quality homemade sauce.

My favorite apple to use for sauce is a good old MacIntosh. This apple has a number of aspects to recommend it for use in this application.
  • It has a respectable endowment of sweet, tart, and apple flavor
  • It is probably the #1 by volume variety grown around here, so supply is a bit stronger than demand and consequently it is fairly cheap
  •  Macs are in season in September, which is earlier than most of my favorite apples. This means I either need to go picking twice, or buy them from the farmer's market. But in a way that is ok, since it gives me time to make sauce before the most intense part of the fall schedule commences (cider making, halloween, birthday parties for the girls, etc.)
  •  The worst thing about Macs is probably that they have a rather mushy texture, especially after a few days from picking, and thinnish skins. This is however a benefit for sauce making since the Macs cook down quickly and beautifully and run through the food mill easily
This year, I ordered one bushel (~19kg) of Macs from Nicewicz Farm and picked them up from the Union Square farmer's market. I also picked about a liter of cherry sized crabapples off an ornamental tree along the bike path on the way home from work one day.

These have quite a bit of bitterness from tannins and tartness from high acid. Of course they are not really suitable for eating fresh, but I thought they would add to the flavor of the sauce. I can imagine the sauce is slightly more interesting, but its probably my imagination since at ~3% by volume its hard to see them having more than a symbolic impact.

Last year I did three bushels, which made about 50 liters of sauce, and actually we just finished the last jar the weekend I bought the apples for the new sauce. But we have not been eating as much apple sauce lately, and I was feeling rather busy so I went small this year.

First, Violet and Millie helped me give the apples a quick wash in water.

Buster helped out by eating some apples.

Next we cut them up and loaded them into pots. A cup or so of water was added to each pot to help initiate heat transfer, and they were cooked down for 1-2 hours.

I borrowed a fantastic hand cranked food mill called a Squeezo from Jim Serdy, a colleague at work, for the third year in a row. It has a hopper feeding a tapered extrusion screw, which jams the food into a conical screen. Whatever food can exit the pores of the screen does so, and the leftovers plop out the end.

The process using the mill is to cook down the apples complete with skins, seeds, and stems, then run the sauce through the mill to separate the waste material. Previously I had peeled and cored all the apples, then cooked them down into the final sauce. The mill process is faster and easier by far.

The girls enjoyed cranking the mill and feeding the hopper with a big ladle from the pots full of cooked down apples.

After separation with the mill, we cooked the sauce on the stove some more to prepare it for canning. This year I readied my canning jars in the dishwasher rather than boiling them in the canning kettle. I think this saved some time but it wasn't a huge difference. I mostly did the canning myself since there wasn't much the kids could help with. The apples in the background are about to get turned into pie filling...

We are now enjoying this year's sauce!

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