Have you ever taken longer than expected to finish a project, only for it to turn out better than anything you’ve ever done before?
That’s what happened to me with applesauce a few years ago.
First, let’s talk about the basics. Applesauce is a good gateway to canning because it is fairly easy: apples, water, and sugar, cooked until it reaches the consistency you like. Really, that’s all there is to it.
Then one year the women in my family passed around a new trick: crock pot applesauce. No scorching, no stirring, hassle-free applesauce. Even better.
But what if. . . .
The crock pot sparked an idea: what about the oven? The crock pot method made small batches over many hours-- good for a couple of quarts at a time, but not the bushels I wanted to put up for the year. So one afternoon I piled all the apples I could fit into a big roasting pan, covered it, and let it cook. I didn’t even add sugar.
And it worked!
But by the time the applesauce was finished it was late and I didn’t have the energy to bottle it up and process jars. So, feeling a little less-than-adequate for not finishing what I started, I put the entire roasting pan in the refrigerator to keep safe overnight.
This is where things get interesting.
The next day the roasting pan full of cold applesauce went back into the oven to reheat so I could jar it up. Of course, I got a little distracted and the pan ended up staying in past the “heating up” stage and well into “re-cooking”. But a funny thing happened: it started to smell gooood and the applesauce turned a brownish color (can you say “caramelized sugar?”).
The result: Awesomesauce.
When my husband took a bite, his eyes got wide, and he said “I love you.”
We aren’t sure what cooling then reheating does, but simply baking the applesauce extra-long isn’t quite the same. Cooling must seems to separate the natural sugar from the water, which then caramelizes when cooked a second time.
Awesomesauce makes it way to our kitchen every year now. It’s similar to apple butter, but I don’t add any cloves or sugar to it. And I don’t always make applesauce this way: it takes a while and sometimes I need to just get things done. But sometimes, when you think you’ve failed, maybe you are just letting your ordinary cook into something awesome.
¼ bushel (one peck) apples*
Cinnamon stick (optional)
Equipment you will need:
Large roasting pan with lid
Heat oven to 350°.
Wash and cut apples in half, removing any stems but leaving the core.
Fill the pan so that the lid still fits on.
Vent the lid so that apples will roast rather than steam.
Bake for 2-5 hours, stirring every half hour, until apples are broken down into applesauce.
Remove pan from oven and press apples through a food mill to remove seed and skins.
Return applesauce to roasting pan.
Place in refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, add cinnamon and place back in the oven at 350° for another 2-5 hours, stirring every half hour.
When applesauce turns a dark brown color and smells divine, congratulations. You have Awesomesauce.
*Best varieties for applesauce: Northern Spy, Cortland, Rome, Mutsu (Crispin), Jonagold, McIntosh, Fuji, and many more, but use what you have!
Footnote: This post was inspired by a group that I've been a part of this summer called the Start Experiment. This is for you guys: