Applesauce Chemistry

Homemade Applesauce

I love homemade applesauce – it’s one of those simple things that most people miss out on because it’s so easy to just buy, but the flavor of homemade is completely different from anything you’ll find in a jar at a store.

Using this  family recipe, you’ll find the secrets to the perfect texture, color, and flavor are in 4 simple ingredients (one is water) and one choice about timing.

Timing is where the chemistry comes in – my mother is not one to follow recipes, and I was always frustrated that mine didn’t come out as well as hers. How could a recipe this simple always come out two completely different ways? After playing around with it a few times, I realized it all comes down to when you add the sugar.

So now I can offer an all-purpose recipe that can be adjusted easily to match what you like.  It’s like peanut butter: which do you prefer, chunky or smooth? You can use the exact same ingredients but get completely different results.

Homemade Applesauce

But before we get to the sugar, the most important ingredient is of course the apples. Applesauce is a great way to use apples that are a bit bruised or faded or in some other way less appetizing for eating fresh. But that doesn’t mean any old apple will do. If you start with something bland and mealy, you won’t end up with anything amazing. Actually, the mealy doesn’t matter – but the bland does.

I prefer applesauce made with Jonathan or Macintosh apples – they’re pretty widely available most times of the year (so fairly cheap) but they have a tart sweetness that comes through beautifully in the final product. And if you cook it the way my mom does, the red of the skins gets infused in the final product, resulting in a lovely 100% natural rosy color.

The recipe I’ve been using for applesauce most of my life comes from a cookbook my grandmother gave me as a child – she was delighted to find it because it’s actually a facsimile reprint of one she had growing up. It calls for granny smith apples, which don’t give the color but do give the tartness. The key feature of this recipe is the use of whole cloves – not the typical apples & cinnamon most people would expect:

applesauce recipe

For completely soft applesauce, you would peel the apples (no rosy color that way, though) and cook them without adding sugar. I like it more like stewed apples and like the color, so I put in the sugar and leave the peels on.

If you want to be scientific about it, here’s a scalable version: For every apple, add 4 tsp. water, 1-2 cloves, and 1-2 Tbsp. sugar

Or, if you’re like my mom, you cut up the apples, put 1-2 inches of water in the bottom of the pan and toss in some cloves. Then, when it’s soft, you stir until the apples dissolve, pulling out the skins as you go (she usually eats them standing there, since she can’t stand wasting things). Then stir in sugar to taste.

View a slideshow of the pictures here:

Cheap Apples Chopped & Cored
Homemade Applesauce Homemade Applesauce
Sugared Apples Boiling Applesauce
Homemade Applesauce Homemade Applesauce
Chunky Applesauce Smooth Applesauce
Homemade Applesauce Homemade Applesauce

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