I grew up eating homemade applesauce. My mother made it every week as part of her insistence on healthy eating. Back then, in early Mad Men days, when Madison Avenue cast eating natural whole foods as weird, the only applesauce you could buy was watery, sugared stuff. My mother devotedly followed Adele Davis, an early proponent of healthy eating, so store bought applesauce would not do.
Being counter-culture before it was chic or smart had its advantages: Mom’s homemade applesauce tasted far better than commercial brands. Still, my love for it says a lot, since every week my job was to clean up the burnt-on juice and sticky spatter that decorated the stove, the wall behind it, and even the floor around the stove.
No matter how big the pot my mother used, cooking the cored, chunked apples made a mess. Covered, the pot erupted with sputtering foam as it came to a boil. For mom, this merely reminded her to take off the cover and lower the heat. Now the spattering began. Stirring calmed it down, but was not worth the stinging burns suffered from the steam and spitting as the apples reduced down to a succulent and pulpy sauce.
Resolved to make applesauce without the mess, I tried using a mesh spatter screen, or wearing long sleeves and a silicon mitt so I could stand and stir the sputtering pot. Finally, the answer appeared in an issue of Eating Well magazine – baked applesauce.
Now, I heat the oven, heap at least three kinds of apples into a heavy, wide Dutch oven, set on the cover and slide the pot into the oven. In just over an hour, I have applesauce as delicious as mom’s, with zero mess.
Baked Apple Sauce
- 4 lbs. (about 10 medium) assorted apples, such as McCoun, MacIntosh, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Jonagold or HoneyCrisp, peeled, cored, and quartered
- 1/3 cup fresh apple cider
- 4 lemon slices, paper-thin, or 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 (3-inch) piece stick cinnamon, or 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, optional
- 2 Tbsp. sugar, agave syrup, or honey, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place apples, cider and lemon slices or juice in large Dutch oven or heavy casserole with a cover. Toss apples to coat them with lemon. If using, sprinkle on cinnamon and sweetener and toss again.
Bake apples, covered, for 60 to 75 minutes, until very soft and moist. Stir to combine soft apples and liquid into applesauce. If it is too wet, bake applesauce, uncovered, for 15 minutes longer. Cool to room temperature before serving; applesauce thickens as it cools. The applesauce keeps, covered in refrigerator, for up to 5 days.
Makes 12, 1/2 cup servings.
Per serving: 99 calories, <1 g fat (0 g sat fat), 26 g carbohydrates, <1 g protein, 4g fiber, 2 mg sodium.
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.