Have lots of apples that are just rotting on the ground? Need a quick way to use them up? Learn how to make homemade applesauce that’s easy and quick!
Luckily with apples there are many ways to preserve them. What method you use will depend on the apple and its characteristics.
We have a huge tree that produces bucket-loads of juicy, soft transparent apples. These apples break down readily into a mush and so are not ideal for baking a pie or baking an apple crisp. They also don’t dehydrate well as they just have too much moisture.
But they are excellent for making your own homemade applesauce and that’s what we make with them every summer.
This tree also tends to drop it’s fruit, so the apples always have a few slight blemishes and bruises.
Even if you don’t have your own apples, you can get a box from a neighbour, or a local orchard or check with your grocery store what they do with their blemished apples that they can’t sell.
Homemade applesauce is so easy to make and takes very little time to produce something that is high quality, healthy and fresh.
Beats the stuff in jars you can buy a the grocery store, that is often overly sweet and sometimes filled with preservatives.
So let’s get to it and look at the steps needed.
What do you need to make homemade applesauce?
Here is a list of supplies with links to Amazon if you need to do some shopping first:
- A bucketful of cooking apples. You can make applesauce with crispier apples, but will need to cook it longer.
- A vegetable/fruit peeler
- A cutting board and sharp chef’s knife
- An apple/fruit corer
- A paring knife (optional)
- A sink or large bowl full of fresh cold water
- A lemon or ascorbic acid powder (optional)
- A large cooking pot such as a Maslin pan with a thick bottom
- A wooden or silicon heatproof spoon
- Potato masher
- Immersion blender (optional)
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup or so of maple syrup or other sweetener (quantity depends on sweetness of apples)
- splatter screen
- yoghurt or other containers for freezer
- freezer labels or a permanent marker
Preparing the “bath” for the apples
Either fill your sink with cold, fresh water or a large bowl or bucket.
Note: I took this photo after I had already put some slices in.
If you prefer having very pale applesauce, you can add the juice of a lemon or a teaspoon or so of ascorbic acid to keep the slices from browning/oxidizing. I don’t bother as I don’t mind having brown applesauce. And just putting the slices in plain water will help keep them from browning as much as if you just kept them in a bowl on your counter.
Peeling the apples
So we’ve got a bucket full of apples. Now what?
First step is to peel them. Some people do keep the peels on but if you want a smooth, easy to eat applesauce that just melts in your mouth, peeling is the way to go. You can then also give it to infants without fear of choking on apple peels.
I don’t bother washing the apples first if I’m peeling them. They’ll get a wash later.
Use a good quality peeler to peel the apples. I find that if I peel the top and bottom first and then do the sides, it goes much quicker.
I usually peel in a few batches. If you have someone helping you, one person can peel and the other can slice and core as described in the next section.
Don’t worry too much about blemishes – in fact you don’t have to peel those spots as these will be cut out.
How to core an apple fast
In the past I always quartered the apples and then with a paring knife tried to cut out the core. This was time consuming and I felt wasted quite a bit of the apple.
I’ve now changed to a much faster method.
First cut the apple into 2 or three slices depending on the size of the apple. Here is a bigger one that I cut into 3 slices.
Notice the star-shaped core. Some apples do have a less compact core, so these tend to be harder to core if you leave the apple whole or quarter the apple and then try to remove the core from the pieces.
Now use a simple apple corer to cut out the core. You’ll notice that because of the star-shaped core, I’m not getting all of it in one shot.
Then all you have to do is reposition the corer and cut a bit more off the parts that still have bits of the core.
Why don’t I simple core the apple whole with the corer? I found that because some of my apples are a bit misshapen, I didn’t always get the corer going all the way through the apple exactly on centre. And then I still was faced with getting all of the core out because of the star-shape.
Cleaning up the apple slices
Once cored, check for any leftover peel on the end slices. You might have to touch those up with the peeler.
What do you do with any blemishes? You can cut those off easily or even cut out whole segments of the apple slice if needed. I use a paring knife (yes, I know cutting towards my finger is not safe, but I’ve never cut into my finger with a paring knife). Or cut those out with a regular knife while the slice is sitting flat on your cutting board.
Washing the apple slices
As you clean up the slices, toss them immediately into your sink, bowl or bucket. This will help wash off any seeds or bits of core or peel. It’ll also help keep the slices from browning even if you didn’t add any lemon juice or ascorbic acid to the water.
Keep repeating the steps above until you’ve done all the apples. I usually listen to some music or podcasts. Or have a nice chat with your helper if you are lucky enough to have help.
Typically for a bucket of apples like I showed at the beginning of this article, it may take an hour or so to prep the apple slices.
So now you have a sink full of apple slices, not applesauce yet.
How to turn your apples into applesauce
At this point you could actually make apple pancakes with the apple rings or cut them up more and make pie filling. Or use in an apple crisp or apples muffins or even dehydrate them. Lots of options!
But we’re here to make applesauce so that’s what we’ll use these for.
Let’s start cooking!
Get out your big pot and place it on an appropriate-size burner on your stove. Don’t turn on the burner yet, though.
Give the apple slices a quick stir in the water and then let them drain slightly in your hands before throwing them into the pot. Don’t worry about a little bit of water going into the pot – the apple slices don’t have to be completely dry.
Yes, I know, my pot got a bit full! But these slices will cook down quickly. You can if you want cut the slices smaller so that they fit better in your pot and they will also break down quicker. But that does take some extra time that I don’t bother with myself.
Turn on the burner and this is where you can’t go anywhere! I once burned a whole pot of applesauce and had to throw it out as it tasted like burnt apples, not yummy at all!
Once you hear the apples starting to release some juice and that starts to bubble at the bottom of the pot, reduce the heat to medium and start to carefully lift up the apples at the bottom of the pot to the top or at least middle. This will keep them from burning.
If you want to see a video of how this is done without making a mess, I took a video when I made grape jelly.
This same method you can apply to the apples.
Keep stirring until the apples are starting to break down more. With the transparent apples, I find it only takes maybe 10-15 minutes.
Mashing the apples
With the transparent apples, you could cut them smaller or wait until they breakdown by themselves but it is quicker to give them a helping hand.
I also find some of the apples might still be a bit green and don’t break down naturally when cooked.
So I get out my potato masher and start mashing.
You’ll keep mashing even as the applesauce cooks down, so keep the potato masher on hand throughout the whole cooking process.
Safety Note! Once the applesauce turns into more of a liquid, reduce the heat and remember to keep stirring. However be really careful! The pot of applesauce tends to turn into a bubbling, dangerous “magma” that can easily burn you.
So keep a splatter screen on hand to pop on top. I also use a heatproof kitchen mitt on my stirring hand as I stir and mash the applesauce. I’ve received burns on my hand in the past, so you need to be careful! Keep small children away as well as you’re cooking the applesauce.
And remember to stir! That will help keep the bubbling down to a manageable state.
As far as how much to mash, that is up to you. I prefer to have some chunks of apple still in the applesauce.
If you really prefer to have super-smooth applesauce, you can also get out your immersion blender if you have one and stick that in. Blend until you have the consistency you prefer. Some people also put the applesauce through a mill or a sieve but that makes it too fine in my opinion.
Once your applesauce is starting to look like applesauce, give it a taste with a clean spoon. Careful though as it is hot!
Add your preferred sweetener. I prefer maple syrup as it adds a bit of extra flavour. In the past though I have used brown sugar, coconut sugar and other sugars. Or you could use stevia or other alternative natural sweeteners.
In this batch I added about half a cup or so. Add a little bit, stir and taste again. Keep adding until you are happy with the sweetness. I usually don’t make the applesauce too sweet as I prefer a bit of tang. You can always sprinkle sugar or maple syrup on top when you use the applesauce.
How to freeze applesauce
And there you have it. Homemade applesauce!
Now it’s a matter of letting it cool down enough so you can pot it up for freezing.
Side note: if you prefer to can the applesauce, prepare your jars and fill in the applesauce while it is still hot and process it.
I put the pot on a heat-proof trivet to get it off the hot burner. Don’t leave it too long though as you don’t want to let bacteria grow.
Once it is sufficiently cool, fill it into clean yoghurt containers or other freezable containers.
Put lids on and label it with the contents and the date
What you can use applesauce for
Now that you have all this frozen applesauce, how do you use it? Here is a list of possible uses:
- as is: just put it in a bowl, optionally warm it up and sprinkle with some cinnamon. Or really indulge and add a dollop of whipping cream or ice cream!
- on oatmeal: this has got to be the best way to use it! Cook oatmeal as usual (either in the microwave or stovetop) and in the last minute or so add some applesauce to warm it up. Stir in some cinnamon.
- on mashed potatoes: this is the classic “Himmel and Erde” or “Heaven and Earth” that is popular in Germany (where I come from). In fact in some areas of Germany, potatoes are called Erdapfel or earth apples, so they really do fit together.
- on potato pancakes or latkes: similar to the above, pairing sweet applesauce with the saltiness of potato pancakes works really well! We usually have a simple soup with them and that makes it a meal.
- in baking recipes: you can replace other ingredients in baking recipes with applesauce to make them healthier. The general guideline is:
- Butter/oil: replace with same amount of applesauce
- Eggs: replace 1 egg with 1/4 applesauce
- Sugar: replace with same amount of unsweetened or slightly sweetened applesauce; you will likely have to reduce the amount of liquid by about 1/4 cup
Homemade applesauce is truly a great way to use up an abundant apple harvest. Try making some today and let me know how it goes!
Do you have any favourite ways to use applesauce? Share in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC