When I was young, my mother made her own applesauce. I remember watching her peel a bag of apples, with big long strings of peel rolling out from that metal peeler she used. When we were very small, the front 7 acres or so of our property had plenty of apple trees, so it’s possible at that point she went out and picked them. But I have no memory of that. just piles of apples on the kitchen table, and the promise of sweet applesauce for dessert after dinner.
Applesauce was my mother’s way of showing she cared
When we were little, my mother made applesauce and canned it… although it was actually in a jar. But she’d also tell stories of all the foods she canned when she was young, and also warned me (I was probably 8 or 9) to be very careful when preparing the jars, because if you didn’t do it right they could explode, or worse yet, poison you with botulism! Yikes, if that wasn’t enough to put me off making my own apple sauce I don’t know what is!
We’d have apple sauce at breakfast, apple sauce after dinner, sometimes it would be chunky, sometimes not. And on one fateful day, she made applesauce in the evening, and put a bit in a small thermos container for me to have at school the next day. She felt so happy to be able to provide something homemade for me, rather than having me buy lunch at school.
Of course, I don’t know about you, but back when I was in school, lunch cost 30 cents, milk was four cents, and while that was a struggle sometimes for my family to pay, no one wanted to be the kid bringing homemade food to school in their lunch box. Sure if you had cookies, or chips or a candy bar, that was cool. Peanut butter sandwiches were great, and preferred over mystery meat, or Fish Fridays. But we didn’t usually have cookies unless my mother made them, and chips were just not something we got. Candy bars in a lunch box???? Not from my mom. So I went to school with my padded Suzie Sad Eyes lunch box that day, and was kind of excited about having warm apple sauce as a treat in my lunch. Maybe kids made fun of me wearing leg braces, called me names, and made me sit in the hallway at birthday parties, and certainly I was going to get laughed at for the sandwich I brought, but who doesn’t love warm applesauce?
How to turn something as simple as applesauce into a weapon
Well, given that my mother had packed that applesauce the night before, when it was still hot… because she wanted to it to still be warm when I had my lunch, it had a bit of time to cool (like more than 12 hours!). What she didn’t realize was that because she sealed the container pretty tightly, it formed a vacuum. I sat there at the long lunch table, with a few friends and a number of kids who were happy to tolerate me, and struggled to open the container, all the while explaining how happy I was to be eating homemade apple sauce, and I was sorry I didn’t have more to share. Suddenly, the top came off with a bang, and warm apple sauce exploded all over me. My hair, my face, my dress, and the table all around me. Kids were laughing. I had no idea what had just happened. One of the teachers monitoring that day came rushing over to see what she could do. I ended up in the kitchen with a few of the lunch ladies while they cleaned me up and returned me to my classroom. My mother never made applesauce for lunch again.
But tonight, 3 weeks after our first trip to the winery to pick apples, I decided that the stragglers needed to be cooked! So I made a recipe for spiced applesauce, dedicated to my mother and that surprising day at Bachelder School when I ran into an exploding thermos of the stuff!
- 8 – 10 or more mixed apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 2 TB lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 whole cardamom pods
- 1 TB whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp dried valencia orange peel
- 5 cups water
- Place the cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon stick in a piece of cheese cloth tied with string (or let them float but you’ll have to pick them out later)
- Add the lemon juice to the apples and stir to coat
- Put all ingredients, including the bag of whole spices, in a large sauce pan
- Stir to make sure the other spices are mixed in well
- Heat to boiling over medium heat (7 – 8 minutes)
- Reduce heat and allow to simmer until apples break down (20 – 30 minutes), stirring every 5 – 10 minutes to ensure spice is evenly flavoring
- Mash apples,, adjust spices or sugar to taste
Depending on the apples, you may need to allow the mixture to cook down a bit further to reduce the liquid. If you like chunky applesauce, mash lightly, if you like smooth applesauce, you can use an immersion blender to get it really well crushed.
When we were young, a special treat was to have applesauce with a bit of milk or cream poured on top. Whipped cream was even better, and maybe an extra sprinkle of cinnamon. I know I’ve been waiting and smelling apple sauce for a while now so I’m going to enjoy mine now!
Dedicating this recipe to my mother. Thanks Lillian for all the memories of cooking, trying new things, and realizing that with recipes, if you don’t like how it came out, you can always change it!
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