I bought 77 pounds of apples recently for a bargain at the farmers market. You might wonder what a family of four could ever do with 77 pounds of apples. Witness the yield of only 30 pounds of the apples I purchased:
That’s right – – six quarts of chunky applesauce takes 30 pounds of apples. Truth be told, the 77 pounds were not my only apple purchase this fall. When you look at a brimming box of this fall favorite, it can be overwhelming, but a thrifty homemaker knows all too well, that it’s not as much as it looks. They cook and dehydrate down quite a bit.
I dehydrate my apples, can apple butter and sauce, and pies for the freezer. Then I use apples in recipes like homemade steak sauce, sauerkraut dishes, and of course we eat them. I’ve made canned pie filling in the past too.
I clearly love apple season, when you can get apples without the wax which actually smell like apples. Most grocery store apples have this thick, waxy skin, which disappoints after taking an anticipatory bite out of the apple. And then the kids want you to peel them. And they smell like, well, nothing. Not with farmers market apples – – they are fragrant, and perfect even with imperfections, scars and all. Sometimes the apples still have the stems and leaves attached. Pure beauty to me, but of course, I love produce.
The big pain is peeling them. I’ve been peeling tons of apples by hand, and realized I couldn’t take it anymore, so my husband bought me an apple corer/peeler. It has made a world of difference! Not only does it make quick work of peeling and coring, but it also cuts the apple in a long, spiral piece:
All I do is cut this in half, and throw it in the cooker. Also, this is the perfect thickness for dehydrating. With this nifty kitchen tool, buying more apples will be much less daunting. I want to make enough applesauce to make it through the year, so I’ll need much more. Plus, I only have three pints of apple butter on hand.
My kids love my chunky applesauce, and declare it “apple pie applesauce.” Trader Joe’s makes something similar, but it’s almost $4 a jar. That’s not in my budget, so I make my own. Then it occurred to me to try other varieties of applesauce. I tried strawberry, and that was good. And then I added blackberries to the apple mix, and wow. Just wow. It’s great. And because I got blackberries for 50 cents a pint at the market, as it was now or never for the life of the berries, I bought two flats. After discovering blackberry applesauce, now I wish I bought four flats. Or, more.
I make my applesauce in the slow cooker, where it can break down slowly without supervision. This really isn’t a recipe, but more like a technique.
Just fill your slow cooker with apples. For a 6 quart slow cooker, I would add about 3 cups of blackberries.
Put lid on, and turn on low. After a few hours, stir. Altogether, I would cook about 6 or 7 hours. The fruit should be soft. I take my stick blender and puree it right in the slow cooker. If you don’t have a stick blender, use a potato masher or food mill. Just make it the texture your family likes. Taste, and determine if you want to add cinnamon or brown sugar. You can let the applesauce cook down to a thicker consistency with the lid off, if desired.
One 6 quart slow cooker will yield about one quart and one pint of applesauce. If you want to make more, you can fill more crockpots and cook them all at once. Or if you want to do some canning, make the applesauce in something like a roasting oven. This is what holds 30 pounds of apples!
To can, sterilize jars, lids and rings. Fill jars with hot applesauce, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims clean. Secure lids and rings. For pints, boil for 15 minutes with lid on the pot, then remove the pot and boil for 5 more minutes. For quarts, boil for 20 minutes, then with the lid off 5 more minutes.
Isn’t this purple applesauce pretty?
I am going to buy even more apples, because I only have 9 quarts of applesauce, and will need 18 quarts to get me until next fall, and I only have one half gallon of dehydrated apples. Plus like I said, I need more apple butter. Glad I have that new apple peeler.