I love apples. Maybe it’s the teacher in me. Maybe it’s the quick jolt of energy I get from their natural sugars. Maybe it’s their convenience, a gorgeous snack wrapped in its very own “to go” container. They’re so easy to throw in a back pack, and head out for a hike. I can’t think of many things sweeter than the first bite of a fresh, crisp apple. The shiny, green Granny Smiths with just a hint of pink blush are my favorite.
We recently discovered a family-run orchard very near our home, Vine Abiding Farms – great name. This is the second year that we’ve gone together to pick apples. We each take a reusable shopping bag and fill it with all the apples we think worthy of our choosing, or that we just can’t bear to leave lonely on the tree. There are so many reasons I like this (family time, it’s right by our house instead of across the country), but one of them is that we get to bring home apples like this one my daughter found.
She called it the, “really, really best one.” We never would have found this apple in the grocery store. It’s small size and irregular shape, would have deemed it too imperfect for the produce isle. In my daughter’s eyes, everything was just right about this apple, so it went in her bag.
Another reason I like these trips to the apple orchard is the variety. This year we went as a family in early September. Then my youngest daughter and I returned a few weeks later with her home-school group. In early September, Fuji and Golden Delicious apples were ready for the picking, my husband and five year old’s favorites. On our second trip, we found Granny Smith and Winesap apples. Their sweet, tart flavor is what my ten year old and I prefer. Everyone wins! Having the balance of sweet and tart apples, is great for making sauces and butters too. A homemade applesauce is always good, but a homemade applesauce with a mixture of Fuji, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Winesap – incredible.
If you haven’t attempted making homemade applesauce because you’re worried it will be difficult and time consuming, you’ve got to try making it in a crock-pot. I have had to make several batches of applesauce by now, having brought home around 70 lbs both last year and this year. This is the easiest and most foolproof way I’ve found. The best part is, having your very own hands in the process, rather nice people, in a factory, you’ve never met.
There is one more item, other than a crock-pot, that will make this process go so much more smoothly.
This peels, cores and slices all in one quick turn of the handle. I like that this one suctions to my counter top, so it’s easy to store and take out when needed. All I have to do after turning the apples, is make one slice though them like this.
Now they’re individual slices. I do this over and over until my crock pot is as full as I could possibly stuff it. Really! Cram it in there. Don’t be afraid to over stuff it. The apples will release their moisture and lose their shape quickly. My big crock pot will hold around 8-10 lbs of apples.
Put the lid on, and set the crock pot depending on how much time you want your sauce to take. The cooking time and temperature are variable depending on your needs. When I want to let it go all night while I sleep, I put it on warm, and the sauce is ready in the morning. If I want it to take all day, I set it on low in the morning. If I need to get it done quickly, I set it to high. It only takes a couple of hours. Now all you have to do is a tiny bit of clean up and wait. Don’t forget to take in the amazing smell of fall as it cooks. Your wait time is entirely to your preference as well. You’ll see as it cooks, and you stir it occasionally, that the longer you let it cook the smoother the consistency. Just check in on it every now and then and stir. When you’ve reached the consistency you like, stop it. If you like a really smooth applesauce, you can use a hand blender right in the crock, or puree it in your blender or food processor. When ours is still a bit chunky, we like to turn it off and add about a teaspoon of cinnamon. I’ve been adding cinnamon to most of my sweet dishes lately. It’s great for balancing blood sugar, and it naturally tricks your taste buds into thinking something is sweeter than it is. Not to mention (again), it smells incredible. Oh Fall! I didn’t realize I missed you so much.
When the apple sauce is done, it can be eaten warm. If your family is like mine, they’ll be begging for it before it’s ready. Leftovers store easily in the fridge, or can be water bath canned.
The chickens are big fans of applesauce making as well. They get all the cores and skins.
Nothing is wasted.
All that remains of my 70 lbs of apples, is a large bowl on my kitchen counter. I think I’ll add some cinnamon sticks and do some fall decorating, with the help of my co-blogger in this post.
If you live in my area (Southeastern Colorado) and would like to be added to the email list for Vine Abiding Farms to get email orchard updates, comment in the section below.
- 8-10 lbs apples (a mix of varieties is best)
- 1 tsp cinnamon (optional or to taste)
- Peel, core and slice apples, placing them in a crock-pot as you go.
- Press them into the crock, until entirely full.
- Set to high (2-3 hrs.), low (4-6 hrs), or warm (over night).
- When apples reach desired consistency, add cinnamon (optional).
- For a smoother consistency, use a hand blender to puree the sauce, or transfer to food processor/blender. Process until desired consistency is reached.
- Enjoy! Refrigerate any leftovers.
*Looking for another use for your homemade apple sauce (unsweetened, store-bought works well too)? Dehydrate it to make fruit leather. Put it directly on the fruit leather tray of your dehydrator, turn it on, and walk away. Couldn’t be simpler.*