Baked Early-Autumn Apple Sauce

I should warn you that I briefly considered titling this an Apple Puree, just because calling this delicious mess “applesauce” felt… well, not quite right, somehow. I mean, that’s what it is — no question about it — but it tastes nothing like the jarred, store-bought apple sauce I was used to eating growing up… or even like some of the home-made applesauces I’ve had at various Thanksgivings and Passovers. Not like any applesauce I have ever had, actually.

But calling it a “puree”, while not inaccurate, seemed both too precious and too exacting: one might wonder what one is to do with an “apple puree” (should I bake with it? mix it with something? schmear it on a plate of fancily-prepared pork and miniature onions?), whereas one does not have to wonder what to do with applesauce.

So let me just re-emphasize: this rosy-hued, tart-sweet taste-explosion below is *not* the jarred applesauce so many of us grew up knowing and (not really) loving.

Speaking of, I’m a little in love right now, actually. I might even be blushing a bit. Can you tell?

[Resist urge to make a pun on blushing and cheeks and apples. Fail.]

Like many of you probably did, I went apple picking a few weeks ago, and ended up with — to put it mildly — way too many apples. It didn’t start off that way. Normally I could work my way through an entire bag of apples, easy. But I must have eaten four or five of them in the orchard, while I was picking, and another three or four the next day… and strangely, by the time I had managed to make even the tiniest dent in the bag itself, I’d already lost interest in apples altogether. Strange, I know.

No matter, I thought. Surely by the end of the week I’ll be in the mood for apples again.

I was wrong.

I was wrong again, when I proceeded to make a similar prediction about the following week.

Honestly, I’m still a little puzzled as to what happened. But (as with many things these days), I’m looking at it as a blessing in disguise. For had I eaten them all fresh and crisp and out-of-hand, I never would have decided to bake them. Once I had come to that decision, however, and got the idea of fresh, simple, sweet applesauce into my head, I was suddenly much more excited about my apple surplus.

Eager though I was, I had to wait out a week or two of weather so warm that it was equally unsuitable for both October and baking. (Seriously, October — what’s up with you lately?) Finally though — for the first time since my tomato-roasting venture — I had the chance to turn on the oven. And after a glorious October-morning run, I did so — to 350 degrees. Then I dragged my bag of apples up from the bowels of my refrigerator, quartered them, removed the cores, and baked them until they melted into a pink, creamy, sweet-smelling mess, bubbling with juices that had just started to carmelize into a sticky apple-candy of sorts on the edge of the pan.

It took just about all of my willpower not to eat them just like that, melty and soft and sticky-sweet as they were… but I held on fast to the vision of applesauce that had been dancing through my head, and I resisted… barely. But I did it! Then I scooped them into the food processor, added a kiss of spice, and gave them a whirl.

 

You must make this. Really, you must. And when you make it, make more than you think you’re going to want. Trust me.

Whether you go apple picking soon, or went a month ago and still have some left over, or even if you just buy a couple of those cheap $2 and $3-bags of apples at the farmer’s markets that they start selling when the apples get older. While the latter are not always the freshest and best for eating, the beauty of this recipe (recipe – ha!) — besides its simplicity — is that it’s a great way to use up old (or unwanted) apples. AND I suspect it would be really wonderful in breads and baked goods.

Next time, I am trippling the amount of apples I use, freezing some, baking with some… and savoring the rest straight out of the jar.

Baked Early-Autumn Apple Sauce

  • Lots of tart-and-sweet early-autumn apples (I used a combination of Cortland, Empire, and Ginger Gold)
  • A dash of cinnamon and ginger

Set oven to 350. Quarter and core apples. (No need to peel them.) Pile them into a deep baking dish and bake, stirring once halfway through to push any apples at the top down to the bottom, 40 minutes or until soft and collapsing.

Cool 15 minutes, then whirl through food processor with spices. [Note: try not to over-whirl them and get too fine a puree, unless you’re using this for baking purposes and prefer it to be smoother. I am generally opt for smooth over chunky — at least when it comes to things like peanut butter or ice cream with stuff in it (side note: why don’t more people make plain-old mint ice cream, without the chocolate chips?) — but I over-pureed this batch and wish I hadn’t.]

Bake into applesauce bread, freeze for a chilly November morning, or enjoy warm, immediately.

Love.

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