Rosy Pink Applesauce, a Quick Small-Batch
Quand il me prend dans ses bras,
When he takes me into his arms,
Il me parle tout bas,
He speaks to me in a soft voice
Je vois la vie en rose.
I see life in pink.
— Edith Piaf, “La vie en rose“
Cooking + mashing red-skinned apples makes the prettiest sauce. Gently blushing pink, there’s something very heartening about it. Je vois la vie en rose.
Perhaps unsurprising then to learn that apples are actually part of the rose family, Rosaceae. And while they may be common by today’s standards, the ancient Greeks considered apples symbols of beauty, intertwining the shapely fruits with matters of love. To wit: An apple caught by one lover from another signified the acceptance of a marriage proposal.
Homemade applesauce, if you’ve never tried making it, is splendidly simple. For a quick small batch, a few diced apples simmer with their peels in water until soft, then a splash of lemon juice before mashing by hand or with a machine. If you prefer chunky, or there are special frustrations or stresses in your life at the moment, I suggest hand-mashing. All that’s left is to ladle your sauce into jars, flip to cool, and then a trip to the refrigerator or freezer.
When it comes to preserving fruit in jams, butters, marmalades and the like, I shoot for clean, concentrated flavors of the fruit itself. A whisper of added sugar at most or, as in this recipe, none at all, with only enough acidity to liven up the natural apple-y essence. (Two more HGN sugar-free fruit preserving recipes: blueberry-lime jam + raw fig chia jam.)
What’s in it for me?
At only 95 calories, one medium apple eaten skin-on provides about 15% of your daily vitamin C and nearly 20% of the DV of fiber, more than 3/4 of which is soluble. Because this type of fiber mixes with partially-digested food in the stomach, then traps and slows absorption of sugars, cholesterol + fat in the small intestines, it is associated with lower cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels, as well as decreased risk of cardiovascular issues + diabetes.
Apples also have prebiotic properties, providing the potential to improve digestive health + immunity, and are a source of antioxidant polyphenols, including anthoxanthin pigments + the flavanoid quercetin, that have been linked to a reduced risk of some cancers and heart disease.
As is often the case, homemade versions of kitchen staples — like this applesauce or nut butter — are generally healthier, less expensive, and just as good, if not better, in terms of quality + taste.
At breakfast, slather on slices of toast or pancakes or waffles with yogurt, a swipe of good cream or cottage cheese, or your favorite seed or nut butter; swirl into a bowl of porridge or granola; blend into a smoothie. At supper, pair with thick pork chops, grilled chicken, smoked salmon or flaky white fish. At dessert, spoon onto vanilla ice cream or tuck into warm pâte à choux or scones with, perhaps, a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Though it’s not apple season, and the fruit at the stores right now doesn’t have all the flavor + sweetness + crispness of those fresh-picked from the orchard, applesauce is one of those magical recipes that can bring lackluster apples back to life. And when autumn rolls around, I recommend pulling this up — you’re in for a treat with applesauce en rose.
Tell me… Chunky or smooth applesauce for you?
- 2 lbs apples, such as Cortland, Gala, Jonagold, McIntosh or Cameo (3 to 5 depending on the type), unpeeled, cored and diced
- 2 Tbsp water, plus more as needed
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- Pinch of salt (about 1/8 tsp)
- Combine apples and 2 Tbsp of the water in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then partially cover and decrease the heat to maintain a gentle simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the apples are very tender. (Check once or twice on the liquid level. If all of the water has evaporated before the apples are done, add 1 Tbsp more as needed.) Uncover the pot and continue to simmer another 5 to 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Remove the pot from heat, and stir in the lemon juice and salt (plus any other optional add-ins suggested in the HGN Notes). For a rustic texture, use a potato masher to bash the apples until chunky (or smooth if you have lots of frustrations to take out). For a very smooth texture, use an immersion/stick blender, upright blender or food processor to puree the apples as much as you like. (You could use a food mill, but it will remove most of the peels, meaning the applesauce will not be pink.)
- Transfer applesauce to 3 sterilized 1/2-pint jars, or other airtight containers, and seal. Invert on the counter to cool at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours before chilling. Keeps in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks, or freezer up to 3 months. (Do not store at room temperature. While the inversion method helps set the lids, it is not true canning and there is no 100% guarantee of a quality seal... which is why I recommend refrigeration to eat within a couple of weeks, or freezing for longer safe storage.)
If you make this on the stove, and find the mixture is drying out too quickly, you can add water, apple cider or 100% apple juice in small amounts, as needed. Hard apple (or pear) cider might also be interesting!
+ Swap half of the apples for ripe pears or persimmons, or toss in some fresh berries for more color + flavor.
+ Add the zest of the lemon from this recipe, and/or the zest of 1 orange.
+ Make it taste like apple pie by popping a 2-inch cinnamon stick into the apples while they cook (remove before pureeing), then adding 1/2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger (or 1/2 tsp powdered ginger) + 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract at the end. You could also add the seeds + pod of a split vanilla bean during cooking, then remove it before storing.
+ Should you fancy some sweetness, feel free to add pure maple syrup or maple sugar, good-quality honey, agave, coconut sugar, turbinado or demerara after you've pureed the applesauce. Start with a small amount, taste, and go from there.
An HGN original recipe.
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