Sunday, September 29, 2013

Grandmommy's Homemade Applesauce

Practicality is the Name Of The Game in my family. There is a "famous" family story about me, from when I was about 3-4 years old... walking down the street hand-in-hand with my mom. Suddenly, I saw something in the gutter, stopped and exclaimed "Look Mom, a perfectly good coat hanger!" Ha ha. I was brainwashed from birth! If you can get just a little more use out of something - you are morally obligated to do so!

My grandparents had two big apple trees at their house, and every year they would be bombarded with gallons and gallons of buckets. I can remember so many visits to their house - just stopping by on the way home from school, or coming over to say hello - where I was (happily) roped into helping pick the apples off the tree and fallen apples up off the ground.

The good ones were salvaged for eating in the way that normal people eat normal apples. The ones that had been overcome with rot or bugs were tossed. But then, that left the other 75% of the apples : the so-so ones! These apples might be damaged or bruised or have a few obvious bug intruders - but would also still have some salvageable chunks of apple left; they went into a 5 gallon bucket.

Many people wouldn't be so concerned with making use of every good bit, but driven with the deep ethic of not letting things go to waste, my grandma would put them to use! Every year she would can up many jars of applesauce. She never added sugar, and in fact, she even left the peels on. I'm not sure if she actually liked the peels in there, or just didn't mind them. Either way, I can vividly remember her boasting to me about how easy the whole process was if you just didn't bother with peeling the apples! She also liked her applesauce more on the chunky side of things, so she didn't have to put it through a food mill to smooth it out. She had the whole thing down to a quick, easy, and super-practical methodology!

remembering Grandmommy's applesauce

The taste of her applesauce is so bright in my mind. It's probably some combination of her apples and her method of making the applesauce, but I can clearly remember the taste, the texture (those apple peels!), the color...

These days, we have an apple tree of our own, and every year (about this time), we are suddenly overloaded with more apples than I know what to do with. As a confession, I have come to appreciate those apples that are overcome by bugs, so that I can toss them with a clean conscience. The bugless apples are very rare, but those are also special treasures, because apples actually keep for quite a while in a cool, dark place. But, the vast majority of our apples fall into this so-so category in the middle: good enough for applesauce, but not good enough to set aside to keep.

The whole situation leads to many mixed emotions. I feel happy about having apples. I feel guilty about letting any partially-good segment of an apple go to waste. I feel tired just thinking about all those apples out there waiting for me. But, most of all, I feel happy about having apples. Every year I end up making my own giant batches of applesauce. Like my grandma, I never add sugar. Unlike my grandma, I do peel them. I just can't get into the peels in my applesauce. I usually make some batches super chunky, because I prefer chunky applesauce for a snack. But I also make some smaller jars of super-smooth applesauce, so I can use them for baking. A lot of times I use half-oil and half-applesauce to reduce the oil in baked goods, and I like having little mini-jars of applesauce on hand.

there are just a few remaining jars from last year!

The process does take time, but it's a very pleasant endeavor. It feels wholesome and productive, and it reminds me of my grandma. It gives me a chance to remember our many conversations trading applesauce-making notes. I get to use her food mill when I grind up my applesauce. Most of all, I feel that I am doing her proud by making nutritious food, and especially for not letting those perfectly-good apples go to waste!


  1. Amey, another post I can relate to!

    I planted an apple tree when I was pregnant with my son who is now 15. He LOVES applesauce and I make a giant pot every week. I have a laundry basket and 5 gallon container in my garage filled with the apples that have fallen off my tree. Like you, I have coddling moth issues and most of the apples have damage from them or other insects that have come on board after they have fallen off of the tree. No problemo! I just cut those parts out and the sauce is delicious.

    I don't peel the apples before I cook them because they get smushed out with the food mill. They make the sauce a pretty pink color.

    I love this time of the year!

  2. I'm sure once the work is done, it's wonderful to all of that homemade applesauce on hand, made just the way that you like it. But I can totally see how it would feel like an apple burden when you're faced with so many apples that have to be cooked before they go bad.

    I'm sad that we're nearing the end of this MoFo, but I read in one of your earlier posts (or maybe on Facebook) that you're thinking about continuing this theme with occasional posts. I hope that you do! I also mentioned on my blog that it would be so cool if you did a zine with these noshtalgia posts!

  3. I'm much the same, the guilt of any wasted food hangs over me...
    I love homemade applesauce, and like you say it's great to have on hand for baking as well as snacks/desserts.
    I always peel my apples for applesauce, although I feel a little guilty about that too.
    My Mum told me that when she was at school they'd talk about the toenails in the applesauce which were what the little pieces of core left behind reminded her and her friends of!

  4. Oh yes, wasting food makes me feel so guilty. Your "perfectly good coat hanger" story is so funny and sweet! You have the best memories, and you tell them so beautifully. I've never made homemade applesauce, but if some day we have a nice apple tree in our backyard I'm going to be an applesauce-making machine!

  5. I've enjoyed your posts so much this month, your theme was so lovely and it was so heartwarming to read all your stories and recollections! Food leaves such a strong memory on us. Your posts were such a joy to read all month! Thanks for sharing your memories with all of us!

  6. Anonymous8:31 AM

    Now that my grandma is gone, cooking dishes that remind me of her kitchen are really special to me. Thanks for sharing!

  7. My parents have a bunch of apple trees and each fall we picked all the slightly buggy or battered apples and made applesauce, dried apple rings, and bags and bags of frozen sliced apples. My mom turns the frozen apples into apple crisps for most of her Sunday dinners. So good! I love all of her apple products so much - I try to replicate them, but hers are always better =)

  8. What a fantastic last MoFo post! You have inspired me and I've been thinking about my grandmother a lot recently. I hope to have a post about her up in the near future. Thanks so much for sharing this was a FANTASTIC theme.

  9. Awww, I love your coat hanger story! My dad made me obsessive about a few things saving money, budgeting and making lists! Nick thinks I was brainwashed from birth and he's probably not wrong!

    I also super duper love apple sauce. I love that you can get little serving size portions at Whole Foods here, I've eaten two today and I also prefer the no-sugar added kind.

  10. wow what a lovely post! thanks for sharing! i love it! :D


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