Fall is apple season — making it the time for homemade applesauce. This time of year, apples are crisp, juicy, sweet and plentiful. And with varieties like Jazz, Honeycrisp, Gala, Jonagold, Braeburn Fuji, Ambrosia and Cortland, your homemade applesauce can be as nuanced as the fruit you choose.
Every year for as long as I can count, my grandmother, Lillian, would put up jars of her homemade applesauce, and throughout the fall and winter, our roast chicken dinners and pan-fried pork chops would always come with a side of her homemade applesauce.
She used Golden Delicious, a lightly sweet, mildly honeyed fruit, which makes a perfectly respectable, but somewhat one-note purée. I don’t blame her — back then there were three standard apples available in the markets: Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Granny Smith.
Fast forward 30 years and the variety is seemingly endless, but for the best applesauce, our choice is McIntosh. McIntosh apples have a bright red and green skin, with its hues varying depending on when the apple was picked. Early season McIntosh will have more green colors and taste slightly more tart than late-season fruit.
With a pale white flesh, McIntosh apples are more complex and aromatic than their Golden Delicious counterparts and boast a tangy, floral and not-quite puckery tartness, ideal for an applesauce that will hit every tastebud and wake up your palate.
My grandmother served her applesauce without cinnamon or spice. She may have added a tablespoon or two of sugar, if the apples weren’t sweet enough for her liking, but not much else. It was unembellished and nakedly, unabashedly pure.
Looking back, I have to agree with her no-nonsense approach. There’s plenty of autumn left for heavy spices and nose-tickling scents. The simplicity of this sauce is perfect for dipping with a pork chop bone and gnawing at those last savory nuggets. Even better? This easy recipe is ready in 20 minutes.
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
You can easily double this recipe if you happen to have a windfall of apples in your kitchen.
4 to 5 McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more to taste
In a medium saucepan, bring the apples, water and honey to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the apples break down, 5 to 7 minutes.
Transfer the apple mixture to a food processor or blender and pulse until it reaches your desired consistency, 3 to 5 pulses. Add the lemon juice and pulse once to combine. Season to taste with additional lemon juice, if desired. Transfer to a storage container and let the applesauce cool before covering and refrigerating until cold. Serve chilled.
The applesauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to five days.