Fall has always been my favorite season. Cooler weather (hello, chunky sweaters, and boots), leaves changing to a brilliant tapestry, and apples. Yes, apples. Sorry, pumpkin spice, you’re great and all, but apple pie, apple cider, and warm, sugary apple donuts. Yum!
We have access to several apple trees, not to mention the great apple orchards in the area, and once fall hits, we stock up and store all the apples in all the ways. Fresh apples will keep in a cool environment (refrigerator) for weeks.
But if you have an apple tree (or three) or were overly ambitious on a pick-your-own apple trip, I’ll share our three favorite ways to use apples.
Processing apples into applesauce is surprisingly easy, especially if you have a multipurpose food mill. Ours is authentic vintage, aka, really old. A cone strainer and pestle set also work. Home canning allows you to control the amount of sugar and preservatives in your food while embracing your inner Betty Crocker.
To start, sanitize glass canning jars and set aside. Next, rinse apples to remove any dirt or grime from the skins. Chop apples into chunks removing cores, seeds, and stems, removing bad spots as well. No need to peel. Place apples in a stockpot. Add water to just under the top of the apples. For more apple flavor, substituted water for apple juice.
Heat apples to a slow boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Add additional water (or juice) if needed. Firm apples (Fiji, Red Delicious, and Crispin) may require more liquid—and longer cooking time—than soft apples (Cortland and McIntosh). Note, the more liquid you add, the more liquidy the applesauce will be. My children love runny applesauce. To each their own!
Apples will mush and crumble while cooking. When soft and soupy, remove from heat. Place the food mill over a large bowl and run apples through. Careful, the sauce will be hot! Apple peels will remain in the mill while the applesauce seeps into the bowl. Discard apple peels.
Add sugar to taste. Pour sauce into jars and top with lids. Place jars in a canner (or large pot). Fill a canner with water and boil for 20 minutes. Allow jars to cool overnight. Double-check the seals in the morning. Canned applesauce is shelf-stable for 6-12 months.
If canning sounds a bit outside your skill level, freezing is a simpler alternative.
As above, rinse apples to remove excess dirt and grime. Use an apple peeler corer slicer to make quick work of slicing apples while removing the unwanted seeds and peels. Otherwise, peel, core, and thinly slice by hand. Fill a 2-quart freezer bag, removing as much air as possible, and freeze. Good for 6-12 months depending on the amount of air in the bag resulting in freezer burn. Use frozen apples in cider, desserts, or any of your favorite apple recipes.
Baking Apples and A Simple Apple Recipe
Now, after all that hard work, everyone deserves a little treat, and while I mentioned apple pie at the beginning, homemade apple crisp is a quick and simple way to use those frozen apples.
Mix four cups apples (or 2-quart frozen apples, thawed) with ½ cup sugar, ½ tsp cinnamon, and 2 Tbsp flour. Spread on the bottom of a 9×9 pan. In a bowl, mix ¾ cup each of oatmeal, brown sugar, and flour, plus ¼ tsp each of baking powder and baking soda. Cut in ½ cup butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle crisp mixture over apples in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until apples are tender and the top is browned. Serve with ice cream.