I am so tempted to write a recipe that starts with, “Peel as many apples as will fit in your pot of choice, including old wrinkled ones that are beyond snappy eating.” But the boundaries of replicating recipes for publication demand more precision. Just keep in mind that this is one of those recipes that once you make it, you won’t really need it again. But you will find yourself wanting to make this comforting dish, especially during the cooler months when apples are bountiful. Not only is it a great way to use up apples that have been off the tree a bit too long, but whatever kinds you use will produce a taste and texture so very much more satisfying than store-bought that you won’t be able to go back to the mass produced varieties. There is something meditative about peeling the apples with a knife—and trying to do each apple in one long peel—but use a peeler if that’s better for you.
My one rule for this recipe: resist all temptation to add sugar. Trust me, it doesn’t need it! Really. The lemon adds a brightness and the cinnamon sticks a layer of flavor that sprinkling on ground cinnamon just doesn’t do, although a light dusting looks nice for serving. Also, the sticks won’t darken the applesauce the way ground cinnamon does. Like I said, peel as many apples as will fit in your pot…
- 3 pounds apples
- 1–2 tablespoons water
- 1 small lemon
- 2–3 cinnamon sticks
- Peel the apples and cut each into quarters. Core and then cut each wedge in half again to have 8 fairly similar pieces. Another option is after peeling the apples, use a coring tool before cutting or use a corer-divider to accomplish both in one step. As you work, add the prepared apple pieces to a heavy-bottomed pot that has just a tablespoon or two of water in the bottom. Occasionally squeeze some lemon on the fruit to keep it from turning brown.
- When all the apple pieces are in the pot, give a final squeeze of lemon and tuck the cinnamon sticks into the fruit. Cover and bring to simmer over medium heat. Turn down to low and cook for about 20 minutes or until the apples are soft enough the break up with a wooden spoon. This will vary depending on the different varieties of apples used. At this point, it’s ready to serve or refrigerate if you like a bit chunkier version. To make it smoother, use a stick blender right in the pot to get to the desired texture or carefully transfer small batches to a blender. Keep tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or can it to store it for longer. (See here for canning instructions.)