Mrs. Baker’s Applesauce

 

          A note to readers: This blog has moved! Please visit the new IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS for new posts as well as copies of older ones (yes, even this post!).  See you around the stove……..

          Tinky

          This year has seen the most abundant apple harvest I can recall in our corner of New England. My neighbor Alice speculates that our literal windfall of apples has something to do with the hatching of swarms of bees just as the apple trees blossomed last spring. All I know is that our apple trees, most of which are older than anyone living on our road, suddenly acted like fertile teenagers.

          Naturally, my mother and I have made large quantities of applesauce. Applesauce is the perfect fall comfort food, and it’s amazingly easy to make, especially if you have a food mill. Food mills render the peeling and coring of apples completely unnecessary. The skin, core, and seeds of the apple cook along with the sauce, adding flavor to the end product, and then get pushed out and discarded. The residue left in the food mill is surprisingly small.

          If you don’t have a food mill, you will have to peel and core your apples. On the other hand, you will end up with lumpy applesauce, which some people prefer to the smoother version.

          As you can see in the photographs above and below, my food mill requires me to push the apple pulp manually through the holes in the mill. My neighbor Peter has a relatively high-tech machine with a crank that does most of the work. Either type of mill is definitely worth purchasing.

          My applesauce is named after Abigail Baker, who lived around the corner from our property in Hawley, Massachusetts, in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Mrs. Baker is famous (in our corner of the world, at any rate) for creating the winning pudding in a late 18th-century pudding contest that gave our district, Pudding Hollow, its name.

When my friend Judith Russell and I began work on our Pudding Hollow Cookbook, Judy suggested that we include a recipe for Mrs. Baker’s applesauce. Somehow it slipped through the cracks then so I’m rectifying that omission here on my blog. I portray Mrs. Baker every year in the entertainment that accompanies our revived pudding contest. Hawley’s most celebrated cook is therefore seldom out of my thoughts. Judy, too, is in my thoughts a lot, especially at this time of year. She died in the autumn of 1994, but her colorful folk art and sunny spirit live on in our hills, in our hearts, and in my cookbook.

 

 

Mrs. Baker’s Windfall Applesauce

Ingredients:

6 cups quartered apples (preferably more than 1 variety)

1 cinnamon stick

1/4 cup cider plus additional cider as needed

maple syrup to taste (I used 2 tablespoons for my most recent batch)

Instructions:

          Wash the apples and quarter them. Remove any bad spots, but don’t worry about cutting out the core and seeds if you have a food mill.

          Place the apple pieces, the cinnamon stick, and the cider in a 4-quart pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat, covered, and simmer it until the apples soften, checking frequently to see whether you need to add more cider to keep the sauce from burning. The cooking time will depend on your apples; my most recent batch, which used Cortland and Northern Spy apples I’d had sitting in my entryway for about a month, took 20 to 25 minutes.

          Let the apples cool for a few minutes; then run them through a food mill. Discard the pulp and seeds (excellent pig food or compost!), and place the sauce in a saucepan. Add maple syrup to taste, and heat until the syrup dissolves.

          The yield will depend on your apples. My test batch this week gave me just under 2 cups of sauce. Feel free to multiply this recipe if your apple harvest is copious.

 

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