As I was reorganizing my spare refrigerator to accommodate my Thanksgiving turkey in brine and make-ahead side dishes, I found a large bag of obviously forgotten apples. I pushed them aside and decided to make applesauce, but it would have to wait until after Thanksgiving.
I make applesauce a lot at this time of year, or when I find myself with way too many apples to consume before they lose their crispness; I just can’t bring myself to eat an apple that has started to get a mealy texture. But making applesauce is the perfect alternative when this happens. It’s kind of like overly ripe bananas resulting in banana bread. And we all know how good that is.
Making applesauce is so easy and you have a lot of room to play with the flavors. With a variety of different apples, the flavors are more intense and interesting. Seasoned with a couple of cinnamon sticks, a few grates of nutmeg and a kiss of orange zest, the applesauce begins to take on the flavor of apple pie filling. It’s almost dessert-like, and my family really enjoys it.
To put some of the surplus applesauce to use, I enlisted the help of a lonely acorn squash that didn’t make it onto the Thanksgiving menu. I split the squash in half and disposed of the seeds, sprinkled each half with salt and placed the squash into a baking dish. I put some of the homemade applesauce into a bowl along with some chopped walnuts, golden raisins and brown sugar. After I filled each squash with applesauce, I dotted them with butter and baked them.
The creaminess of the squash worked so well with the sweetness of the applesauce punctuated by bits of toasted walnut and tangy golden raisin goodness. I served this as an accompaniment to pork tenderloin, but it easily could have been dessert.
Homemade Chunky Applesauce
This recipe is always made to taste depending on the types of apples used. Apples that are tart will obviously need an adjustment in sweetness but if mixed with sweeter varieties may produce an even balance. Play around with it to find what works for you.
5 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and equally sliced into eighths
Pinch of salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
scant 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Agave nectar, to taste
Placed sliced apples into Dutch oven with approximately 1/4 cup of water, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and two cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Cover and check periodically. Depending on the variety of apple (some take longer to cook than others), the applesauce should cook for approximately 30-35 minutes. The apples break down on their own and some require little more than a press with a large spoon. Stir. Remove from heat. Add orange zest, nutmeg and agave nectar to taste. If applesauce is too thick, add a little water or apple juice and thin to desired consistency.
Serve warm or refrigerate. I keep the cinnamon sticks in the applesauce until it’s used up.
Applesauce Stuffed Acorn Squash
1 acorn squash, halved with the seeds removed
1/8 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup applesauce, homemade preferred
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place squash, cut side up, in a baking dish. Sprinkle each half with a pinch of salt. Mix homemade applesauce, raisins, and walnuts together and spoon into each squash half. Sprinkle each half with brown sugar and dot with butter. Open oven and place baking dish on rack, pour approximately 1/2 inch of hot water into the baking dish being careful not to get water into the applesauce, cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on size of squash). Remove the foil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more.