Homemade food is an expression of love.
Okay, maybe that’s not always true of the quick dinners thrown together and eaten by individuals crowded around tiny glowing screens, but the things that take a little effort — the lasagnas, the soufflés, the cheesecakes in their springform pans —these things express home cooks’ love of not only their art but also the ones who’ll devour the results.
The first time I met my then not-yet husband’s extended family, his grandmother — aka MeMe — set little glass bowls beside each plate at the dinner table. Applesauce. The whisper traveled around the room on a current of excitement. MeMe’s homemade applesauce wasn’t optional so much as coveted.
MeMe hasn’t been with us for a few years now, but when the fall apple season comes around I still fill my freezer with applesauce made from her recipe. Her little glass bowls sit in my own kitchen cupboards. And when I pull them down and set them beside the dinner plates, I hear a different whisper in my ears: Welcome to the family.
MEME’S CINNAMON APPLESAUCE
8 or 9 medium-sized apples (I prefer McIntosh)
1 cup water
1/2 to 1 cup sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup cinnamon imperials (aka candy red hots, but make sure you’re using the small, hard candies and not the soft, chewy ones)
For smooth applesauce, you’ll want a food mill (I use a Foley). If you’re using a food mill, there’s no need to peel the apples; the peels deepen the color as the apples cook, and milling keeps them out of the finished product. If you’re making chunky applesauce without a food mill, peel the apples first. Either way, quarter or slice the apples, discarding seeds and stems. I use a corer/slicer when making big batches.
Place the prepared apples in a 5-quart stock pot or sauce pan, add the water, and cook covered over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes or until tender.
If you don’t have a food mill, mash the apples in the same pot by hand with a potato masher or a fork. Otherwise, run the apples through the food mill and return them to the pot.
Add the sugar and cinnamon imperials — the exact amount is a matter of taste and the size of your apples, so feel free to experiment — and return to the stove. Cook uncovered on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar and candies are dissolved. The applesauce will turn a deep pink.
Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into zip-close bags, plastic storage containers, or Mason jars as you prefer. Store in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks or in the freezer until you make next year’s batch — if it’s not all eaten by then.