I love every season in the garden and in the kitchen. Now that summer is officially over and my fresh produce from the garden has started to slow down, I’m looking forward to cooking and serving some of my most favorite fall recipes. Hearty soups, creamy casseroles, and all the apple and pumpkin dishes you can possibly think of!
Nothing says “home” like walking into the house and being overcome with the scent of apples and warm cinnamon in a fresh-from-the-oven hot apple pie, or the soothing smells of hot apple cider.
But my most favorite dish to make in the fall is my homemade applesauce. Don’t like applesauce, you say? Well, odds are you’ve never tried it the homemade way. Homemade applesauce is nothing like its store-bought counterpart. True homemade applesauce is so sweet and rich, it feels more like a decadent dessert you would enjoy like ice cream!
Speaking of ice cream … homemade applesauce makes a delicious topping on real vanilla ice cream. Here are a few other ways we use our homemade applesauce:
- Serve on homemade yogurt with or without granola.
- Use it as a pie filling for easy apple pie or for quick apple crumble.
- Serve as a side dish – especially good with pork roast and chicken!
- Heat and serve for a quick breakfast on a cold day – delicious on oatmeal.
- Makes a great pancake topping.
- Spread on graham crackers for a quick snack.
- Spread on warm, homemade bread.
- Use as a topping in lieu of icing for pumpkin cakes, spice cakes, and other fall desserts.
How could something so yummy be so good for you? Even my picky kids like my homemade applesauce. It’s one way I get a daily serving of fruits in them…and they don’t complain one bit.
Apples at a Discount
If you don’t have your own apple trees, you can still make this healthy applesauce in large amounts for your family for just cents on the dollar. In addition to using homegrown apples, I purchase apples at the local farm and garden store in town for just 50 cents per pound.
You’ll have to wait until apple season is in full swing to get these discounted prices, but the wait is worth it. Keep in mind: when you make applesauce, you don’t need perfectly pretty apples. Even bruised apples make wonderful applesauce. The only part of the apple you shouldn’t use would be any obviously rotten spots. But ugly, brown, and bruised apples actually make delicious applesauce! (When it comes to applesauce, never judge an apple by its skin.) Check with local farmers, farmer’s markets, and ask your neighbors if you can have or buy their “less-than-beautiful” apples at a discount.
Ready to get cooking?
My applesauce recipe requires just 4 ingredients, all of which you probably have around the kitchen, or you can purchase them for just a few dollars.
Lindsey’s Healthy & Easy Slow Cooker Applesauce
(For fresh eating or canning)
To get started, you will need:
- Fresh apples. Approximately 8-10 large apples or 20 small apples; just so you have enough to fill up your slow cooker. You can mix-and-match your favorite kinds of apples. I like to use local grown North Carolina Gala apples mixed with a few Granny Smith apples for a tangy flavor.
- 1 fresh lemon. (You will use the peel and the juice.)
- Cinnamon sticks or fresh ground cinnamon.
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar. (Sugar amount is just a guideline. Adjust to your preference, or use another sweetener such as agave, as you prefer.)
STEP 1: Peel your apples.
STEP 2: Slice apples into large chunks and place in your slow cooker.
STEP 3: Add your other ingredients. Add in 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1-2 strips of lemon peel, and squeeze the juice from the lemon directly into the slow cooker. If you don’t have fresh lemon, substitute with a 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Add in one cinnamon stick. If you are using ground cinnamon instead, I use approximately 1 tablespoon.
STEP 4: Cook on low for approximately 5-6 hours. Stir your apples occasionally. The apples will begin to fall apart. I use a potato masher to “mush” up the apples as they cook.
Don’t have a slow cooker? That’s OK. Instead, just cook on your stovetop using a low to low-medium setting, stirring frequently to make sure the apples don’t burn on the bottom of the pan. This method will take 2-3 hours.
STEP 5: Remove the cinnamon stick … and maybe the lemon peel. If you cannot find the lemon peel, this is okay. Sometimes it will cook down into the applesauce and disappear.
STEP 6: Blend to desired consistency. I usually just use a potato masher to make my applesauce into a chunky, hearty consistency. If you prefer a smoother consistency, use an immersion blender or run the mixture through a food mill to blend the sauce to your desired texture.
STEP 7: Eat and enjoy. Or can some for later. (Or do both!) You can eat the applesauce right away. It will keep fresh in your refrigerator for approximately 3 weeks without canning.
To store for longer periods of time, process the applesauce in a hot water bath canner for approximately 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts. (These times assume you are using a hot-pack method and canning the applesauce directly after cooking it.) Make sure to check that all jars have fully processed and lids are sealed before storing in your pantry. You can store canned applesauce in the pantry for up to a year or more … but don’t expect it to last that long! We eat ours up within a few months. (Note to self: can more applesauce this year!)
This applesauce also freezes nicely for up to a year, and makes great holiday gifts!