23 October 2006

Late fall is apple season, of course. Where I grew up, in the Appalachian Mountains, people would be outside making apple butter in large vats over open fires through October and November. I don’t have an apple butter recipe for you, but I do have applesauce, which is apple butter that didn’t quite make it. The recipe’s a little loosy-goosy because of my experience with the variability of apples, but it’s pretty easy to work out as you go.


  • 3 lb apples (~8-9 apples, if medium-sized)
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks, to taste
  • 0.75 cup water, or apple cider if you have it
  • <= 1 cup sugar (borrow from your next door neighbor if necessary)
  • Ground cinnamon (optional)


  • Core and slice apples. Peel if desired. Cut into 0.5-in chunks.
  • Place apples in large saucepan or pot. Add 0.5-0.75 cup water or apple cider, depending on juiciness of apples. Add cinnamon sticks and cook over medium heat until apples are soft and almost mushy, stirring frequently. (This may happen fairly rapidly or may take quite a while, depending on your apples.)
  • Mash (with potato masher, a relic of a bygone era when the kitchen wasn’t tricked out like NASA Control in Houston) or blend to desired consistency — some people like chunky applesauce and some like smooth.
  • Add sugar and ground cinnamon to taste and stir.


  • Joy of Cooking recommends seasoning with a small amount of mace. I advise against this as it only creates a bitter taste that requires more sugar to counteract.
  • Be cautious when adding sugar or cinnamon. Some apples require no sugar at all. Ground cinnamon should be required only if the apples cooked down too rapidly to absorb enough from the cinnamon stick(s). A very little ground cinnamon goes a long way in any case — dust lightly, stir, and try again.
  • If your applesauce lacks a tart zing, you can add a small amount — no more than a tablespoon — of lemon juice and stir it in to give it a little life.

Later, when I’ve worked out the recipe properly, I will try to share an applesauce cake recipe here — it’s a little dry and crumbly yet.