Tuesday, October 1, 2013

super sides: crock pot apple sauce

After coming home with nearly 18 pounds of apples from a local orchard last Sunday, I certainly had some work to do. I'm hoping to have plenty of apples for pies in the coming months (we were told at the orchard that if you put the apples in a plastic bag in the coldest part of your fridge, they will last 6-9 months...amazing!), but I also wanted to try making apple sauce for the first time.

I found a couple of recipes online, and decided to go with the crock pot version. Making apple sauce in the crock pot is perfect because you can prepare the apples in the evening, then let them cook all night. When you wake up, you have warm apple sauce ready for breakfast. Plan about a half an hour for prep time and 3 hours cooking time if setting your crock pot temperature to high, or overnight for a lower temperature setting. I made quite a few adaptations to the original recipe, which are all noted in the description below.

what you need:
3-4 lbs apples (peeled, sliced and cored)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon (or other spices - nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, etc.)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
crock pot
hand potato masher (or food processor or blender)
kitchen scale (not necessary, but helpful)

what you do:
1. Rinse, peel, slice and core your apples. I do all of this by hand rather than use and apple coring device.
2. Measure the quantity of apples either by weight or volume. If using a kitchen scale, don't forget to tare the scale with the empty container on it before adding the apple slices. If your scale does not have a tare feature, weigh the empty container first, then subtract its weight from the total weight of the container and apple slices. If measuring by volume, 3 pounds of apples was around 16 cups. The original recipe calls for 4 lbs of apples, but my crock pot got pretty full around 3 lbs.
3. Dump all of the apple slices into the crock pot. Then add the sugar, cinnamon (or other spices), lemon juice and water, stirring all of the ingredients together in the crock pot. I added measurements in the ingredient list as a starting point, but I eyeballed the amount of lemon juice and cinnamon. You can omit the sugar from this recipe completely, adjust the amount, or perhaps try another sweetener like honey or maple syrup. Also, the 1 cup of water is for 4 lbs of apples, but it did not make my apple sauce too thin, even with only 3 lbs of apples.
4. Cover your crock pot and set the temperature. The original recipe calls for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. I cooked my apples on high for about 2 hours (stirring the apples a few times), and when I went to bed, I changed the temperature to the "keep warm" setting to continue cooking overnight.
5. After the apples have cooked, turn your crock pot off and use the hand potato masher to mash the apples right in the crock pot. They should be soft enough to mash into a nice consistency sauce with some small chunks. If using a blender or food processor, ladle apple slices (they are still whole) and liquid from the bottom of the crock pot into the blender or food processor in small batches. Use a pulse setting until the apples are just blended. Make sure all of the liquid is used - that's where all the flavor is!  
If you've made a larger batch than you can eat fresh, apple sauce can be canned using the water bath method, and can also be frozen in air-tight containers or freezer/food storage bags.

I'm usually in such a rush in the mornings that I never make time for breakfast. In fact, the same container of oats is still unopened on my counter from when I bought it about 3 weeks ago and haven't had time to make stove top oatmeal for breakfast. It was so nice to wake up to a pot of warm apple sauce and get to enjoy it first thing in the morning.

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