Food & Drink

Making applesauce? First, get out your slow cooker

Making applesauce is easy, especially when you let a slow cooker do the cooking for you.
Making applesauce is easy, especially when you let a slow cooker do the cooking for you. Kelli Dunn

If you’re new to making applesauce, know that you only need a few ingredients, and turning them into a sauce is much easier than you might think.

Choosing the apples: While certain apple varieties lend themselves to being eaten out of hand or baking, everything is fair game when it comes to applesauce. There’s no right or wrong here. Use a medley of your favorite varieties. I love a mix of Empires and Cortlands, but sometimes I toss in a tart Granny Smith or some small, sweet McIntosh apples to change things up.

Older apples that taste mealy and aren’t so great eaten on their own are perfect for applesauce. Since the fruit gets cooked down so much, you’d never know those apples started off mealy.

Slicing the apples: Peel all your apples and cut out the cores before you begin – the peels, tough cores and seeds don’t cook down like the flesh does. A vegetable peeler makes the job of peeling the apples go quickly.

How you cut the apples has an impact on how they cook down into applesauce. Apples cut into larger chunks will take longer to cook or won’t break down as much, whereas smaller pieces of apple will cook down much faster. I prefer about 1-inch chunks, or even thin slices (although I always have a knack for forgetting this the first time I make applesauce each fall). This size makes a fairly smooth applesauce with just a few chunky bits here and there to keep things interesting.

Other ingredients: The beauty of applesauce is that all you really need are a few pounds of apples, some water and a touch of lemon juice. A lot of recipes call for sugar, but you don’t need it. There’s so much natural sweetness in apples, this sauce will be plenty sweet on its own. You can taste the sauce once it’s cooked and stir in a little sugar, honey or maple syrup if you’d like it to be sweeter.

I also like to add a few cinnamon sticks for extra flavor; if you don’t have cinnamon sticks, substitute about a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. You could also throw in other fall baking spices, like star anise, a clove or two (no more than that – cloves are powerful!) or a few slivers of fresh ginger.

The secret: Aside from the apples themselves, the most important “ingredient” in making slow-cooker applesauce is time. Over the course of four hours, this once-crisp fruit will be cooked down to oblivion. It’s helpful to give it a stir once or twice during cooking, but, for the most part, you can set it and forget it.

Scoop your sauce into a few containers and stash them in the refrigerator for the week to come. Whether you’re eating the sauce on its own or spooning it over ice cream, you’ve got a homemade treat that makes the end of summer a little more bearable.

Kelli Dunn is an assistant editor for Email:

Slow Cooker Applesauce

6 large apples, any variety (approximately 3 pounds)

2 cinnamon sticks (optional)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

Peel the apples with a vegetable peeler, then cut them into quarters and slice out the cores. Roughly chop apples into 1- to 2-inch pieces, depending on how chunky you prefer your applesauce.

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, stirring twice during cooking.

Remove the cinnamon stick, then use an immersion blender to puree the applesauce until it reaches the consistency you like. (If you like chunky applesauce, you can skip this step.)

Cool the applesauce, then divide between several containers. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Yield: Just over 4 cups.