I adore apples. Growing up, despite our urban setting and small lot, among the edibles my parents had were two apple trees onto which the previous home owner had grafted a total of six apple varieties.
Apple season always marked family activities of picking apples, both from the tree and fallen in the yard. Sorting, peeling, slicing, coring, drying, saucing, and pie making followed.
Even now, our little family of four makes our way over to my parents’ house at apple time, sharing the work and the harvest.
As a result of all of this apple abundance, I have returned, again and again, to my dad’s applesauce and apple butter recipes and my mom’s apple pie recipe, which maintain their places as the best I have ever tasted.
Dad’s Applesauce and Apple Butter
To make applesauce, choose sweet apples and simply cut out the core of the apple. Cook with enough water to reach an inch of the way up the pile of apples. Cook, either in the microwave in a non-plastic bowl or on the stove top, until the apple is completely soft. Add water as needed. (You can also cook the apples in a slow cooker if you prefer.) Turn the cooked apple through a food mill to remove the peel and puree.
Alternatively, cut, core, and peel the apples prior to cooking and then puree in a food mill, food processor, or by hand.
This makes a rich, dark, flavorful applesauce that is thicker and tastier than any store bought applesauce I have tried.
To turn this sauce into an apple butter treat, you just add spices and sweetener!
Apple butter tastes best when cooked a long time on a low heat, so a slow cooker is ideal for this. For every 3 quarts of applesauce, you will need approximately:
4 cups of brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
the juice and grated rind of one lemon
Begin by heating half of the applesauce with the spices and half the sugar. Stir occasionally while cooking to prevent burning and sticking. When this has reduced and thickened slightly, add the remaining applesauce and sugar. Stir and cook until the flavors are blended. Again, this can also be done in a slow cooker.
Mom’s Apple Pie
1/2 cup sugar (add more to taste)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
10-12 cup apples, cored, peeled, and sliced thinly and then halved. (You want lots of apples packed down in the shell.)
2 tablespoon butter
Pie crust (see below), pierced with a fork and pre-baked for ~5-10 minutes
Combine dry ingredients and mix in sliced apples. Firmly pack the sliced apples into a deep pie shell. Cut the butter and sprinkle on top.
Instead of a top crust, sprinkle the apples with the following crumble mixture as a topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, cut into small chunks
Bottom Pie Crust
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold butter
4 to 5 T cold water
Combine the flour and salt. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Stir in the water to moisten the mixture. Divide in half, flatten, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. To prepare, roll flat and press into pie pan. This makes 2 small shells, but I use this mixture to make a big enough crust for a deep dish pie pan.
Bake the pie at 425F for 50- 60 minutes.
If the apple coring, peeling, and slicing isn’t enough to keep the little ones in the family entertained, we add apple prints to our apple activities.
Simply cut apples (some horizontally, some vertically), dip into paint, and press to paper.
There are endless apple treats and projects to be enjoyed this autumn. Apple cobbler, apple brown betty, floating apple candle holders, and more. And for those you pick and don’t enjoy immediately, apples store well for winter enjoyment.
Nicola Alesandrini lives in Northern California with her family, where she spends her days chasing kids, enjoying bits of nature, and avoiding laundry. She’s a jack-of-all-trades who loves economical and ecological living. She writes and crafts whenever she can squeeze it in and she blogs about it all at Which Name?.