Wednesday, February 22, 2012

crockpot applesauce

I'm going to admit something here. I've never been a fan of applesauce. I mean, I liked it okay, but it wasn't something I'd choose for myself. I'd much rather have canned peaches or mandarins and I'd always make sure to get all of the cherries from the mixed fruit cans. There might have been one time back in my university days where I found myself purchasing some snack sized containers of applesauce thinking it'd be a great healthy snack for lunch. But those little tubs sat in the fridge for ages until I finally forced myself to eat them just to get rid of them. 

Years later, after harvesting a load of apples from mom's apple tree, I agreed that plain old applesauce would be the best route to take and went about slicing and coring a ton of mini apples (mini apples don't work very well with my whirly apple corer unfortunately). These apples went into a pot on the stove where I spent the better part of a day stirring them as they cooked down. At the time, I was sharing the batch with a friend who wanted plain applesauce so she could use it for baking sugar-free. The resulting batch had no sugar, no cinnamon, no lemon juice, no nothing, and I could tell. The applesauce was terrible and it further turned me off the idea of applesauce. It not only lacked sugar, but it lacked brightness and it just... it just wasn't good. It really was only fit for baking as the idea of even licking off the spoon made me wince in horror. This time, I couldn't force myself to use it, so the majority reluctantly went in the trash.

So why am I back to applesauce? It's mainly because of a certain cookie that I was determined to make for Christmas. Little low fat gingerbread men that looked as delicious as they sounded. But in order to make them, I'd need applesauce. I really intended to buy just enough premade sauce for the recipe since I hated it so much, but as luck would have it, I accidentally purchased a five pound bag of apples instead of a two pound bag (the size can be really deceptive when they're not actually side-by-side). So there I was with a bunch of apples going rotten faster than I could eat them. 

And then the thought occurred to me that if I'm using the crock pot to make stock, why can't I use it to make applesauce? One thing about jam making is the constant stirring and watching and I wasn't really in the mood to stand over a pot all day. Funnily enough, the same gal who inspired me with her gingerbread men, inspired the applesauce. It's got a small amount of sugar (relatively speaking), is brightened by lemon juice, and has a nice (but not overwhelming) kick of cinnamon. But truly the best part of the whole recipe is that it's all done in the crock pot.

After my first batch, I quickly realized what the lesser applesauces were lacking (yes, even store-bought applesauces). My applesauce was blended into a delicate puree with my handy immersion blender and once I'd tried that smooth as silk applesauce puree, I realized that it wasn't enough to put the apples through a food mill or squish them down with a potato masher. Both options left too many ragged choppy, oddly textured apples in the sauce. As weird as that sounds, I think the key to a really great tasting applesauce is to puree the apples. Perhaps I'm just a texture gal, but this is definitely the way to finish applesauce.

This is the second batch I've made. You wouldn't believe this (because I barely do), but I had eaten the first batch of applesauce plain with a spoon from the jar. If that's not a testament to its deliciousness, I don't know what is. This batch includes two pears (sadly being neglected) in place of two apples. I don't find it very noticeable which is why I'm not calling this apple-pearsauce. If you wanted a bigger hit of pear, you'd probably have to substitute at least half of the apples. Maybe the pears lend a little more of a kick, but otherwise, the sauce is almost exactly the same.

{crock pot applesauce}

12 medium apples (or 10 and 2 pears but you won't notice it at all)
7 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 whole cinnamon stick, snapped in half

Peel, core, and slice the apples. Dump them in a crock pot. Add the sugar, juice, and cinnamon.

Set the crock pot to low and let cook for about 8 hours or until the apples are nice and mushy. I try not to open the lid on a crock pot while it's cooking (the whole point of them is to keep moisture in) but I do like to open it about halfway through so I can give the mixture a stir to make sure the sugar and cinnamon get evenly distributed.

Once it's finished cooking, puree with an immersion blender or (and I would totally go this far if I had to. A potato masher or food mill will not do) carefully ladle into a blender and puree that way (just be uber careful as the mixture is super hot). Jar and let cool. This should make about 3 medium sized jars.

So what can you do with applesauce besides eat it with a spoon?

I made Gina's Skinny Recipes' low fat gingerbread cookies as heart shaped Valentine's day cookies to send to Idle Husband's work. They're such a perfect cookie (to me) because they're cake like and gingery and oh so moist and delicious. You really have to make them. This isn't a suggestion. It's a command.

My first design idea was lace hearts, but a funny thing happens when I have leftover icing. I start scheming of other things I can frost on. So that's when I thought it might be cute to convert them into conversation hearts instead.

I started out writing dumb things like "B MINE" and "UR CUTE" only to realize that that probably wouldn't be appropriate for an office full of men. It was only as a last minute thought that I looked up some gamer words to make nerdy conversation hearts.

So I saved a few cookies to try out my new idea and I decorated them more like conversation hearts (I would have flooded them better, but I was working with limited icing at that point so I just smeared the icing around with an offset spatula). With white icing, I wrote phrases any gamer should know like, "FTW" (for the win), "HP" (health points), "1 UP", "LEET" (elite), "NOOB" (new guy), "GG" (good game), and more. Just cheeky things that would make sense on a heart shaped cookie. Perhaps next year, I'll do the same thing but I'll execute it a little better. 

I do have to share with you one of my new favourite tricks for filling an icing bag. If you do this with any frequency or even if you just frost cookies or cakes once a year, this is so worth knowing and doing. I can't even describe to you how happy I am that I found this video. Watch it watch it watch it. If you do this, you won't have to wash a piping bag ever again!


Anonymous said...

Your applesauce looks great, gorgeous photos :] I have never been a big fan of applesauce on it's own but I love it on cornbread, toast, etc.. I didn't realize how easy to was to make either until I almost turned my baked cinnamon apples into applesauce! :]

Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot said...

Awesome sauce! Pun intended! I had no idea you could make applesauce in a crock pot and I am so there! I grew up on my Oma's and mom's homemade applesauce. They left the skins on and ran the whole thing through a crank sieve so the applesauce turned out this lovely shade of rosy pink.

Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot said...

I just have to say that I adore your dark moody photos with those brilliant fall colours. I especially love that one of the apples and the cinnamon sticks wrapped in that gorgeous scarlet ribbon!

Stephanie said...

Beautiful photos!

I made a bunch of applesauce and canned it this year and I have to agree that cinnamon and pureeing it are the way to go!