Homemade Applesauce

Or, the easiest possible healthy snack you can make to send to school with your kids!

One of the things I’ve (PaulL, TCD here) become more and more concerned about as I’ve dived into this whole health and nutrition thing is where and how the food we eat is made and processed.  Last year CaveKid #2 informed us she really liked apple sauce and CaveMomma found these individual serving size apple sauces at our local warehouse store, BJs (which is like Costco, but limited to the Northeast near Boston).  I didn’t think much of this at the time past looking at the ingredients, which, on the surface, seemed fairly clean; Apples, Natural Flavorings.  I know an awful lot of people get their panties all in a bunch over “Natural Flavorings”, and that the label is mostly a farce, being a means of hiding all sorts of things we’d rather not know about never mind actually ingest.  But sometimes a busy family has to make compromises in the name of expedience and budget.  These fit both.

4oz store-bought, single serving apple sauce.

4oz, single serving store-bought apple sauces, processed in China and complete with “Natural Flavorings”…

Sadly, late last winter, well after apple season was over, I happened to look at the box more carefully and, much to my dismay, discovered these things were processed and packaged in China.  Suddenly I had flashes of “Natural Flavorings” being a euphemism for arsenic, lead, and all sorts of other toxic heavy metals and pollutants.  Needless to say, I was no longer thrilled about my kids taking this stuff to school, so I set out on a quest to figure out how we could make applesauce ourselves and send it to school with the kids in their lunches.

I have only two memories of things I made in Home Ec class when I was in Junior High.  One was of a red, nylon drawstring tote-bag which I ended up using for years as a “collection bag” for the cash people paid me on my paper route. The other was of making applesauce.  And all I remembered about making apple sauce was that a) I got yelled at for eating the pieces of Cortland apple (which is my favorite type of apple) because “Cortlands are cooking apples, they’re not meant for eating raw!” (Dad vehemently disagrees with this assessment, and we grew up eating these right off the trees when we went apple picking as a family when I was young.  Hence it also being my favorite apple as well!), and b) it took the full hour and half period to make this applesauce.

We had to peel the apples, cut the apples, cook the apples, manually puree the apples, add cinnamon, etc., etc..  It was time consuming and tedious.  That wasn’t going to work for me now.  I needed something quick and simple.  Asking around the paleosphere, I happily discovered that making delicious homemade applesauce was about the most brain-dead simplest thing you can make.  Additionally, it freezes well too, which is a bonus, since, being an engineer, I’m all about efficiency and scale!  You need at minimum, 2 pieces of kitchen equipment to be successful here:

  • A knife
  • A Crockpot or slow cooker.

That’s it.  There are obviously, other pieces of equipment which can make this even simpler:

Apple corer/slicer

This makes the job of coring and slicing a one-step process instead of a two-step process!

  • A vegetable peeler
  • An apple slicer
  • One of the following (in order of ease of use/cost):
    • Potato masher
    • blender
    • immersion blender (my personal favorite)
    • food processor

The minimal ingredient list is even simpler:

  • Apples. Lots of them.  Like 20 or more.

So, here’s the process:

Peeled apples in crockpot.

Peel enough apples to fill your crockpot.

  • Peel the apples
  • Slice the apples
  • Core the apples

    Sliced, cored apples.

    Use an apple slicer/corer gizmo to make this job go faster!

  • Place apples in slow cooker.
  • Turn slow cooker on

    Sliced apples in slow cooker.

    Surprisingly, the sliced apples will fill the slow cooker to the top if you first filled it with pre-sliced apples. Also, notice the cinnamon sticks stuck vertically into the apples. This allows them to sink into the apple sauce and flavoring everything as it turns to mush rather than floating on top and not mixing in at all.

  • Go away
  • Come back in 8 or so hours (which means this is the perfect overnight project)
  • Mash/puree/blend or otherwise squash into mush the now soft apples.
  • Serve and enjoy.
Apple sauce in small 4oz Mason Jars.

Fill mini-Mason jars with the finished apple sauce for the perfect snack to send to school. We only have 12, so any extra gets put into a container and frozen.

That’s it.  Voila. Simple, quick, and delicious.  Of course, there are a few things you can do to make this even more delicious.  I tend to add about a half dozen cinnamon sticks to the apples as they cook.  Put these somewhere in the middle of the apples so as the apples at the top cook, they heat up and moisten the cinnamon sticks to help the flavor leach out.  And don’t forget to remove them before pureeing the apples when they’re done.

Of course, there are all sorts of things you can do to flavor this applesauce up into something with variety and pizzazz.  Here are ideas I’ve toyed with but haven’t yet tried:

  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Cranberries
  • Nutmeg (and other apple pie spices)
  • Peaches

However big your slow cooker is, you will end up with half that volume worth of applesauce when the apples are cooked, mushed and reduced to sauce.  It freezes well in gallon zip-lock bags or probably any other type of container you’d like to use.  And using the smallest size mason jars allows you to send them to school with the kids in a convenient, non-plastic/non-toxic, reusable container!

I’m sure there are plenty of others.  If you try any of these, or have other ideas, please share below in the comments.  We’d love to hear about whatever you come up with!

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2 comments to Homemade Applesauce

  • Amanda

    Now cooking in two crock pots. Taking as my side dish to my daughters volleyball tournament. Crossing fingers that it’s well received 🙂

    • Paul Lussier

      Awesome! Enjoy! Please let me know how you enjoy it! I’ve found that the flavor changes drastically with different variety of apples. Cortlands are my favorite, MacIntosh works well, as do Red/Golden Delicious, which I don’t really like, but seem to make great apple sauce 🙂