Savory-Sweet Applesauce (RECIPE)

September 1, 2010 § 3 Comments

I never liked applesauce. As a kid growing up with allergies, my mother used to break up allergy pills into applesauce and feed it to me, so clearly I didn’t have a positive association with the stuff.

Until my husband took me to The Apple Farm, a lovely organic apple orchard in Mendocino County, owned by The French Laundry founders (pre-Thomas Keller) and their adult children, that offers weekends of cooking classes. You stay in a charming cabin in the fields and learn to cook four locavore meals (and drink an enormous amount of wine while engaging in fun debates about a variety of things, including whether Whole Foods is “the man”). There, in the midst of learning a litany of excellent cooking tips (which at some point perhaps I’ll post somewhere on this blog), I had an applesauce that completely changed my mind about the sweet treat.

This simple recipe includes butter and thyme and yields a rich applesauce with a consistency more like pudding than sauce. It’s great as dessert, perfect for capping off brunch or a light dinner with friends/family.

Oh…and check out the poll at the bottom — I’m really interested to see your votes.

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SAVORY-SWEET APPLESAUCE (adapted from The Apple Farm recipe)

Serves: 6

Total Time: 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Prep: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 45-60 minutes

Planning Notes: You can make the applesauce up to 24 hours in advance and re-heat it when needed. Or if you’re making this for guests, you can do the prep before they arrive, put it on the stove to cook while you’re eating the meal, and finish it with the sugar, butter and thyme and dish it out warm from the pot after you’re done eating your main course. For those of you in S.F., see notes below on where to buy local ingredients.

Ingredients

6 medium-sized apples (Gravensteins are great, but any flavorful apples will do — Galas, Fujis, Jonathans)

1/2 cup apple juice

Scant 1/4 cup sugar (or more to taste)

2  tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Cooking Instructions

Peel and core apples; cut up into large chunks. Place apples in a dutch oven with the apple juice (the juice prevents the apples from scorching).

Applesauce: Stage 1

Cover and cook on low-medium heat until the apples begin to break down, approximately 30-45 minutes. Adjust the heat and stir every 5-10 minutes to prevent scorching on the bottom. Cook for the shorter time if you like a chunkier sauce and longer if you like a smoother sauce. Use the back of a wooden spoon to smash the remaining apple bits into a smoother consistency if you like.

Applesauce: Stage 2

Stir in half of the sugar; taste. If you want it sweeter, add remaining sugar. Taste again. If you want it still sweeter, add more sugar by the teaspoon until it suits your taste buds. (Tasting as you go is important in cooking; it helps you understand how things taste before and after adding sugar, salt or other seasonings so you can better “season to taste” when you see that phrase in a recipe.)

Add the butter and chopped thyme. (For kicks, taste it again to see how the butter and thyme enhanced the flavor. Plus, you’re the chef so you get to eat a little extra!)

Serving Notes

Spoon into ramekins or small bowls. Garnish with a small sprig of thyme and serve.

Where to Buy Local Ingredients

  • Apples: You can find Gravensteins, Galas, Fujis and Jonathans locally grown in Sebastapol, CA at Rainbow Grocery and Canyon Market (family-owned) in Glen Park.
  • Apple juice: Martinelli’s apple juice is made in Watsonville, CA from apples sourced in the Monterey Bay area. You can find Martinelli’s at Canyon Market, Whole FoodsSafeway, Cala Foods and even Walgreens.
  • Thyme: You can find locally grown thyme at Rainbow Grocery, Canyon Market, Whole Foods, Safeway.

How to Grow Your Own Ingredients

  • Apples: Growing apples may not be in the cards for you — though if you have a neighbor who has an apple tree that they’re not using, why not knock on their door and ask if you can have their apples and offer a jar of applesauce in return? Or, use the Neighborhood Fruit online tool to forage for apples from trees on public land in your ‘hood. If you seriously want to grow apples, let me know via a comment below and we’ll talk. 🙂
  • Thyme: Thyme, however, is one of the easiest things to grow, so you might try it. Thyme is a hardy plant that, once established, needs little fussing. It does, however, need full sun (at least 6 hours per day). Thyme does well in a pot outdoors (I keep mine in a big pot also planted with oregano, parsley and rosemary on our patio) or indoors in a sunny window. Buy a high-quality seedling, plant it in organic potting soil and water 1-2 times per week until established (i.e., until it starts growing); after that, you only need to water it once a week. I like French thyme (sweeter than English thyme); you can purchase high-quality seedlings at Sloat Garden Center.

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More apple recipes to come: Apple cake and apple butter.

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