One of my first food memories is of me standing over a large pot of bubbling applesauce. I was perched on a stool in my Aunt Vicki’s kitchen, my nose hovering as close as possible to soak up the amazing smell. I don’t remember much else other than that snapshot, but I have never forgotten the intoxicating aroma. Aunt Vicki and I were making homemade applesauce – yes, I said making. (As far as I was concerned, applesauce grew in jars.) Whenever I smell baking apples to this day, I am immediately reminded of that afternoon. It was about twenty years later until I had another taste of homemade applesauce, yet somehow my memory of the sweet sauce was perfectly on point.
So let’s start from the beginning: Aunt Vicki. As the story goes, the first day my parents moved in, Vicki Giffin showed up on their doorstep with a large welcome basket filled with goodies, tea, and her lifelong friendship. Aunt Vicki became my surrogate grandmother, seeing that mine was a long drive away. Some of my first childhood memories are of Aunt Vicki. A woman way ahead of her time, Vicki was a vegetarian nurse who taught yoga (and yes, this was the early 80s). She was famous for all sorts of kooky things, ranging from setting her lamppost on fire one Halloween (she made a “ghost” out a sheet – however did not account for the flammability of said sheet) to spending ungodly amounts of money to save a tree in her backyard that was in the way of an impending addition (by the way, the addition was a jacuzzi room). She had a working slot machine in her living room, an ancient rake hanging on the family room wall, and every toy imaginable in her basement. She was one of the coolest people I have ever known. Along with all these quirks, Vicki had the largest heart. She was kind, genuine, and loving. Unfortunately, Vicki’s life was cut short by a very rare form of brain cancer. While she is no longer with us, her memories live on in all those she touched. I smile and think of her every time I make my own sauce.
Ok enough with the childhood memories… Back to the applesauce. Once I realized how easy it is to make applesauce, it became one of my fall traditions. The first chance I get, I head to the orchard for the season’s first apples. Over the years, I tried several recipes and methods and settled on this version of a pink applesauce. The ingredients are few and simple: apples, apple cider, sugar and a cinnamon stick. The applesauce gets its pink color from the skin of the apples left on during the cooking process. Instead of taking the time to peel the apples, give them a quick chop and throw them into a pot. After the apples are soft and cooked down, the peels are removed with a food mill or ricer (think big strainer with a crank to keep the food moving – if you don”t have a food mill, you can pick the peels out by hand). And I promise you, if you’ve never tasted homemade, you are in for a treat.
My one hint: While most apples are good for sauce, there are some particular varieties that make a better sauce. I used Cortland apples (which was one of the varieties available at my local orchard). Other good sauce apples include Paula Red, Erigold, Melrose & Blushing Gold. Mcintosh will also work well if you can’t find any of these varieties.
Recipe: Pink Applesauce