It’s a big week for apples here in Pennsylvania. Yesterday was Johnny Appleseed’s birthday and today Nicholas’ kindergarten class dressed in costume and put on a parade to celebrate.
At home we are celebrating in our own way by cooking with apples as much as we can while they are in season.
Apples are one of my most favorite things to cook with. They are healthy, they taste good, and they can be preserved really easily. What’s not to love?
What if I told you that you could chop up a few apples and use the very same ones to make spiced apples, homemade applesauce, and apple juice AND you can do it all in the same pot? That’s right. Only one pot to wash. You only have to chop the apples once. Then you can freeze what you make and have it on hand to feed your family for weeks. I’ll show you.
You just need a pot with a lid. My Le Creuset is my favorite, favorite, favorite pot of all time. (Pssst…I got mine from HomeGoods for less than half of the retail price.) I wish I had an extra one. I love it. For reals.
Ok, back to the task at hand.
First, buy some apples. See if your local orchard is selling “seconds.” These are the apples that may have a small bruise, fell to the ground, or are too ripe to sit on the store shelves and they are sold at steep discounts. Our orchard was selling a peck (8 quarts) for $6.50 or so yesterday when I was there. If we assume each quart weighs a pound, that is about $0.81/lb. The grocery store brand is $1.99/lb this week, so that is less than half price. Seconds are great for cooking and preserving.
Wash, peel, core and chop your apples. DO NOT THROW THE PEELS AND CORES AWAY.
Save the peels (but do discard any bruises or yucky spots) and the cores in a large bowl of water and set it aside.
Recipe 1: Cinnamon Apples
Add the chopped apples to the pot with a few tablespoons of liquid. You can use water, juice, cider, whatever you have. Add a few tablespoons of cinnamon. Turn the heat on medium high and cook them until they are tender, but still have a little bit of a bite to them, like the inside of an apple pie. Some people prefer to add a pinch of sugar as well. That’s really all there is to it.
Take half of the apples out of your pot at this point. You can serve these warm as a side dish or separate them into small batches in Ziploc bags and freeze them to use later in crisps, baked french toast, etc. My kids like these cinnamon apples tossed with raisins and granola for breakfast.
Recipe 2: Applesauce
To the apples that are still in your pot, add more liquid and continue cooking until your apples are very soft. You should be able to smash them easily with a fork. You can add sugar or lemon juice if you want, but those are optional. (If you want to can your applesauce you’ll need to find a recipe with exact measurements for the amount of lemon juice that you need. I don’t recommend this method for canning.)
Use a potato masher or an immersion blender to smash the apples to your desired consistency. We like to leave ours a little chunky.
There are very few things in the world that are more comforting than warm, homemade applesauce. And it makes your house smell soooo good!
That wasn’t so hard, right?
Ok, here comes the intimidating part. (Don’t worry, it’s still not that bad.)
Recipe 3: Homemade Apple Juice
First wipe the inside of your pot with a wet rag or a few paper towels. It will be a little messy and sticky from the applesauce.
Rinse the apple peels that have been sitting the bowl of water, to get rid of any dirt or residue that was on the peels, and add fresh water to the bowl. Let the water sit a while longer to soak the peels, then add it to the pot.
* I imagine that you could probably also do this in a Crock-pot set to low overnight, but I have never tried it.
Add more water if necessary. The pot should be about 3/4 full. I added more water after I took the next picture.
Bring the pot to a boil and stir occasionally.
Add sugar to taste. (This is optional, but since we are only using the peels it can be bitter, so I definitely recommend adding a cup of sugar.)
Keep the lid on most of the time so that your liquid doesn’t evaporate. Let it boil lightly for about 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to low.
Let it simmer for at least 2-3 hours on low heat, still stirring occasionally.
Eventually, you will notice that the color is drained from the apple peels and the liquid in the pot looks like juice.
Allow the pot to cool.
Strain the liquid.
Keep the juice refrigerated or freeze it in freezer-safe glass jars. (Make sure to leave room at the top of the jar to allow for expansion.)