As much as I love the produce of summer (fruit and tomatoes in particular!), I have to say, I am awfully excited for fall. Not only do I absolutely love the changing colors of the leaves and the cooler temperatures, but apple season makes me incredibly happy. I am guilty of buying imported organic apples year-round, but by summer time the quality is pretty mediocre, making my first bite into a fresh fall apple almost like a slap in the face, reminding me what I’ve been missing – the crisp, juicy flesh that just tastes so much like…apple!
My only complaint is that living in the northeast, local organic apples are pretty hard to come by. There are tons of orchards within an hour of my home for apple picking, and some use integrated pest management to reduce spraying, but there are some pesticides being used on all of them. This is especially concerning to me because apples are a fruit where we eat the skins, and they are also ranked at the top of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list. So I am torn between wanting to visit our local orchards to pick tons of apples with my family, and not wanting us to actually eat these apples because of my concerns about the pesticide levels! (I had the same internal debate about berry picking earlier this summer…sigh…sometimes it’s not easy being me…)
So I came up with a compromise. Last weekend we had the most gorgeous day, perfect for apple picking. After naps, we packed up the girls, picked an orchard about 30 minutes from us, and ventured out into the trees. Now with a 1.5 and 3.5 year old in tow, gathering huge amounts of apples would be pretty challenging anyway, but my goal was to pick a small selection of each variety available so that the girls could have the experience. We ended up with about a dozen apples, and when we got home I decided these apples would be cooked into applesauce without the skins, being careful to wash the apples thoroughly before and after peeling.
After a bit of research, I decided to try out a slow cooker method, and OH MY GOODNESS is the result delicious! I will definitely be making apple sauce this way again. If you have never made homemade apple sauce, you need to try it at least once – the result does not even resemble the kind you can buy at the store. This apple sauce tastes like an indulgence, even without a drop of added sugar, and is so smooth and rich at the same time.
Slow Cooker Apple Sauce
Apples (as many as you have and will fit), peeled*, cored, and cut into big chunks
1 cinnamon stick plus additional ground cinnamon to taste
1/4 cup water per 4 apples used
Honey, to taste
Add apples, cinnamon stick, and water to slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours, depending on how many apples you are cooking and how mushy you want them. The beauty of this recipe is that it’s so flexible – it’s really hard to overcook the apples, so just leave them in there until they’re as soft as you want.
Mash the applesauce with a fork and add additional cinnamon if you feel so inclined. Taste, and if your apples were especially tart, add honey a tiny bit at a time until you reach your desired sweetness.
*Alternatively, if you prefer not to peel the apples, you can skip that step and then just puree the apple sauce at the end using an immersion blender. You’ll end up with a smooth consistency instead of chunky, but the skins completely disappear!
Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups of apple sauce from 4 medium apples