Well, the peaches may have been slow this year but our apples were right on time. This is the first time I've ever had an apple tree and, unlike the pears and apricots in the neighbors yard, this one actually belongs to us. Our tree has Jonathan apples which are perfect for me. They are sweet, tart and very crisp. I wanted to think of something to use up a lot of them (I hate feeling like the produce goes to waste) and Jenny suggested applesauce. My kids love applesauce and I figured that homemade would be more delicious and have less corn-syrup and preservatives than the store-bought variety.
For this project, an apple peeler/corer will be your best friend. I could not believe how simple this was! Plus, with proper supervision, this is a great way to let your kids help. Minnie loved turning the handle and watching the peeler work.
Drop the finished apples into a bowl of water with about 1/4 cup lemon juice stirred in (just to keep it all from turning brown before you're ready to cook it. Most recipes recommend a mix of different apples (sweet and tart). Because our neighbor's tree had an overload of pears, I "borrowed" some for the sauce instead. I figure I used a 3:1 ratio of apples to pears. The pears added a different layer of flavor and since they were sweeter, I used less sugar.
Put an inch or two of water in the bottom of a big pot (just to keep things from burning) and bring the fruit and water up to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, add a few teaspoons of cinnamon and let it all simmer for a while, until the fruit is cooked down and mushy. Use a stick blender to mix it all up. If you don't have a stick blender, think of 25 reasons why you need one and pester your husband mercilessly until he tells you to go out and get one. Alternately, use the regular blender to puree batches of the hot applesauce. When it burns you, make your husband go out and buy a stick blender.
At this point you'll add some sugar. Depending on the sweetness of your fruit and your own personal taste you'll add anywhere from 1/2 to a few cups. Add it slowly and taste to see what you like. You might also want some more cinnamon or maybe even some pumpkin pie spice! It's your applesauce, make it taste however you want to. If the sauce is too watery let it simmer some more so it cooks down.
Here's the part where I turned slightly crazy. When I made my test batch, I put a few drops of red food coloring in, just for fun. The kids liked the pink applesauce and ate an entire bottle with dinner. When I was getting ready to pour this batch into bottles, I let Minnie talk me into coloring each bottle a different color.
About 2 drops of food-coloring worked for each pint jar. And just so you can learn from my experience:
Pink: pleasant to look at and appetizing
Yellow: looks fine
Green: a little weird but still OK - kids like it
Blue: getting a little iffy...
Purple: just don't try it. Food doesn't accept purple dye well. Joe tried to dye Rice Krispie Treats purple once and they turned the same shade of Deathly Zombie Gray that we got today.