Fall has come with crisp air and deepening sunshine, piles of fallen leaves to jump into and carpets of prickly chestnuts to tread onto, scarves without gloves and short skirts with leather boots, and apples, and apple sauce.
Apple sauce should be made with the newest, crispest apples of early fall as a celebratory leap away from summer; but also with the last, gnarly, bruised, and slightly soft apples of spring in patient anticipation of the summer’s first strawberries; and all winter long through grey skies and rainy days, snow storms and frigid winds.
Because making apple sauce is as easy as cutting apples into pieces and letting them cook for a little while, with a film of water at the bottom to prevent burning. But there are countless possible variations. Sugar or no sugar. Chunky or smooth. Spices? Even butter, for some. This is how I often make apple sauce, though by no means the only way.
This makes an intensely fragrant, chunky apple sauce. For a smoother texture the cooked apples can be run through a food mill. The spices and amount of sugar can also be adapted according to taste. I prefer fresh ginger and whole cinnamon because it imparts a more subtle taste, but ground spices would be fine, too.
About 10 small apples
Rind and juice of 1 lemon
1-inch (2.5 cm) piece ginger
1 thin cinnamon stick (or a half)
2 or 3 Tbsps brown sugar
Peel, core, and cut the apples into quarters and place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Peel the rind of the lemon into a long ribbon, carefully avoiding too much pith, juice the lemon, and add both the rind and the juice to the apples.
Peel the ginger, cut it into thin slices, and add to the apples. Also add the cinnamon stick and the sugar.
Toss the apples. Pour in 2 or three tablespoons of water, just enough to coat the bottom of the pot.
Cook, covered, over medium to low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until the apples have softened.