Apple season is upon us, that time of year when my grandchildren enjoy making applesauce from the freshly picked fruit. We eat it as a side dish with our meals, stirred into desserts, and freeze for winter use.

My grandchildren, as well as the rest of my family, like applesauce "made from scratch". Following my mother-in-law's recipe, we cut the apples into quarters, leaving skin and seeds, and slowly cook in small amount of water.

Then we strain the apples through a puree mill or sieve, one I've had since my early years of marriage, more than 40 years ago.

Mother's Applesauce

My mother, as did her mother, always peeled, cored, and quartered the apples before cooking them for applesauce. She placed a small amount of water in the pan and simmered the fruit on the wood stove, stirring frequently so it wouldn't stick.

She cooked the applesauce until the water was nearly gone and the apples tender. Then she mashed them with the potato masher until smooth.

Usually she added the sugar and spices after cooking. Some cooks do this while they're simmering the apples.

Mark Twain's Favorite Pie

It's said that Mark Twain's favorite pie had an applesauce or apple "mush" filling. This was simply applesauce poured into a 9-inch pastry lined pie plate. You cover this with a thin pastry crust. Slash in several places and seal the edges. You also can use a lattice crust. Bake at 450 degrees F. for 20 minutes; then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F. and bake until crust is browned, about 25 minutes more. You can serve this warm or cooled, with whipped cream, whipped topping, or ice cream.

Applesauce Spread

I often like to spread homemade applesauce on freshly baked bread or biscuits for a tasty snack or even dessert. It's also good on a toasted bagel spread first with cream cheese, then topped with applesauce.

Another way is spreading toast (whole wheat or white bread) with peanut butter and then applesauce.

I've used applesauce to top pancakes, waffles, and French toast. Some people like to pour maple syrup over this, but I prefer simply the applesauce, possibly with a dab of whipped topping.

Apple Butter Time

A variation of applesauce is apple butter, a Pennsylvania Dutch favorite made by boiling down apples until thick, then adding spices. Often apple butter time was associated with apple gathering festivities when neighbors got together for a social occasion.

The women peeled and quartered the apples, then cooked them throughout the day in boiling cider in a large kettle over an out-of-doors fire. This was stirred frequently to prevent the butter from sticking to the kettle. Or a family might make apple butter in their own back yard on an autumn day.

The Pennsylvania Dutch often celebrated a Thanksgiving Day in September and served apple butter as a traditional accompaniment. Another way they people ate the apple butter was with cottage cheese spread on sliced homemade bread.

Enjoy applesauce and apple butter in autumn and create some family recipes of your own.

(c)2003 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen enjoys researching family recipes and food histories. She also teaches workshops on compiling your family food heritage. Visit her web site:; e-mail: [email protected].)