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If you’re new to making homemade applesauce, know that you only need a few ingredients, and turning them into a sauce is much easier than you might think.

While there are certain apple varieties that lend themselves to being eaten out of hand or baking, everything is fair game when it comes to applesauce. There’s no right or wrong here. Use a medley of your favorite varieties. I love a mix of Empires and Cortlands, but sometimes I toss in a tart Granny Smith or some small, sweet McIntosh apples to change things up.

Older apples that taste mealy and aren’t so great eaten on their own are actually perfect for applesauce. Since the fruit gets cooked down so much, you’d never know those apples started off mealy.

Slicing apples for applesauce

Peel all your apples and cut out the cores before you begin — the peels, tough cores and seeds don’t cook down like the flesh does. A vegetable peeler makes the job of peeling the apples go quickly.

How you cut the apples has an impact on how they cook down into applesauce. Apples cut into larger chunks will take longer to cook, or not break down as much, whereas smaller pieces of apple will cook down much faster. I prefer about one-inch chunks, or even thin slices (although, I always have a knack for forgetting this the first time I make applesauce each fall). This size makes a fairly smooth applesauce with just a few chunky bits here and there to keep things interesting.

Other ingredients for applesauce

The beauty of applesauce is that all you really need are a few pounds of apples, some water and a touch of lemon juice. There are a lot of recipes that call for sugar, but you don’t need it. There’s so much natural sweetness in apples, I guarantee this sauce will be plenty sweet on its own. You can also taste the sauce once it’s cooked and stir in a little sugar, honey or maple syrup if you’d like it to be sweeter.

I also like to add a few cinnamon sticks for extra flavor; if you don’t have cinnamon sticks, go ahead and substitute about a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. You could also throw in other fall baking spices, like star anise, a clove or two (no more than that — cloves are powerful!) or a few slivers of fresh ginger.

Aside from the apples themselves, the most important “ingredient in making slow-cooker applesauce is time. Over the course of four hours, this once-crisp fruit will be cooked down to oblivion. It’s helpful to give it a stir once or twice during cooking, but, for the most part, you can set it and forget it.

Scoop your sauce into a few containers and stash them in the fridge for the week to come. Serve on it’s own or spoon it over ice cream.

Homemade Applesauce

6 large apples, any variety (approximately 3 pounds)

2 cinnamon sticks, optional

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

Equipment

Vegetable peeler

Chef’s knife

Cutting board

Measuring cup

Slow cooker

Immersion blender (optional)

Peel the apples with the vegetable peeler, then cut them into quarters and slice out the cores. Roughly chop apples into 1- to 2-inch pieces, depending on how chunky you prefer your applesauce.

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of the slow cooker, and close the lid.

Cook on high for 4 hours, stirring twice during cooking.

If you like chunky applesauce, you can skip this step altogether. But it you prefer a more smooth texture, remove the cinnamon stick, then use an immersion blender to puree the applesauce until it reaches the consistency you like.

Cool the applesauce, then divide between several containers. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Recipe notes: If you’re using an Instant Pot to make this slow-cooker applesauce, set the machine to Slow Cooker once the ingredients have been added, increase the heat level to “More,” adjust the cook time to 4 hours, then seal the lid. Makes just over 4 cups or 8 servings.

Per serving: 80 calories; 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 0 percent calories from fat); 21 g carbohydrates; 16 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 74 mg sodium; 0.4 g protein; 3 g fiber.

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