Last week's applesauce cake inspired me to cook up a larger batch of applesauce, spiced and spoon worthy. What makes this one special is the depth of apple flavor, a feat accomplished by stewing together three different types of apples, ranging from tart to sweet and varying levels of crisp and soft textures.
I've been having (somewhat) large servings of this every morning for breakfast alongside my toast for the past few days. I highly recommend eating it in the mornings. Something about its juicy, bright flavor makes breakfast seem a little more awake and a little less drowsy, which mine typically are like, even with a jolt of caffeine in the form of either a latte or strong tea. That's not to say that my first meal of the day is boring or bland. Not at all. I do love my toast in these wintry months, but toast is, shall we say, mild. I've never been much of a morning person, not in appearance or in words. Sometimes it really does take a latte to wake me up. But, I do enjoy mornings, the ones that are slow and quiet, not busy and brisk.
Lemon juice and also in this case lemon peel bring out the bright and true flavor of the apples, causing them to shine and preventing the whole thing from becoming a sweet mush. That can happen when you cook apples with sugar. The lemon cuts through the sweetness, tempering it. Cinnamon and allspice add a bit of a zing but not too much. They complement rather than make the applesauce taste of spices. Sometimes just a touch is all that's really needed. However, if you would prefer more cinnamon, by all means, add another stick to the pot.
The specific amounts for each type of apple are more like guidelines. Don't feel like you need to adhere to them meticulously. Just make sure you end up with a total of four pounds including the three types: sweet-crisp, tart, and soft-textured. I made my batch with four medium Granny Smiths, three large Fujis, and two medium Jonagolds.
Adapted from Bon Appétit and Simply Recipes
1 cup water
2 - 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 strips of lemon peel
1.5 lbs Fuji apples or other sweet-crisp apples
1.5 lbs Granny Smith apples or other tart apples
1 lb Jonathan or Rome Beauty apples or other soft-textured apples
½ cup granulated sugar
1 6-in. cinnamon stick
⅛ tsp ground allspice
a pinch of sea salt
Combine water, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a large saucepan. Peel, core, and cut apples into ¾-inch pieces. Add pieces to lemon water as soon as apples are cut, to prevent browning.
Add sugar, cinnamon stick, allspice, and salt to apples. Stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until apples are soft and almost translucent, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Discard lemon peel and cinnamon stick.
Using a potato masher, mash apples to chunky consistency. If you would prefer a smoother texture, purée in batches in a food processor.
Allow applesauce to cool, then transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 ½ quarts.