I grew up in apple country which means that the kids in my family were basically raised on apples. When we lived in Ithaca a trip to the Cornell Orchards was an almost daily thing (or at least it felt that way, we were there so often). I remember so clearly the huge barrels filled with just-made cider, pulling the lever and watching it travel down the clear tubes, foamy and fresh, filling a tiny paper cup with freezing cold, tangy juice.
Many of my most vivid childhood memories involve apples actually. I can close my eyes and picture exactly the way my Mom would slice apples for us. Quick and precise, she'd hold the apple in her hand and expertly cut it in half, slice and core the chunks, and that was what we ate all. the. time. There's this hilarious note I wrote as a kid that my parents saved and in it I asked my Mom for a treat if we behaved well, and I wrote, "But not an apple please?"
My brothers and I loved apples, but evidently we sometimes got sick of them.
As a result of all of this I have extremely high apple standards. I'm picky about crispness, I like them tart but not sour, just barely sweet. The ones we've been able to find in orchards this fall have been pretty good, for the most part, but we've also had a batch or two that were a little on the mealy side. We bought a basket of apples on Sunday when we were driving home from a wedding and to make room for them in the fridge, I decided to turn the rejects from the last bushel into a big batch of applesauce.
I've mentioned before that my parents gave us a ton of awesome hand-me-downs when we moved, and now that you know my family's proclivity toward apples you won't be surprised to know that a food mill was one of the things they passed on. This one is probably 20 years old and has made many a batch of applesauce.
This was my first time using it though and I was so impressed. This tool is sort of magical. All I had to do was quarter a bunch of apples, boil them in just a bit of water, and once they turned mushy the food mill did all of the work. Not only does it separate the apple flesh from the skins and seeds and core but it also turns the cooked apples into this silky, perfect sauce. All at the same time.
My favorite way to eat fresh, homemade applesauce is warm right after it's made. It's so incredibly delicious, like apple pie filling. (I should say that I didn't add any sugar to this sauce because the apples were naturally very sweet.) For an extra festive, warming flavor, you can sprinkle cinnamon on top. I also love eating it alongside plain Greek yogurt. (Another vivid childhood memory: my Mom spooning scoops of homemade applesauce and plain yogurt into my baby brother's ravenous mouth. It was his favorite thing.)
Homemade applesauce is one of those nostalgic, feel-good foods for me. I'll get in trouble with my Dad if I don't say that my Virginia applesauce isn't as good as the New York applesauce I was raised on. But between you and me, it's pretty darn close.