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Applesauce that stirs souls

Kentucky Apple People of every age delight in homemade applesauce. Prepare to become verrrrry popular....

Wash any amount of apples well. Shake the water from them, place them on a good cutting board, and use a large, sharp knife to slice the fruit away from its core. Make about three or four 'chops' per medium-sized fruit. Do not worry too much about getting every last part of the fruit away from the core. Do not peel! (That's why you bought your two-quart, stainless steel Foley Food Mill.)

Place the apple chunks in a large pot that has a heavy bottom. Stainless steel works well. Add about 1/3 cup of water, cover the pot, and cook on medium-low heat until the apples are mush, totally soft, stirring once or twice to prevent sticking.

Most apples will give up some of their own juices, so the pot will have more liquid soon after the apples start cooking. Cooking time varies by apple type. Earligold apples cook particularly fast. I recently cooked 15 small Earligold in about eight minutes, once the liquids in the pan started to boil.

Once the whole pot of cooked apples feels soft when you stir -- no hard apple sections left -- you have choice. You may cool the mixture before you process it, or you may proceed (carefully) while it is hot.

Make sure the little spring is tight on the underside of your Foley Food Mill. Set the mill over a large bowl that has a stable bottom. Use a bowl that accommodates the hooks on the outside of the mill, so it is poised over the bowl. Use a soup ladle or large Pyrex measuring cup to move several cups of cooked apple mush into the food mill. Be careful! Hot apple mush clings to your skin if you spill it on yourself, and it burns.

Turn the crank handle clockwise, changing direction for one turn about every six or eight turns. The direction change loosens the apple skins that accumulate on the bottom of the mill and keeps things from clogging.

Stop grinding when the food mill contains mostly moist looking apple skins. If you keep grinding after the pulp has mostly passed through into your bowl, you will find you are grinding tiny bits of apple skin in your applesauce -- edible, not a deal breaker, but not particularly wonderful. To clear out the food mill for the next batch of cooked apples, move it to a compost or trash receptacle and dump out the first batch of skins.

Repeat the grinding process until you have processed all the apple mush. Taste the sauce. Depending on the types of apples you use, the sauce will be somewhere between sweet-tart and way too sour. Add a small amount of sweetener. My current favorite is organic sugar, which has no bitter undertones. You may also use regular sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, or any other sweetener you typically like. Plain organic sugar in relatively small amounts produces the cleanest apple taste.

How much sugar? It all depends. Start with about 1/3 cup for every four cups of sauce. Stir it in thoroughly; taste. If it tastes sour or just not quite right, add another 1/3 cup. Repeat until the sauce tastes rich and delicious.

Eat immediately or chill before eating. Store uneaten applesauce in the refrigerator. (Note that chilling food makes it taste less sweet, so you may want to over-sweeten slightly if you are working with warm sauce.)

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