Throughout middle school, many after-school afternoons were spent at my grandparents' house. My grandpa was, and is, always up for a nibble of cheese, pesto, and crackers (Bremner wafer crackers or saltines were de rigueur) and a slightly-over-my-12-year-old-head discussion of a chapter from Guns, Germs, and Steel.
While my grandpa schooled me in theories of economics and the disproportionate spread of resources (and power) throughout history, my step-grandmother Grenelle was likely concocting some delightful treat in the kitchen.
Summer months meant a bumper crop of basil and gallons upon gallons of zesty pesto; come Fall, apple-picking trips led to mammoth batches of applesauce, all stored away in a basement freezer for the months ahead. And while my appreciation for pesto-slathered everything was sadly delayed till we moved cross-country, a rare afternoon would pass without me dipping into her tempting applesauce supply.
Keep reading for the superlative applesauce recipe.
This recipe may not be from Grenelle — hers is a slightly more traditional stovetop affair — but I know she'd appreciate its simplicity and depth of flavor. Robust and sweet-tart, it hardly needs any adornment, but if you really want to gild the lily, a light dusting of cinnamon or La Boite Yemen N.10 would do the trick. I'll be devouring mine spooned up warm or cold, swirled into oatmeal, and dolloped onto latkes (or even buttermilk pancakes for that matter).
Adapted from At Home with Michael Chiarello: Easy Entertaining by Michael Chiarello
I used half granny smith, half pink lady apples; Gravenstein, Honeycrisp, Macintosh, and other sweet-tart apples will work as well.
4 to 5 pounds (about 12) sweet-tart apples, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup honey
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
- Cut the apples into a rough 1-inch dice, adding them to a large bowl with the lemon juice, tossing to coat (so they don't brown) as you work your way through them.
- Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large nonreactive ovenproof skillet. Add the apples and salt when the butter has begun to brown, tossing to coat.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple chunks have softened and begun to brown around the edges. Add the honey and place the skillet in the oven to cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the apples have softened and are slightly caramelized.
- Lightly mash the apples with a fork for a rustic, slightly chunky applesauce, or blend in a food mill or food processor for smoother results. Season to taste with salt/lemon juice (it may not need anything).