As most of you know by now, my Mom is one of my favorite people in the world and she is an incredible cook. She’s always experimenting in her kitchen, concocting new recipes and coming up with the most delectable dishes.
After having spent a long weekend in Idaho with she and the rest of my family a few weeks ago, I was feeling ultra homesick last week. The Sunday blues had set in and I was feeling melancholy. I called her up to see what she was doing and like most Sunday’s she was puttering away in the kitchen. Whether or not she has a house full of kids anymore, my mom still cooks a feast every Sunday. I’m not sure who she’s thinking will come over for dinner but almost every week, she spends the day whipping up recipes and glorious meals.
While on the phone, she was chattering away about a recent invention of hers, applesauce that she had added orange and vanilla to. She was telling me about the apples she bought, the way she injected the vanilla and cinnamon, and the orange that she added at the end. She was pretty proud of this apple creation. My mom has a way with words. In fact, she’s practically created her own language. After just a few minutes on the phone, and the descriptions she was using, I knew I had to recreate this homemade applesauce.
So I decided join in on my Mom's Sunday cook-a-thon. I ran over to the store, picked up the best apples I could find and headed straight for my kitchen. The wonderful part about this recipe is that I already owned everything else I needed. There are so few ingredients and besides a bit of time on the stove, there's really not much to it. Plus, the end result is well worth it.
After putting it all together on the stove, I popped in a movie, threw on some comfy clothes and let the aroma of the apples and cinnamon fill my apartment. It made me feel like I was sitting at home, in my mother’s kitchen, cooking away right beside her. A few hours later, on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee we feasted on the sweet and comforting fall applesauce. It was as if we were all enjoying Sunday dinner together.
Orange and Vanilla Infused Applesauce
Makes about 1.3 Gallons
12 -15 Apples (Gala, Honeycrisp, or McIntosh work best)
1-2 cups of water
I vanilla bean, cut in half and sliced down the middle
½ of a lemon with rind, quartered
1-2 medium sized cinnamon sticks
Zest of half an orange
Juice of half an orange
To make Orange and Vanilla Infused Applesauce
Wash and rinse all apples. Core the apples and cut into slices, leaving skins on. Place apples slices in large pot (we used our 7.25 quart Le Creuset). Once all apples are added to the pot, add around ½ inch of water to the bottom of your pot. The amount of water you add will depend on the size of your pot. We added about 1 ½ cups of water.
Turn stove onto lowest temperature. Place the lemons, 1 cinnamon sticks and ½ of the vanilla bean on top of the apples, preferably in the middle. Cover pot.
This recipe takes a long time, around 3-4 hours. You want the apples to cook nice and evenly, letting them break down and allowing their natural sugars to combine. Keep the temperature on low, so that the apples don’t burn.
After the first hour of cooking, you’ll want to stir the apples about every half-hour to forty-five minutes. As the apples cook, the mixture will begin to cook down significantly, almost reducing in half.
Around the 2 ½ hour mark, you’ll want to taste the taste the applesauce. At this point, I decided that it needed more vanilla and cinnamon, so I added the other half of the vanilla bean and another cinnamon stick. Stir mixture, cover and let cook for another hour, stirring half way through.
After the apples have cooked for about 3 ½ hours, taste the mixture again. The consistency should be a bit chunky but edible applesauce. At this point, you could allow your apples to cook further if you prefer them to break down more or if you are pleased with the consistency, just turn off the heat.
Last, once the heat is turned off add the orange zest and juice, stirring in well and taste. If your applesauce tastes too tart, you could add a tablespoon of brown sugar, as well. Ours didn’t need it, as the apples we used had high sugar content. Allow the applesauce to cool on the stove.
This applesauce tastes great at any temperature, so don’t stress about the timing. The vanilla and orange influences the flavor and adds an richness to the applesauce. It reheats extremely well, and also tastes delicious cold. Keep in mind this recipe can be made far in advance. We had some for dinner the night we made it, but froze about 1.25 gallons of it to be used for dinner and breakfasts at a later date.