My absolute favorite apple is the Northern Spy. Not always an easy apple to find the Northern Spy’s crisp flesh and tart flavor are perfect for cooking and eating. They are also an excellent keeper. Spies are best when picked after the first frost, but it is not unusual for them to be picked earlier. We always come home with a good variety of apples to eat, and about 40 pounds of Northern Spies. Most of these will be turned into applesauce to be frozen and enjoyed through the winter. The rest will be eaten and used in baking.
As a child I remember my mother making applesauce every fall. Mother manually pureed the cooked fruit with a food mill, and always highly seasoned her applesauce with cinnamon and sweetened it with sugar. There would be plenty for us to eat, but a great deal would be frozen.Mother did this every year for as long as I can remember. The only thing that changed was the food mill. Mother traded her manual food mill for a contraption that attached to the front of her Kitchenaid. During her last few years my mother was not well enough to make her own applesauce, and passed her contraption onto me, so I could make enough applesauce for both households. Now, I carry on the tradition of making applesauce, grateful to my mother for what she taught me.
The Northern Spy is my apple of choice, but others can be used: Empires, Spartans, Macintosh (to name just a few). For a sweeter sauce, use older apples. Manual food mills are not difficult to come by. They can be purchased at most kitchen stores for about $20. Unlike my mother, I do not sweeten or spice my applesauce. But, if this is your preference you may certainly do so.
Brown sugar, optional
Select a large pot with a lid. Pour about two inches of water into the bottom of the pot. Quarter the apples into the pot. Put the pot on a large burner and turn the heat to medium high. Cover the pot. When the water begins to boil reduce the heat to medium. Stir the pot often being sure to reach the bottom. Watch the pot carefully. Do not allow the apples to burn or scorch, as this will spoil the sauce--the flavor will permeate the sauce. Reduce the heat of the burner to medium-low or low, if necessary. As the apples cook add a little bit ofwater at a time if they seem too dry. Use care when adding water--too much water will make for a thin, runny sauce. When most of the apples have separated from the peels, remove the pan for the stove to the counter. Set the food mill over a bowl and puree the cooked apples. Puree a cup of cooked apple. Remove the peels and cores from the food mill by turning the handle counter clockwise, which will catch them on the top of the blade for easy removal. Repeat until all the cooked apples have been pureed. Sweeten and spice as you like. Eat immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.