We’ve been hung up on pumpkin season for the past few weeks here at butter poached, but we can’t forget that it’s apple season, too. As I’ve written before, apple season is impressive in central Illinois. The farmers market is dominated by tables of multiple apple varieties: Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious, Gala, Jonagold, Rome, and Fuji, to name a few. By the time I decide which couple of apples I want to try for the week, I find myself carrying at least a few pounds of loot. If I want to treat myself the next Saturday with even more apples, I have to make fast work of my weekly haul. My latest, greatest way to put apples to an exceptionally tasty use is this roasted applesauce from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.
I came across the recipe last year when I had a bunch of fading apples lingering in my crisper. To make the sauce, I peeled, cored, and quartered the apples, then baked them at 375°F with a bit of sugar, salt, and butter. Once the apples started to soften, I cranked the oven to 500°F and let the apples begin to dry out and turn golden. A few rough stirs turned the fruit into a chunky mash and even from my first tiny taste test, this applesauce stood apart from any I’d tried before.
First of all, it’s served warm or hot, which makes an ultimate comfort food even homier. Second, it tastes more like apples than regular applesauce. The baking and the roasting concentrate the flavors and because there are no spices in the sauce, the apples come through loud and clear. It’s a simple recipe that yields a sweet, fruity sauce with the added bonus of making the house smell irresistible with a curious blend of juicy and toasty apples. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to spend an October afternoon.
adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
The recipe calls for crisp eating apples rather than baking apples. For my latest batch, I used mostly Fuji apples with a few Honey Crisp thrown in.
Although the sauce can be served hot, it’s also great cold.
The original recipe calls for adding a splash of apple cider vinegar to the sauce as a finishing touch. I like the sauce either way, so I’ve left it as an optional step here.
3½ to 4 pounds apples
Pinch of salt
Up to 2 teaspoons sugar, as needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
A splash of apple cider vinegar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Peel, core, and quarter the apples. Toss the quarters with a pinch of salt and some sugar. If your apples are sweet (like Honey Crisp), you’ll only need a couple of pinches of sugar. If they’re tart, use the full 2 teaspoons. Arrange the apples in a crowded single layer in a large roasting pan. Arrange thin slivers of the butter over the apples. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the apples start to soften, 15 to 30 minutes (the crisper the apples, the longer the baking time).
Remove the apples from the oven and uncover them. Raise the heat to 500°F and when the oven is up to temperature, return the uncovered apples to the oven and bake until the apples dry out and start to turn golden (but don’t let them burn), about 10 minutes.
Remove the apples from the oven and scrape them into a bowl. Roughly stir with a fork until the apples turn into a chunky mash. Season with more salt and sugar while hot. Optional: add a small splash of apple cider vinegar to brighten the flavor. You can try a drop on a spoonful first to make sure you like it.
Serve hot, warm, or cold.