My husband’s free-range applesauce and other apple recipes

Barry Atwood holding apples

This past weekend, my husband Barry and I scrambled down the hill behind our house in search of apples. We found a couple of ancient trees in the woods whose tops were filled with them. There were plenty more on the ground, as well. All perfect for making applesauce, an early fall ritual for Barry. And lucky are the many people who have been gifted a jar over the years. Here’s the recipe, in his own words.

Barry’s Applesauce

My applesauce recipe is based on my recollection of my mother making applesauce many years ago. I’ve made it for many years. I’ve never even read a written recipe. It goes like this.

First, acquire some apples. For years I would get them at the local grocery store. I was always a little worried about whatever pesticides might have been sprayed on them, so I would wash each one.

Then I’d quarter them and put them in a large stainless kettle with about an inch of water in the bottom. It doesn’t seem like a lot of water but it’s enough, although you should check while you’re doing it. Bring it to a boil and then simmer it, I would guess maybe a half an hour.

Stir frequently, bringing the softer pieces up from the bottom to the top until all of the apple pieces are soft enough that when you hit them with a spoon they’ll easily squash.

I don’t peel them because the red on the outside will add some color — it’ll come out sort of pinkish. If you use yellow apples or Granny Smith apples, then they won’t be red but I don’t add anything to my applesauce.

In that vein, in the last few years, I have collected apples locally, As Diane said, I just take a walk down the hill where there are some wild apple trees here and there, and I collect a bag or two of apples.

So now my applesauce is truly “organic” applesauce. The apples are not sprayed with anything so they’re just all-natural, free-range apples, complete with an occasional worm. Just kidding.

I sweeten the applesauce with some honey. We have bees, so I sweeten it with honey, which, like the apples is all natural, local free-range “organic” honey.

Once I’ve softened up the apples by simmering them for half an hour or so, I then put them in my mother’s old two-quart stainless food mill. It’s got a handle on the top that rotates and grinds the apple pieces down through a sieve in the bottom. It’s great for squeezing through the sauce and occasionally you scrape out the peels and seeds and add another few large spoonfuls of apples.

I then take my sweetened applesauce and put it in mason jars that I have boiled on the stove to make sure they’re sterile and clean. I seal the jars and put them in a canner and boil them for half an hour.

This is called processing and again, I just made this up myself, they seem to keep just fine. Never had any go bad, nobody has ever died from eating my applesauce.

So I say, just go for it and create some home-grown local and as organic as possible applesauce of your own. The only problem with buying organic apples, which is fine, is that they’re very expensive. But I have sort of drifted toward organic this and that as well as buying local in the last five or ten years, so if you’re able to, seek out organic local apples when you make your applesauce.

I leave the jars in the kettle for a little while after I boil them and then I pull them out and let them sit. I use canning lids that have a screw band and a flat lid with a seal. While they sit, I unscrew the band on each jar a little bit and tap on the flat lid to make sure it’s sealed. They make a sound that lets you know they’re sealed and they’re also a little concave. And I think that’s it!

Barry Atwood, maker of applesauce

Applesauce made by Barry Atwood

More apple recipes

I can guarantee Barry’s applesauce is wicked good!

I also reached out to a few friends for their favorite apple recipes. Here’s one from Jackie Conn, who is the general manager at WW (formerly Weight Watchers and full disclosure, a Catching Health sponsor.)

Spiced Apple Breakfast Casserole

Spiced Apple Breakfast Casserole from WWMaine
Courtesy WWMaine

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray (2 sprays)
  • 12 slices reduced-calorie whole wheat bread, cubed
  • 5 large, peeled and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup unpacked light brown sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
  • 3 cups regular liquid egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup fat-free skim milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp (or to taste) table salt
  • 1 pinch (or to taste) ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8- x 10-inch casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. Place bread cubes on a cookie sheet; toast in oven for 10 minutes.
  3. While bread toasts, coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add apples and sauté until slightly softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; cook on high, stirring frequently, until apple slices are softened and starting to brown.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together egg substitute, milk, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, remaining teaspoon cinnamon, vanilla extract, salt and nutmeg. Add toasted bread cubes and sautéed apples to egg mixture; stir well to coat and then pour into prepared casserole dish.
  5. Bake casserole, covered with aluminum foil, for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook until eggs are set and top begins to brown, about 15 to 20 minutes more.
  6. Slice into 8 pieces and serve drizzled with syrup.

Gluten-free Dutch Apple Cranberry Streusel Pie

I also got this recipe for apple pie from my longtime friend Rebecca Reilly. She’s a graduate of the renowned Cordon Bleu Cooking School of Paris and among many other accomplishments, authored the bestselling cookbook on baking with gluten, Gluten-Free Baking.

Years ago, I had the pleasure of co-hosting a cooking segment on NEWS CENTER Maine’s noon show with Rebecca called “Alive and Eating Well.”  She did the prep and the cooking and I did the eating!

I know you’re going to love making and eating her gluten-free Dutch Apple Cranberry Streusel Pie

All-Purpose Flaky Pastry

Ingredients for top and bottom crusts

  • 1- 1/2 cups classic gluten-free blend (*see recipe for classic blend below)
  • 3 tablespoons sweet rice flour
  • 1- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons sugar if making a dessert
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter or Earth Balance
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 ½  tablespoons lemon juice, cider vinegar or liquor of choice

Ingredients for single crust

  • 1 cup classic gluten-free blend (see recipe for classic blend below)
  • 2 tablespoons sweet rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoons sugar if making a dessert
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, cider vinegar or liquor of choice

Instructions

  1. Mix the gluten-free blend, sweet rice flour, xanthan gum, salt and sugar if using together.
  2. Cut the butter into small pieces. Pinch the butter into the dry ingredients using your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Make a well and add the egg whites and vinegar or lemon juice. Using a fork, mix some of the dry into the liquid to make a paste; then using your fingertips press the wet and dry together until it comes together without crumbling apart. Be careful not to work it too much making it a paste. * if the pastry seems too dry and crumbly add a teaspoon of cold water at a time. Cut into 2 pieces and shape each into flat cakes.
  4. If the pastry is too soft to roll, refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. Roll out pastry between 2 pieces cut from a large heavy-duty zip-lock bag or parchment paper.
  5. Butter an 8- to 9-inch quiche pan, pie dish or a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan. Line the pan with the rolled pastry dough, leaving the sides long.

*Classic gluten-free blend

All-purpose for pastries, cookies, French cakes … more classic in color and taste. (Yield: 4 cups)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rice flour or sorghum flour
  • 1 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 cup cornstarch, arrowroot or potato starch

Instructions

Mix everything together. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator

Apple filling

Ingredients

  • 5 cups apples, cored and sliced (about 5)—Granny Smith apples work well
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚ F
  2. If you haven’t already, butter a tart or pie pan well. Line the pan with the rolled pastry dough, leaving the sides long.
  3. Sprinkle the apples with the lemon juice.
  4. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.
  5. Toss the apples and cranberries with the cinnamon-sugar and fill the pie shell with apple mixture.

Apple pie filling
Courtesy Rebecca Reilly

Streusel Topping

Ingredients

  • 1 cup classic blend (*see recipe for classic blend above)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/3 cup gluten-free oats
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Instructions

  1. To make the streusel topping, mix pastry blend, sugar, xanthan gum, oats, cinnamon, and salt together in medium bowl.
  2. Add butter; rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. This can be made ahead.
  3. Sprinkle streusel topping over pie.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350˚ F and bake until crumb topping is browned and apples are soft, approximately another 30-40 minutes.
  5. Cool on a rack. Enjoy!

Dutch apple pie
Courtesy Rebecca Reilly

If you haven’t picked your apples yet, there is still time. I put together a list of orchards in Maine that let you pick your own apples. Contact the orchard first to make sure they still have apples left and to ask them about any pesticide practices.

One last recipe. From me. Pick up apple in your hand. Wash very well or peel. Eat.

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.