A little while ago, a friend of mine gave me a case of apples she had harvested from her tree. In the past, I have used apples with other fruit to make preserves and I was planning to follow the same path, but the amount of apples called for additional ideas. From a corner of my memory, the title of a recipe (ricetta) floated to the foreground and since I remembered also where I had seen it, I was able to retrieve it.
The recipe in question is Judy Rodgers' Roasted Applesauce and the two elements that got my attention were: the author and the word "roasted." I have recently featured a recipe from Judy Rodgers' The Zuni Café Cookbook and several times in the past few months I have talked about my experiments with roasted fruit (for example, here and here).
What happened next is a bit strange to explain: I scanned the blog post introducing the dish and missed the link to the actual recipe. So, besides making some changes based on personal preference (more on these below), I used 500 F as baking temperature and kept the baking dish covered throughout. The result was excellent and disappeared rather fast, so I immediately made another batch. It wasn't until I got to batch #3 that I saw the link to the recipe, read it and realized my mistake in the baking process. So, that batch was prepared according to the recipe. However, in a blind test, a sample of batch #2 scored higher than batch #3, so batch #4 was prepared again according to my misreading. You are welcome to make your experiments.
Finally, I made one Savory Apple Charlotte according to the recipe that comes together with that for applesauce and it was a big success. For it, I used some whey bread with butter and honey (recipe from Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf) that would have otherwise been used to make French toast (sorry, no photo of the charlotte).
Note: When I make preserves with apples, I never peel them, and I followed the same procedure for this applesauce (which makes the preparation time even shorter). Since they are left unpeeled, organic or pesticide-free apples are strongly recommended. In terms of apple varieties, combine what you have available to get a balanced flavor. For example, the apples I received as a gift were a bit tart, so I added a few sweeter ones to each batch.
Preheat the oven to 500 F. Wash well, quarter and core the apples. If an apple is large, cut each quarter in half lengthwise. Distribute in a 3 qt. (9 x 13 inch) pyrex baking dish or similar baking vessel , sprinkle salt and sugar, and stir briefly. Cover with aluminum foil and seal around the edges. Bake until the apples are soft. I baked them for 30 minutes.
Transfer the apples into a bowl and purée with an immersion blender. At the beginning, pulse and move the blender to start breaking the apples, then reduce them to a fairly smooth purée. Store applesauce in sterilized jars in the fridge.
I tried adding a few drops of cider vinegar (aceto di mele) to a sample of the applesauce, as suggested in the original recipe, but did not like the result.
What this recipe gives you is as healthy an applesauce as you can get. It is naturally sweet, creamy, with an intense apple flavor. It can be used in many different ways. A jar of this applesauce has been on our table at pretty much every meal ever since batch #1 was completed, and we have tried applesauce on anything from simple bread (the one in the photo is pumpkin bread) to bean burgers, to French toast to Rodgers' gnocchi di ricotta.
After tasting the first batch of applesauce, I got a copy of "The Zuni Café Cookbook." I believe that a cookbook with even a single excellent recipe is worth having on the bookshelf. I have so far tried three recipes from this cookbook and they all have been a success, so the book now has its place on my bookshelf.
Hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post by launching the salsa di mele arrosto audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]