Breaking bad news is never easy. Receiving bad news isn’t much better. The only hope is that it doesn’t affect you directly, but even then, you may be called upon to share the grief and comfort those who need it. But what do you do when the bad news is disguised as a lovely dinner with your friends and slips out through the course of pleasant conversation? Factor in the knowledge that the bad news is tiptoeing dangerously close to your own awful experiences, and the situation is bound to go south. Such was the case for Dr. John Welles when he accepted an invitation to dine with Reuben and Hannah Wise.
What began as an enjoyable meal with people he knew for years turned out to be a hidden request for assistance with a task that John absolutely does not want to complete. Not even Hannah’s delicious cooking could persuade the doctor to go against his conscience or dredge up painful secrets. By the time the Wises and Dr. Welles parted, not even the sweetness of Hannah’s homemade applesauce could soothe hurt feelings or smooth over the rift between them.
The following recipe is the one I had in mind when I wrote the above-mentioned scene. As with many recipes, there is room for change based on your preferences. I find that applesauce, not unlike apple pie, is one of those recipes that bear the signature flavors usually handed down through the family. I hope you enjoy the way my family makes it.
My favorite apples to use are Cortland, Jonagold, Melrose, Idared, Winesap, and Golden Delicious, and I use a combination of all six in this recipe. Stotler’s Orchard is where I purchased apples for saucing.
½ c brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 t cinnamon
Allspice to taste***
1 c apple cider
I prefer to use a 6.5–quart cast iron, enamel covered Dutch oven, but any heavy cooker will do.
Peel, core, and cut enough apples into one-inch chunks to fill the cooker, leaving a little room to stir. Add the apple cider, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and several hearty dashes of allspice to the apples. Stir all ingredients, cover, and cook on a medium high heat. Don’t let the apples boil. Check regularly and stir the apples up from the bottom so the mixture cooks evenly.
At about 30 minutes, the apples should be soft enough to cut through a chunk with the side of a wooden spoon. If not, cook for an additional five minutes and recheck.
Once the apples are tender, transfer small batches to a food processor and blend to desired consistency. I allow the applesauce to cool to room temperature in a large metal bowl before transferring it to gallon-sized freezer bags. Enough applesauce is ladled into the bag so that it is about a half inch thick when sealed and laying on its side. Full bags stack nicely in the freezer.
***If your allspice lists several other spices in the ingredients, you’re not using real allspice.