And so we started with applesauce. Well, technically my baby’s first “foods” were some impossible-to-resist crinkly paper from the examination table at his pediatrician’s (or whatever I missed in Mama’s First Tiny Mouf Fingersweep) and some diluted, organic, no sugar added prune juice, but we don’t really need to get into the rationale behind that, do we?
Despite having baked more apple pies, tarts, crumbles, grunts, brown bettys, muffins and cakes in the last five years than most people do in their lifetimes, I’d actually never made applesauce before. Needless to say, mastery of applesauce is a great trick to have up your sleeve when you a) have a wee one underfoot and b) live in an area where apples are pretty much the only locally-grown fruit available from October through April. I knew Elise would never steer me wrong, thus I turned to her recipe for guidance, nixing the sugar and lemon juice, as I understand we’re supposed to ease into the citruses further down the road.
However, I used the suggested citrus peel and I’m so glad I did. I was surprised by how well the delicate lemon perfume worked in the applesauce — you get the fragrant oils, but not the sharp acidity so it is particularly fitting to introduce into tiny mouths. Actually, I was taken aback by the deliciousness of all of it. I’d been worried that applesauce cooked from busted, post-season apples with no added sugar would be kind of grainy and blah and it was anything but. Whizzed in the food processor, it became smooth and velvety, but packed with flavor. I won’t lie, the hardest part has been sharing it with its most eager customer.
Roughly adapted from Simply Recipes
I know people say this a lot about homemade food, but in this especially there is absolutely no comparison in the flavor from this applesauce and the stuff from the jars. They may as well be different food groups; this one smooth and velvety, and not nearly as sour and one-note-y as its packaged sugar-free counterpart. Now that I know how easy it is to make — the hardest part is the peeling and coring — if I make no other baby food, I’m pretty sure I’ll always make homemade applesauce going forward.
Yield: About 12 3/4 to 13 cups.
4 pounds apples, peeled and cored (I used a mix of Ida Red and Rome apples from my farmer’s market that had been in cold storage since the fall)
4 strips of lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
Peel, core and chop your apples into large chunks, about 8 pieces per apple. Put all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce it to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for approximately 30 minutes, or until apples are quite soft. (I like to see that I can squish them with the back of a fork.) Fish out the lemon peels and whole cinnamon stick, if you used one, and let it cool.
Puree in a food processor, blender or food mill and freeze in small portions. It will be difficult, but try to remember to share the deliciousness with your baby.
Check out the Tools page for more on the ABC’s of preparing, storing and serving baby food.