The very best applesauce is made with whole apples.
This I discovered when making apple butter. The process calls for cooking quartered, unpeeled apples—cores, seeds and all—until they break down into a mush, then sieving that mush to obtain a purée—aka applesauce.
And oh, what an applesauce it is. The pectin in the apple skin and seeds makes it thick and glistening even before any sweetener is added. (Sometimes the skins can even add a lovely rosy hue.) It tastes even more richly of apple than the usual stuff you make with peeled, cored and diced fruit. And…it’s easier on the cook. Yes, sieving is work, but it’s nothing compared to the time it takes to peel and core 4 lb. of apples.
I sweeten and season the applesauce after it’s made—sometimes it needs no sweetener at all, depending on the apple varieties. Still, I’ve put in a general amount as a start. This sauce can be eaten all on its own (The French are applesauce fanatics and the compote de pommesdisplay at the supermarket is something to behold.), used to sweeten hot cereal or yogurt, or spread as a base for classic French apple tart.
Whole Apple Applesauce
4 lb/2 kg apples, washed and quartered (or cut into eighths if very large)
2 cups water
2 to 4 Tbs. sugar or brown sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon or allspice
Cook the apples and water in a large pot over medium heat 30 to 45 minutes (the actual time will depend on the type of apples you use and how fast they break down), or until all of the pieces are mushy and fall apart. Stir the apples from time to time to help them cook evenly.
Remove from the heat, and cool until just warm to the touch, or cool completely. Sieve the apple mixture through a food mill or a fine-meshed strainer to remove the seeds and skins. (If using a food mill, go gently to avoid crushing the seeds.) You should have about 6 cups. For a smoother applesauce, sieve the sauce a second time. Sweeten with sugar—1 to 2 teaspoons per cup, or more if desired. Store in the fridge up to 1 week. The applesauce can also be frozen.