The leaves are turning and there is a cold bite in the air. This tells me two things; first, winter is right around the corner and second, it is time to take advantage of the fall harvest. Here in New England, as in other parts of the country as well, that means apples are plentiful. When I was growing up we always had plenty of apples in the house. We took them in our school lunches and even threw some at our friends. Mainly my mother used them to make apple pies, baked apples and applesauce. What follows is my mother’s recipe for applesauce, but with a twist. I call it Bourbon Applesauce.
It is funny that many people seem to think that there is nothing more “American” than apples. Heck, in my neck of the woods they grow wild everywhere. We even have a saying, “As American as apple pie”. The truth is that apples were brought here from Europe in the 1600s. Don’t get me wrong, a great deal has changed since then and American apple growers have developed types of apples that are strictly “American”, but the original stock came from elsewhere. What is “American” is bourbon whiskey.
To learn more about bourbon whiskey I traveled to Kentucky and paid a visit to Buffalo Trace Distillery. Here I learned how bourbon is made and what makes it different from other whiskeys. Alcohol can be made from just about anything that ferments. It is the ingredients, namely corn, and what happens to the alcohol after distilling that makes bourbon, bourbon. After the alcohol is produced it is aged in charred oak barrels and it is this process that gives bourbon whiskey its color and flavor, a flavor that goes perfectly with the apples, brown sugar and cinnamon in the applesauce.
When it comes to apples it seems that no two types are the same. Hard apples, like Cortlands, are perfect for pies because they hold their firmness even after cooking. For applesauce you want apples that turn to mush fairly quickly. McIntosh apples are perfect for this and that is why I use them in my applesauce recipe. They are also probably the most plentiful apples found around my New Hampshire home. The bottom line here is that apple trees are more than just a great place to set up your deer blind and bourbon is more than a great way to celebrate when you bring that deer home.
- Apples: Use as many as you want. The more apples, the more applesauce you will have. Four good sized apples will produce about three cups of sauce. For this batch I am using eight apples. You just need to adjust the recipe according to the number of apples that you use.
- ¼ to ½ cup of brown sugar for every four apples
- ½ Teaspoon of cinnamon for every four apples
- ¼ Teaspoon of nutmeg for every four apples
- ¼ Cup of bourbon whiskey for every four apples
- Rinse, core and peel the apples. They have machines out there that will do all of this for you, but I want to remain true to the tradition, so I do everything by hand.
- Place cored and peeled apples into a large pot and cover with just enough water to keep the apples from burning. I place the whole apple in the pot, but you may want to quarter or even slice the apples before putting them in the pot. This is especially true if you are using a lot of apples.
- Place pot on stove and cook on high for about 15 minutes and then reduce heat to medium.
- Cook for another 5 minutes and then reduce heat to simmer. At this time the apples should be soft enough to mash.
- While still on the stove go ahead and mash the apples. Don’t worry about a few chunks as they will cook down.
- Add brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg stirring in all ingredients as you do so.
- Bring heat back to medium and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add the bourbon and cook at medium for another 5 to 10 minutes. This will allow most of the alcohol to burn off.
- Reduce heat to simmer and allow the mixture to cook for about another hour or until you get the consistency that you want. The applesauce will reduce and thicken the longer you leave it.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
There you have it. The “All-American” fruit (kind of) and the “All-American” spirit joining forces to make one great applesauce. Enjoy over ice cream or straight up.