Applesauce and Oatmeal

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[Another fun bit of cooking for the LJWorld.]

My husband can make eggs better than a life-long cook at a short order greasy spoon.  Poached, fried, scrambled--I can never hope to equal his masterful skill, so I rarely try.  Breakfast has become almost entirely his domain, with just one, little exception.  

When the first wind shift of fall hits and visions of comfort foods begin to fill my dreams, it's time for me to wake up and cook oatmeal.  

While I try to shy away from the powdery, "instant" oatmeal packets, I'm otherwise not religious about the oatmeal itself.  I rarely have time for steel-cut so--just for practical reasons--we typically buy regular or quick-cook.

What is absolutely critical, however, is the applesauce.  A proper bowl of autumn oatmeal cannot be complete without a generous dollop of homemade, cinnamon-y applesauce stirred in.  It transforms the oatmeal from mere "warm cereal" to a fuzzy scarf and a hug as everyone leaves the house to go about the day.

And fortunately, making homemade applesauce is much easier than knitting fuzzy scarves.  With about an hour of largely inactive prep, you can easily stock your larder with enough applesauce to top hot oatmeal all fall.  

To start, you'll need about 3 pounds of apples.  I like to pick a mix of varieties--a couple of "Gala", three or four "Granny Smith"--but that's a personal preference.  One of the beauties of making your own applesauce is that you can make it exactly as sweet or as tart as you like it.  

Next, pull out a large stock pot, and measure-in 1/2 cup of water.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons) into the water.

Then, it's back to the apples.  I don't like to peel mine, because I like the little flecks of color the skin gives the finished sauce.  Again, that's a personal preference, so feel free to peel your apples first if that makes you happy.  

Once they're peeled (or not), begin chopping.  No need to dice the apples up finely--just a rough chop into 1 or 2 inch pieces will do.  Discard the cores and stems, and add the chunks to the lemon water.

Put the whole pot on the stove until the water begins to boil, then let it all simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The apples will all cook at different speeds, but you'll know they're done when the firmer apples are fairly soft, and the softer apples are beginning to look a little like sauce.  Also, it will smell amazing!

In batches, transfer the softened apples to a food mill or food processor.  Whiz them up, then add them back to the stockpot.  Stir the sauce together, then dip in a clean spoon or finger for a taste.  

If it's sweet enough, you're good-to-go, but feel free to add honey or sugar to taste.  This is also a good time to add some cinnamon.  Just for reference, for my applesauce I added about ¼ cup of honey and a heavy tablespoon of cinnamon.

If you have extra room in the freezer, this sauce can be stored there for about 6 months.  (If you're freezing in glass jars remember to leave generous headspace--at least an inch, if not a little more--to avoid broken jars.)

This sauce is also suitable for canning.  You'll want to process it in sterilized half-pint jars for 10 minutes.

The recipe yield is a little different every time, depending on how much water is in the apples themselves.  I typically get about 3 pints, plus enough to top—and rapidly devour—my very first bowl of fall oatmeal right on the spot.