Slow Cooker Cranberry Pear Applesauce
This applesauce is special. Did you know that some applesauce is considered special, whereas other applesauce is not? It’s okay if you were not aware of this fact; after all, it’s my job to think about these things and report back to you. So this is me letting you know that your applesauce needs to be special. I feel that I can speak pretty confidently on this topic because we are applesauce people. This is primarily because my kids are picky eaters and I don’t cook them something separate for dinner, so I always like to have one or two things at the meal that I know they will eat. Enter trusty old applesauce. If you make your own, you can control the amount of sugar in it, which is good for all of us. An added bonus is that it is a good source of fiber, a nutrient that is always lacking in my kids’ diets. At this point in my life as a parent, I have made gallons upon gallons of applesauce. I freeze it, I can it, I add blueberries, I make it on the stove, in the oven, I’ve tried it all.
Of all the different variations and ways I make applesauce, this is by far my favorite. In fact, even if I didn’t want to keep applesauce around for the benefit of my kids, I’d still make big batches of this particular kind because Ray and I like it so much. There is a little bit of pear in there, a few handfuls of cranberries, some lemon, orange, and cinnamon. There are just enough cranberries to make the sauce a little bit tart, but the added pears are sweet enough to mellow out the tartness. The orange and lemon are not pronounced flavors, they just help enhance the others. There’s not enough of anything that it dominates the flavor of the apples, but just enough so that when they all come together you get something a little unexpected and a little special. I find that it is sweet enough that I don’t need any added sugar, but you can always add some if you like.
The key to making any kind of applesauce is using good sauce apples and using a variety of them. Granny smith is the old standby for pies, but it’s not great for sauce. For this batch, I used a combination of Fireside, Smokehouse, and Mutsu apples that I found at our local orchard. If you can get to an orchard, definitely go. First off, the smell of all of the apples inside is almost intoxicating. Plus, I bet they have several varieties that you’ve never heard of before. Most of the orchards I have been to post signs or posters showing what varieties of apples are good for what purposes. Or, when in doubt, just Google it, or check out this chart. If you use all of one variety of apple in your sauce it will be a bit one dimensional. Choosing 2 or 3 will give you the best flavor. If you look for varieties that are naturally pretty sweet, you can probably get by without any added sugar, which is always my goal.
My favorite way to eat it is warm, right from the cooker, but the rest of my family prefers it cold and pureed very smooth. One recipe makes about 2 1/2 quarts. It will easily keep for the week in the refrigerator and it also freezes really well, so don’t be afraid to make a whole batch and save some for another time.
Makes 20 servings, 1/2 cup each
Calories: 104 Fat: 0.3g Sodium: 31.2mg Carbohydrates: 27.6g Fiber: 5g Sugar: 20g Protein: 0.6g
- 7 1/2 lbs. apples, preferably more than one variety
- 2 pears
- 6 oz. cranberries (about 1 1/2 cups), washed and sorted
- 4 3-inch cinnamon sticks
- zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
- zest and juice from 1/2 orange
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1. Peel, core, and roughly chop apples and pears. Place in slow cooker.
- 2. Pour lemon and orange juices in slow cooker and sprinkle zest on top of chopped apples.
- 3. Add cranberries, salt, and cinnamon sticks.
- 4. Cover slow cooker and cook on Low for approximately 8 hours. Remove cinnamon sticks.
- 5. Mash up apples with a potato masher or use an immersion blender to puree sauce until smooth. You could also use a blender or food processor. If you use a blender, make sure you vent the lid if the sauce is still hot.
- 6. If you like, add additional cinnamon and sugar.
- Freezes great!