On applesauce, taking stock, and making it, too.

Now, about that applesauce.

This recipe works its way into our repertoire every year as an afterthought. We’ll be looking for something or other to go with whatever meal we’ve got planned, paging through recipe files, knocking around in the cupboards, when one of us will ask, “Hey, what about that apple sauce?” Then, we'll smack our hands against our foreheads, say, “Oh, right,” and remember how very special “that applesauce” is. After the first pot, it sticks with us for the rest of the season, as a light, tart, Thanksgiving dessert; at our annual Chanukah party, atop Eli’s famous latkes; and on New Year’s Eve, blushing hotly alongside a cool glass of champagne. We got started a little earlier than usual this season thanks to a bag of last year’s cranberries that was tucked away in our freezer. Wait, have I mentioned that part yet? That it’s cranberry applesauce? I told you it’s special.

Way back in September, on the Tuesday before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Eli and I got into our pajamas early, and stretched out on the bed with a few favorite cookbooks, a stack of old Gourmet magazines, a notepad, and a fresh pack of sticky tabs. We would be hosting a couple of holiday meals that weekend, and we were looking for inspiration. At the risk of sounding completely geeky, I’ll share with you that bedtime, pre-holiday meal planning is something I adore. I love the soft light of the nightstand lamp against the glossy magazine pages, the smell of the pillows, Judy Rodgers’s and Suzanne Goin’s familiar prose, and the curve of Eli’s back as he leans into a new recipe, and thinks it through. We talk in quiet voices about flavors and oils and what this one or the other of our dinner guests might particularly enjoy. We read aloud to each other from the recipe notes, mark pages, and make lists. And somewhere along the way, our conversation shifts to the new year, to where we’ve been and where we’re going, to what we believe in, and who we want to be for ourselves, for each other, and out there in the world. This year, I learned something new about Eli, which is that he will follow Tom Colicchio anywhere. Even if it means making a stock to make a stock (yes, you read that correctly) in which to braise one very lucky hunk of meat. Once Eli set his eyes on that recipe, he barely glanced at another cookbook. The next night, after work, he got started.

The thing about stock is that it has a way of eating up an entire evening. Between the prepping, and the simmering, and the cooling so that it doesn’t spoil the fridge, it would be two or three in the morning before Eli would finally come to bed. This situation may not seem especially hospitable to the making of applesauce, but just stick with me, if you would. I meant it when I said that we tend to get to this recipe in a roundabout way. The thing to remember is that a lot of stock-making time is downtime, and when Eli noticed the apples remaining from our Labor Day orchard excursion, he said – true to form – “Hey, why don’t I make that applesauce? I might as well.” Any man who, when faced with a few hours of late-night, mid-stock downtime makes applesauce because he “might as well” is dreamy, and that’s that. I knew I liked him.

If ever you find yourself in a similar situation, about to go to bed, when someone pipes up with an offer to make this applesauce, resist the pillow for just a few minutes, if you can. When the pot is filled with fruit and sugar and beginning to heat up, volunteer to stir so that you can watch the cranberries melt a little into the apples, split open with the occasional pop, and release their tart, rosy juices. Then, go on to bed, and in the morning, taking care not to wake the still-sleeping, late-night cook beside you, step out into your cinnamon-smelling apartment, poke a spoon into the fridge, and steal a puckery little bite. I don’t know why, but I got a little nervous this year that maybe it wouldn’t be as good as I remembered it, but sure enough, there was that zing.

If you skip all of the making and taking stock, and dive right into the recipe, you’ll find that this applesauce comes together in a snap. It takes only about fifteen minutes to prep the apples and throw everything into the pot, and then you just let the fruit, sugar, and heat do their thing. I know that I promised you this recipe almost two months ago, and I’m sorry I’m late. I hope you’ll find it was worth the wait.

(p.s. Hi, November. What?)

Cranberry Applesauce
Adapted from Gourmet, December, 2007

The original recipe calls for just 1 ½ c. cranberries, but I upped the amount to 2 full cups. I like tart. I enjoy this sauce warm, anointed with a small (or not-so-small, as you can see from the photograph) dollop of Greek yogurt or crème fraîche.

4 pounds apples (about 8 medium-small apples), peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces. We like to use a mix of whatever we have around. Our last batch included Jonagold, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, and Golden Delicious.
2 c. fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
½ c. sugar
1 cinnamon stick

Place the apples, cranberries, sugar, and cinnamon stick in a large heavy pot. Cover, and turn the heat to medium-low. Stirring every now and then, let cook for about 45 minutes, until the fruit is very tender, and begins to break down into a sauce. Discard the cinnamon stick. The original recipe indicates that you can force the applesauce through a sieve for a smoother texture, but I prefer it thick and chunky. I think it is best when made at least one day ahead, chilled, and then reheated. The applesauce can be prepared up to one week in advance. Keep covered and chilled.


Linda said...

what a lovely post! i also love to read recipes in the evening...in my nightstand are as many cookbooks & mags that can possibly fit...i am going to re-create your applesauce recipe this w/e...i make applesauce & cranberry sauce separately & sometimes combine after produced...this is a great spin...
btw: your roasted chick peas & heirloom tomatoes with basil recipe is one we adore (this past w/e i was lucky to score heirlooms in wonderful fall colors) & we feasted!

Rogue Unicorn said...

Alas, no fresh cranberries here. Nary a one. Just dried ones or canned ones, which won't do at all- especially around Thanksgiving.

I have been handing out your pluot cake recipe to pretty much anyone who asks for any sort of recipe recommendation lately. It's great and it's so easy that its accessible to even my non-foodie friends (unlike, say, my great-aunt's honey cake recipe which is awesome but also has about ten-million complex steps to it).

Lauren said...

I will definitely be making this applesauce recipe. I've recently noticed fresh cranberries gracing produce shelves, and can't wait to cook/bake with them!

Rebecca Martin said...

I'm new to your blog in the last couple months, and have really been enjoying your recipes, and your writing, in general - thank you for sharing good stuff!

A question: does applesauce freeze well? (If, say, I wanted to make some this week, but knew I wouldn't eat it all and might want it again in a few?)

EEJ said...

I love that you say "I knew I liked him" as if you've just met! That kind of freshness makes a relationship so much more fun.

I'm also astonished to find the calendar suddenly saying November. Don't know when that happened and I have NO idea how to wade through the rest of the semester's work! Ugh! Coffee & pastries, STAT!

El said...

Jess, this is such a lovely story. I love how you captured a simple, intimate moment in your relationship. Isn't it wonderful being married to someone who cares about food? I'm definitely inspired to try this recipe. I'll make sure we make it at night so that we too can fill our home with the cozy, delicious fragrance you so eloquently describe!

Frenchie said...

Jess, when I saw you had a new post up, I couldn't wait to read. I love that you feel comfortable sharing tidbits about your everyday life in a way that a lot of people would shy away from. Honesty and love really are beautiful. The fact that you paired your story with a stellar recipe, makes it that much better. I love apple sauce and I cannot wait to make this one, I have never made it with cranberries but given how much I love cranberries, I think this is going to be a huge hit.

Maggie said...

This is lovely. Lovely writing, lovely rosy applesauce.

Jennifer said...

You two are just too darn adorable. What a lovely image of you strategizing your meals together. Isn't homemade stock just worth every minute? Even more so, when another darling recipe like this applesauce is crafted during the downtime...

Jess said...

Hi, everyone. Such a lovely batch of notes from you all today. Thank you so much for being here, and for taking the time to write. I've been a little absent lately, and coming back to this space always feels so good. Especially when you're all here to meet me.

Linda - Bedtime recipe reading is really one of the best things in life, I'm convinced. I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying those chickpeas and tomatoes. Have an extra helping for me. Here, we're pretty much done with heirlooms for the season.

Rogue Unicorn - Sadness. Though what you lack in cranberries, you make up for in pomegranates, no? I'm not sure that the sauce would work with pomegranate seeds, unless you fancy your applesauce on the crunchy side. But maybe you could add a little freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice to a batch of regular applesauce and get something comparably tart and rosy? Thanks for passing along that cake recipe to your friends. It's definitely one for even the self-proclaimed "non-bakers" out there.

Lauren - Yes, the cranberries are back! That must mean it's truly fall.

Rebecca - Thank you for your very kind words, and welcome! I've never tried freezing this recipe, but I've given it some thought, and I have a feeling that it would work beautifully. Though I can't make any promises, I think it's worth a go. Just be sure to seal it in an airtight container. If you do give it a try, and you think of it, I would be grateful if you would report back so that I can add a note to the recipe.

EEJ - Amen on all counts. Just swap in the tea for the coffee, for me.

El - Thank you. And yes, having a partner in crime does make time in the kitchen more fun. I hope you'll like this sauce as much as I do.

Frenchie - You are really too kind, my friend. Thank you. If you are a cranberry lover, this recipe may be love at first bite. Fair warning.

Maggie - Thank you. It means a lot knowing that you're reading.

Jennifer - We have our not-so-adorable moments too, but thanks. Yes, this stock that Eli made (from an initial, also amazing stock) was something called "brown stock." So good. We actually still have a little in the freezer. Lucky us.

Rosiecat said...

Cranberry applesauce? Um, yes, please! Where's my spoon? Amazingly, even here in Texas we've got fresh cranberries on the produce shelves. (But I really don't want to think about how far they've traveled to be here, where it's a balmy 70-something degree temperature today. In NOVEMBER! I love Texas. And I digress...)

Late-night recipe reading is the perfect prelude to lovely, peaceful sleep. I am not at all surprised to hear that you love it, too. Late-night cooking can be pretty fun too. I love how quiet the kitchen and my mind are when I'm cooking at night, after the hullabaloo of dinner is done.

Char said...

oh heaven. I have to make this.

Anonymous said...

that sounds great. do you normally put sugar in your applesauce? or is it in this version because of the cranberries. i'm asking because when i make it w/ just apples i don't but i know many people do. thanks.

minor catastrophes said...

Jess, I discovered your blog when you won BlogHer of the Week, and have been reading you ever since. You have such a lovely voice and your photos/recipes are wonderful. Thanks for that.

About applesauce: I've been making a ton of it here in Montana this season! Sometimes I core the apples, leave the skin on and cook them in the crockpot with sugar, cinnamon and maybe a pinch of cloves. Once done, you can run the sauce through the blender to keep the fiber benefit from the skin, but smooth out the clumpy texture. You can also throw in a handful of berries, or even a frozen banana, though the resulting product is strongly flavored...which is often quite nice. Also, I find it freezes well :) Take care.

Julie said...

YUM. I make cranberry applesauce every year, and have been mourning the loss of an entire tree full of apples to an early frost. They are now dive bombing us in the back yard, splattering all over everything.

Andrea said...

Some of my favorite bedtime reading involves cookbooks. My current obsession is The Italian Country Table...lovely, lovely writing.

I have applesauce on my agenda this weekend, a spicy variety, although I am now reconsidering my recipe... This sounds fabulous! Cranberries and apples are one of the best combinations. Ever.

bluejeangourmet said...

1. ya'll are so freaking cute. crazy, crazy cute. yay love!

2. I'm making this.

3. advice? I'm in charge of dessert at a Hanukkah party this year (Jewish school, remember?). I did really well at Passover, and am hoping to keep my reputation up.

giao {kiss my spatula} said...

i have been meaning to make my own applesauce for years. what am i waiting for? for your post lovely post, i think! beautiful, just beautiful.

Jess said...

Rosiecat - It's nice to know that I'm in good company. I have a feeling that there are a lot of us late-night recipe readers out there.

Char - I won't talk you out of it.

Anonymous - Good question. Yes, it's because of the cranberries that this recipe needs at least a little bit of sugar. In my opinion, it's the sweet against the tart that makes this sauce so good. If 1/2 cup sounds like too much for your taste, you can start with less and add, as necessary. I have also made all-apple apple sauce without sugar. I like to serve it warm, and bring a little bowl of brown sugar to the table so that guests can sweeten to their hearts' content.

minor catastrophes - Hello, and welcome! Thanks for your kind words. I'm so glad that you decided to leave a note, mostly because you enabled me to discover your site. You've got some seriously great stuff going on over there.

Thanks for the applesauce variations, and for sharing that you've had success with freezing. Readers, take note!

Julie - Ugh, sounds like a mess. I know, come to Boston and I'll share some of my applesauce!

Andrea - Thanks for the cookbook recommendation. Spicy applesauce sounds good to me. Hope it was delicious.

bluejeangourmet - 1. Oh, we're crazy alright. 2. Excellent. 3. Hanukkah dessert advice, coming right up: In general, the custom is to eat foods made with (okay, usually fried in) oil to commemorate the teeny, tiny bit of oil that, according to legend, miraculously lasted for eight days. Hence the latkes (potato pancakes), and the traditional Hanukkah dessert, the sufganya (plural, sufganyot). Sufganyot are like doughnuts; they're traditionally filled with jelly, but I've also seen them filled with dulce de leche (!) or Nutella (!), a chocolate-hazelnut spread. Other fried dessert options include beignets and apple fritters. I've actually never tried my hand at any of these treats. Instead, my go-to Hanukkah dessert recipe is (drum roll, please) carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Some people turn their noses up at carrot cake, as if it's not a "real" dessert, but I'm telling you, these cupcakes are decadent and delicious. They have converted more than a few carrot cake skeptics over the years. Plus, they're made with oil, so I get in on that holiday symbolism, too. I've made them for our Hanukkah party every year since 2005, and they are always a hit. I'll probably be posting the recipe here next month, but if you would like it before then, shoot me an e-mail, and I'll hook you up.

giao - Thanks! Very happy to hear that you're off to cook up your first pot. Enjoy.

Allison Arevalo said...

ooo! I love this recipe - I'm not a huge applesauce fan, but I know I would love this. I read your blog all the time and really don't comment often enough - you're great, I so enjoy all of your posts.

juliana inman said...

I loved this little story of applesauce. My husband makes applesauce also, and just about anything else imaginable. Two weeks ago I had to stop after making one batch of Cabernet jelly so I could go to a choral group rehearsal, and dear John volunteered to continue the jelly making. At last count he's made about 48 jars. What a man.

Lo said...

Beautiful post.
We don't make much applesauce at our house -- and maybe I should start wondering why. It's such a sweet, wonderful, comforting thing. And it really can be done while you're "waiting" for something else... like stock :)

Jess said...

Allison - Wow, and from a non-applesauce lover, no less! This does happen to be better than your average applesauce, so maybe it would work for you. It makes me so happy to hear that you enjoy reading Sweet Amandine. Thank you for leaving a note to let me know.

Juliana - I guess we know how to pick 'em. And Cabernet jelly? That sounds amazing.

Lo - Thank you. Applesauce really is all the things that you say. May this recipe be the first of many applesauce makings in your kitchen. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...


I had some old apples that needed to be used and so I made your applesauce. It has been a huge hit here and came out a gorgeous color!


Jess said...

Hi, Aviva. Thanks for reporting back. I love the color, too. I'd like a sweater in the color of cranberry applesauce, come to think of it.

gail said...

Yumm pandowdy! I love all things apple and applesauce is one of my favorite things to make. Nothing in a jar that comes from a store can compare to the homemade version. Although sauteeing apples slices in butter, white whine and apple cider isn't too bad either.

Never thought of adding cranberries to my applesauce, but since I have both on hand, I'm going to give it a go.

Naomi said...

I've been meaning to make applesauce ever since they made their first appearance at the market. I've just turned all my cranberries into a sorbet, so I'll have to go get more and try this!

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction said...

I love cranberries and apples together... What a beautiful dish!

Jess said...

gail - Okay, hold everything. I just promised in my most recent post that I will banish all apples and cranberries from this site until the end of the month. But you can bet that in the privacy of my own kitchen, I'll be trying your concoction. Thanks!

Naomi - I would gladly trade you some of this sauce for a bowl of your sorbet. Sounds wonderful.

Jen - Thank you. As you can tell from the latest three recipes on this site, so do I!

cdelphine said...

I made this for Christmas dinner and it was absolutely delicious. I wasn't paying enough attention at the end so it burned a little bit and a few apple pieces didn't get a chance to cook down but it was still amazing.

koshercamembert said...

Hi Jess -- I'm thinking of making this for Thanksgiving and canning (!) it. I have to bring it on an airplane and I'm not sure it'll survive the trip if I don't seal it up good. Approximately how much does the recipe make? - Gayle

Jess said...

Hi, Gayle. I can't believe I didn't note the yield! Bad Jess... And shoot, I haven't made this since last season, so it's not fresh in my mind. But if I had to guess, I'd say 4-5 cups. We usually double the recipe. If you're bringing it on an airplane, I assume you'll be checking your bag - I don't think they'll let applesauce through security.

koshercamembert said...

Hi Jess. I just made the cranberry applesauce and got 4 1/2 cups. It's fabulous! Thanks for the recipe.