The only food that comes out of a baby food jar that we still eat as adults, unless you secretly eat Gerber Chicken & Gravy when no one is looking (don't worry your secret is safe with me!)
The key to creating great applesauce is knowing what apples make the best sauce. There are many varieties of apples that can be used in sauce making. In fact really any apple can be used. But not every apple is a good choice. The best baking apples I usually skip as they hold up well when cooked so they take longer to turn into sauce.
Applesauce Making Goals
When making sauce, I think the overall goal (besides awesome flavor) should be to use a combination of apples that will enable you to add little or no sugar (see my post on How to Make No Sugar Added Applesauce). By having a combination of sweet and tart apples you can pull this off.
Honeycrisp for Applesauce?
Before I get started with exact varieties I bet I am going to get this question so let's cut to the chase. When it comes to using Honeycrisp apples for applesauce I wouldn't. They do have a good flavor, but I think their increased cost (check out my post on why they are more expensive) is enough to drive me to cheaper, yet still tasty apples for sauce. So enjoy them fresh out of hand, or maybe in a cobbler.
The Best Apples for Applesauce
First I will give you a list of apples that I think make for good applesauce. The second list will be apples you can add to your applesauce so you won't need to add any additional sugar.
Then you will find my experience working with some different combination as well as incorporating other fruits.
For this first list here are some one of the best varieties. Some may be easier to find than others. In general the apples I use for pies, I don't use for sauce and vice versa (maybe Jonathans are one of the only exceptions).
What About Other Popular Apples
Pink Lady apples I don't really like for applesauce - not enough sweetness and too firm. Granny Smith even more so. Sauce made with them does end up more chunky and a lighter color like commercial applesauce.
For more ideas of what apples you can use for sauce making, check out my Instagram account. I post what apples I am finding in stores and will share which ones are good for sauce. It's also a great way to reach out to me with your apple questions.
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Combinations I Have Tried
Below you will find a list of apple sauce combination that I used in past seasons. For each I indicate if I had to add sugar or not.
McIntosh Apples - One of Best for Applesauce
McIntosh are one of the best apples for sauce. They break down really easily and make the sauce taste amazing. In fact about a month after they are picked they are already practically applesauce. But you will probably need to add sugar to your sauce so that it isn't so tart. Or you can mix in a few sweet apples like Galas. Another option would be to use Empire or Cortland apples which are related to a McIntosh and also have good flavor.
Transparent Apples - The Best for Summer Applesauce
Before McIntosh are available, you can find Transparent apples. I bought them during the summer around mid July.. They are very tart, so I had to add sugar a good amount of sugar to them when the sauce was done. This is a good apple for those that like their sauce on the tart side. The texture of this applesauce was awesome!
Best Apples for Chunky Applesauce
If you are looking to make a chunky applesauce, try using Ida Red apples. These apples hold up well in cooking, so your end results will be more naturally chunky that other sauce made with other varieties.
Prime Gold & McIntosh Apples and Pears
Prime Gold is similar to Golden Delicious so if you can't find it, use Goldens. I added 3 Spartlett pears to bring another depth of flavor to the party. This is a great way to bring the flavors of two of fall's most beloved fruits together. No additional sugar was needed. Click here for my full recipe.
McIntosh, Pippin, and Red Delicious Apples
This time I wanted to try 3 different apples and see what I got. I used 4 McIntosh, 4 Pippin, and 2 Red Delicious (Hawthrone variety). I wanted to use up the Pippin apples I had. I thought the sauce needed a little extra, so I picked out a couple of the heirloom Red Delicious apples to add more flavor and a bit more sweetness. This wasn't as sweet as the Prime Gold/McIntosh combo, but I only needed to add about ⅛ cup of brown sugar to get the amount of sweetness I was after.
Jonared apples are unique in that the outer red skin bleeds into the flesh of the apple. This makes for one beautiful red colored applesauce. I used 10 apples. Jonareds I had were pretty small apples. I needed to add 1 ½ tablespoons of sugar to make the sauce perfect.
Peach & Apple Mix
For this sauce, I used one peach, 2 Jersey Mac apples, 2 Ginger Gold apples, and 3 Paula Red apples. A Jersey Mac is very similar to a McIntosh, and both Ginger Gold and Paula Red are good for cooking and have a nice sweet/tart balance. The peach added some acidic of it's own, so I did need to add about ¼ cup of sugar to this one to get it just right. Click here for the full recipe.
Cranberry & Apple Mix
Add fresh cranberries to your applesauce adds a great dimension of flavor. I usually have to add a little bit of sugar to this sauce to help counter the tartness of the cranberries. Click here for the full recipe.
Try to buy seconds if you can for applesauce. A lot of farms sell seconds. They are cheaper apples that may not look as good as the other apples, but taste just the same at a fraction of the cost. So you can get a lot of apples to make a lot of sauce without a lot of your dough.
Some u-pick apple orchards will allow you to pick drops at a reduced price. These are apples that have fallen to the ground. Often time they cannot use these apples by law, not even for cider.
You Don't Have to Peel the Apples
A food mill is the BEST tool to have on hand for applesauce. It save saves me SO MUCH time!!! Why? Because I don't have to peel the apples. I like to slice them in half or quarter them before cooking to make them cook faster. That's it for prep. When the sauce is ready just run in through the food mill with the hand crank. A little muscle (I mean a little) is all you need. In 2017, I purchased an Oxo Food Mill. It was a little more expensive than the others but so worth it as it works really well and it easy to use and the best part - easy to clean.
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