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By all accounts, applesauce is a humble food. But when prepared with the right ingredients it can still be exceptionally delicious. This version, made with maple syrup, brown sugar, and fresh cranberries, is downright dessert-worthy. Each bite tastes like it was swiped from the middle of a pie.
I've always thought the idea of fruit for dessert was kind of a cop out. At the end of a great meal, who gets excited by a bowl of tangerines or a dainty berry parfait? Bring on the cakes, puddings, and cookies! But this applesauce changed my mind. It tastes first and foremost of fresh, juicy apples, with hints of cinnamon, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Just to gild the lily, I added a few handfuls of cranberries and simmered them until they popped, which infused the sauce with a subtle tang.
For this recipe I used a combination of Granny Smith, which I like for their firm texture, and Jonagold apples, because I love the flavor. (Jonagolds are a hybrid of Golden Delicious and Jonathan apples). I don't like my applesauce too sweet, so I only used 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Feel free to increase the maple syrup to 1/2 cup for an even more pronounced maple flavor. I used an immersion blender and blended the sauce just until it was chunky. If you don't have an immersion blender, before adding the cranberries simply puree half the sauce in a blender and then stir it back into the pot. A final note: don't omit or reduce the amount of lemon juice! It's important for the purposes of preservation.
This applesauce would be absolutely heavenly paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some crushed amaretti cookies or graham crackers. Once processed in a hot water bath, the jars will keep for up to six months on the shelf—so you can get cracking on making your holiday gifts now.
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Lucy Baker is a food writer and the author of The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets. She is currently at work on a second book about homemade food gifts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and dachshund.