This recipe will make your house smell incredible, I promise. We had a couple of buckets of windfall Transparent apples, and after making a Caramel Apple cake and a batch of hard cider with about half of the haul, I decided to can some applesauce. Cinnamon is the standard spice and it is wonderful, but a whole, split vanilla bean and a good drizzle of honey transforms this fairly humble sauce into something magical. If you want to seriously gild the lily you could spoon the warm sauce over ice cream, or fold some into whipped coconut cream (or heavy cream) to make an apple fool. We ate about a pint of it warm, and then canned the rest to have some later in the year.
You could skip the vanilla bean and use some extract if you think it is too extravagant, but I swear it is worth it. The bean breaks down a bit in the applesauce and the flavor and aroma are outstanding. You can buy quality, whole vanilla beans from Rodelle or Beanilla. You should buy beans that are moist and pliable, not brittle or dried out. I always have a few on hand and I store them in a glass tube in a cool cabinet. To split a whole bean just run the tip of a sharp knife down the bean from top to bottom. This will expose the inner seeds for maximum flavor, and you will see tiny flecks of vanilla seed throughout the finished sauce. Vanilla is actually anything but plain and boring, and if you experiment with a few whole beans you will see how complex the flavor can really be.
Since Transparent apples have really thin skins I did not peel the apples–the skin pretty much dissolves into the sauce. If you are using apples with a thicker skin I would go ahead and peel it off before tossing them in the crockpot. You could omit the honey if you want to keep the sugar levels down, or increase it if you like sweet sauce. The amount called for in the recipe results in a tart-sweet sauce.
We also canned some garlic-pickled green beans and some pickled beets and eggs, and hope to get some green tomato chutney going this weekend. There is something incredibly satisfying about canning and preserving your own food. Is there something you love to preserve, or would like to try? I would love to know how many people are into food preservation and whether you are interested in that type of recipe.
Slow Cooker Honey-Vanilla Applesauce
- About five pounds of apples, cored and quartered (and peeled if the skins are tough)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt (optional, but boosts the natural sweetness of the apples)
- Place all of the ingredients in a slow cooker and set it on high. Cook for five hours.
- At the end of the cooking time, fish out the vanilla bean and stir the applesauce to break up any remaining chunks. If you want a smooth sauce, use an immersion blender or carefully blend in batches with a regular blender.
- This makes about four pints of sauce. If you want to can the sauce for later use, use a water bath method.