Perhaps it's because I live in the midwest, but fall seems like the best time to cook. My family is fortunate enough to have both apple and pear trees in our yard, and I use them to make both applesauce and apple crisp.
Helpful hints to think about prior to starting:
- a mix of different types of apples seems to produce the loveliest applesauce
- remember, it doesn't matter how pretty the apples are for making sauce, seconds are just fine
- decide what size glass jars you wish to use -- larger ones seem more cumbersome to me because it takes so long for them to defrost -- my favorite size are the 2 cup (1 pint) glass jars (but this might depend on the size of your family and the height of your freezer shelves)
- cutting up apples can get a bit boring or tedious, so I recommend turning on HGTV (or whatever you like) in the background (or an audio book) -- make the task enjoyable for yourself
- apples (mixture works best)
- maybe pears
- nutmeg (if you like it)
- crock pot
- glass jars
- sharp knife and cutting board
My favorite version is the sugarless, but to account for taste I'll include both versions
SUGARLESS VERSION (lighter colored)
1) put 1.5 cups of water into the crock pot
2) sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg into the water to taste (a good rule is way more cinnamon than nutmeg, but again it's to taste)
3) start with slicing up either two good sized pears or several more smaller pears (removing cores and skin) -- this makes the applesauce sweeter naturally, but not enough pears are present to ruin the nice, soft texture of the sauce
4) add apple slices to fill the crock pot (sliced, cored, cut into chunks -- the smaller the chunks, the faster the applesauce gets made)
SWEET VERSION (darker colored)
1) 1.5 cups water in the crock pot
2) add 1/2 cup brown sugar
3) sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg into the water (again, more cinnamon than nutmeg unless you're just crazy for nutmeg)
4) slice and dice apples into chunks to fill up the crock pot
With my crock pot, this process works best when set on HIGH for 3-4 hours -- keep checking on it and stirring the contents (keep in mind that just as everyone's stove is different, crock pots could act the very same way). It's pretty disappointing to put in all the work (takes me about a half hour or so) to fill the crock pot with apple slices and then have the whole mess burn.
Turn off the power once the apples are mostly dissolved into the sauce. This lets the reserved heat slowly cook the rest without risk of overcooking. Stir more frequently at this point. Once the sauce consistency is pleasing to your eye, then cool however you wish-- setting outside if the night is cool or putting in the fridge. Once the sauce has cooled at least somewhat, you can spoon it into glass jars, leaving a little space below the lid.
I'm not honestly sure how long it is safe to keep in the freezer, but that's never an issue with my family. We eat everything up each winter, and nothing gets left over to ruin.