"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." --US Department of LaborWhile many people are enjoying their last gasp of summer today (boating, camping, etc.), I find myself once again laboring on Labor Day. The farmer's markets feature stands laden with the late summer harvest: apples, peaches, pears, melons, corn, and more. Last year I was canning peaches on Labor Day, and this year, I am bottling homemade applesauce.
Several years ago, wanting to make sugar-free applesauce for my infant son, I started using Gala apples. This apple is sweet enough that no sugar is needed, and it makes a light, beautiful applesauce.
The first step in making applesauce is washing and quartering all the apples.
Gala apples for applesauce
Thanks to a great invention called the Victorio strainer, there is no need to peel the apples. My mom has owned her Victorio strainer for years, and my sisters and I agree that we are never making applesauce without one.
The Victorio strainer was originally marketed to process tomatoes into pasta sauce. The brand originated in 1937, and you can purchase Victorio products today. Eventually some smart person discovered the strainer was wonderful for making applesauce, and I am grateful they did. As a kid, I was fascinated by this mechanism that took apples placed in the top bowl, ran them through a strainer while we took turns moving the crank handle, and sent smooth applesauce out the front. Peels, stems, cores, seeds, and other apple garbage circled through the strainer and out the end.
Apples in the Victorio strainer
Applesauce coming out of the strainer.
Peelings collecting out the side of the strainer.
I remember summer days when my mother, grandmother, and aunts gathered in our tiny kitchen and bottled cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, and applesauce. One year my mom and dad made apricot fruit leather and dried apricots, and our backyard held tables with screens covering the fruit while it dried in the sun.
Today I joined my mother and two sisters in that same kitchen (now expanded) and we made applesauce together. Canning is not always something I want to tackle alone, and I appreciate being able to work with a team. I could walk in to a store and buy applesauce, but there is something rewarding about putting in the work to preserve it myself. And I can control the quality of the product. More importantly, it is a great excuse to spend time with my family. That, too me, is priceless.
This year, my Gala apples were purchased from Pyne Farms at the Murray Farmer's Market. We taste-tested a few apples before selecting these. Yum!
Here is the result of my work this Labor Day.
Applesauce with Gala Apples (my mother's recipe)
Wash and quarter apples. Let stand in cold water and lemon juice (the lemon juice keeps the apples from browning. Just a squirt or two will be enough). Fill a 6 qt. kettle with apples, heaped up. Add about 2 cups of water. (The more water, the thinner the applesauce). Cook by bringing the water to a boil, then turning the heat down and simmering the apples until tender. Stir occasionally, and be careful not to let the apples scorch. When apples are tender, pass through a Victorio strainer. Stir applesauce and see if it is the desired thickness. If necessary, pour cooking liquid through the strainer to thin the applesauce. Fill clean pint jars with hot applesauce to 3/4" from the top. Add lids and process in a water bath canner for 25 minutes.
1 box of Gala apples yields 13 - 16 pints of applesauce.