Apple Scraps Make the Best Applesauce

The peels and cores contribute bright, distinctive apple flavor and rosy color. With this recipe, you don’t even need a food mill to include them.  

Published Oct. 5, 2022.

Next time you go apple picking and bring home way more than you know what to do with, consider making applesauce. It’s a lot faster and easier to produce than pies, cakes, or crisps; and it packs all the sweet-tart character of orchard-fresh fruit into a deliciously concentrated format. Serve it alongside roasted meats or potato pancakes, or just eat it by the bowlful—warm, with vanilla ice cream—to indulge in the coziest fall dessert.

I usually peel and core the apples, cut them up, and then simmer them with some water, sugar, cinnamon (sometimes), and a pinch of salt until they’re soft enough to mash. But it wasn’t until deputy editor Andrea Geary created her applesauce recipe that I realized I was discarding a critical component: the peels. 

Apple skin is chock-full of flavor and aroma compounds, which is why applesauce made with skin-on fruit (which usually gets passed through a food mill to capture the tough skins and seeds) tastes far more, well, apple-y. The skins are also the source of that rosy blush you often see in old-school recipes, since some of the pigments in red-skinned fruit (like McIntosh) also make their way into the sauce. 

So how do you make use of the peels (and cores, which have valuable flesh clinging to them) when you’re like me and don’t own a food mill? 

Andrea’s clever solution is this: In one pot, simmer peeled, cored apple chunks until they’re soft; in another, simmer the reserved peels and cores with a bit of water to make an apple-y concentrate—loaded with those flavor compounds and rosy pigments—that you then strain and stir into the cooked apples. 

How to Make Applesauce With Apple Scraps

1. Bring reserved peels and cores and water to a boil in small saucepan. Cover and simmer, mashing occasionally with potato masher, until mixture is deep pink and cores have broken down. 

2. While peels and cores cook, cut apples into quarters and place in large saucepan. Add sugar; salt; cinnamon, if using; and water and bring to boil. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until all apples are soft and about half are completely broken down. 

3. Mash apples to desired consistency.  

4. Transfer peel-and-core mixture to fine-mesh strainer set over mashed apple mixture. Stir and press peel-and-core mixture to extract pulp; discard solids. Stir to combine. 

The whole operation takes less than an hour, and the rosy, pleasantly chunky, deeply apple-y result looks and tastes leaps and bounds better than anything you buy at the store. So stock up at the orchard; you’ll be glad you did. 


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