Once my daughter started eating solid foods, applesauce became it’s own food group in our house. I made huge batches of fresh applesauce every week, freezing half of it for later, and I experimented with all different varieties of apples and flavorings. Applesauce is a healthy, versatile food that appeals to babies, children and adults, is easy to make, and is endlessly adaptable. It can be served at breakfast, lunch or dinner, chunky or smooth, hot or cold, plain or flavored. After making homemade applesauce for the past two years, I lately caved in to the convenience of individually packaged applesauce containers. I no longer have a large freezer to keep extra applesauce and it’s so easy to grab an individual bowl of applesauce for my daughter to snack on. This week I finally decided to do a formal taste comparison between homemade and store bought applesauce. Here is my tried and true recipe for homemade applesauce (with two easy variations) to get the comparison started:
Makes about 3 cups of applesauce
2 large, sweet apples (I like to use Gala, Jonagold or Fuji)
1. Peel, core and roughly chop both apples. Place the chopped apples in a medium sized saucepan and add about 1-inch of water to the pan (I used about 1/4 cup).
2. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil until the apples feel soft when pierced by a fork, about 10 minutes. Check occasionally and add extra water if needed.
3. Using an immersion blender (right in the pan), a regular blender, or a food processor, blend the apples and water together. You can blend them until completely smooth (best for small children), or just blend the apples briefly, leaving some larger pieces of apple, for a chunkier sauce. Serve warm or chill in the refrigerator. Will keep about a week, refrigerated.
Cinnamon Vanilla Applesauce Variation
Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract to the apples just before blending.
Add 1/4 cup fresh or frozen berries to the apples during the last few minutes of cooking and blend as usual. Strain the applesauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove the berry seeds, if desired (I honestly don’t mind the seeds and my daughter never noticed them either). I like adding blueberries or strawberries, but blackberries, rasberries or a mixture of berries work well, too.
Before going into the results of this comparison, I have to admit that I used a store brand applesauce in this taste test. I normally try to buy name brand products for comparisons, since they often seem to be better quality, but this comparison is an exception. I had already done an earlier, informal taste test between store brand and name brand (Musselman’s) applesauce and found that I couldn’t tell the difference. Therefore, I normally buy the generic brand of applesauce, as long as they have a version that does not contain added sugar. For this comparison, I had a jar of Great Value unsweetened applesauce that contained only apples, water and ascorbic acid.
I had six taste testers for this comparison (2 of them toddlers) and I was surprised at how unanimous the results were. I always thought store bought applesauce was pretty darn good but when tasted next to homemade applesauce, it paled in comparison. Everyone showed a marked preference for the homemade applesauce and there was just no competition on flavor or texture. The homemade applesauce was bursting with juicy apple flavor and had a pleasing, smooth texture. The store bought applesauce tasted watery with a slightly bitter aftertaste and the texture was almost too smooth, to the point of seeming thin.
Neither time or cost are much of a factor in this comparison. Of course, it takes a little extra effort to peel and chop apples, but homemade applesauce really only takes about 15 minutes to make. The homemade applesauce also turns out to be a bit cheaper than store bought and certainly earns extra points for freshness.
Bottom Line: Homemade applesauce is cheaper, fresher and tastier than store bought. It is easy to prepare, freezes well and can be adapted to individual tastes or spruced up with flavorful add-ins. I am definitely going back to making our applesauce from scratch!