It’s a Hanukkah tradition to serve foods fried in oil for eight days and nights. These foods symbolize the one day’s worth of olive oil that kept the Temple’s menorah lit for eight days in biblical times.
A great miracle occurred in Jerusalem!
Okay there’s more to the story. But that’s the connection to fried foods.
Jewish people worldwide often celebrate that connection with latkes. Those heavenly crispy potato pancakes that get gobbled up as soon as they get fried. Oftentimes applesauce is served on the side for topping or dipping.
Sadly, it’s usually applesauce from a jar. No culinary match for the heavenly bite of a homemade latke: A pancake that’s a labor of love for the cook requiring peeling, grating, mixing and frying in hot oil until guests say, ok, ok, we’ve had our fill.
And then the cleanup!
That’s why, this year, I’ve decided to make my Hanukkah recipe all about the applesauce; front and and center and the star of the show. I mean why go to all of that work to make the latkes only to open a plastic jar of meh?
Now, it you’re thinking, “hey, I love jarred apple sauce!” I guarantee you’ve never had homemade. It’s a different food. Think apple pie without the crust only the apples are meltingly soft.
It’s quite easy to make, other than peeling the apples. Using several varieties of apples adds depth of flavor, though a single variety is still yummy. If using more than one variety consider a sweet and a more tart apple. I used Fuji, a sweet and soft apple and Pink Lady, a more tart and firm apple. I don’t recommend Granny Smith or Pippin, as they are too tart and firm. You want the apples to melt as they cook. I like it a bit chunky and use a potato ricer to mash up the fruit, though you can transfer to a blender or food processor if you prefer a smooth consistency.
I also used two kinds of sweeteners. Dark brown sugar and maple syrup. Again the different sweeteners add layers of flavor. I cooked the apples with cinnamon sticks instead of ground cinnamon for a subtle hint of spice. Don’t fret that you need to run and get cinnamon sticks if not available in your pantry. Ground cinnamon works; just make sure to add a bit at a time and then taste. You don’t want the cinnamon to overtake the apples.
Good news is that applesauce can be made several days ahead so there’s no last minute cooking and cleaning, unlike the latkes. It actually should keep fresh for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Fresh applesauce must be refrigerated unless using the canning method of sterilizing and vacuum sealing the jars. It’s easily doubled for a larger batch.
Whether or not you celebrate Hanukkah, this homemade applesauce is a great recipe to have in your recipe file, whether it’s for latkes or just eating straight out of the bowl.
Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate!
Makes about 4 cups
4 pounds apples such as Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, and Pink Lady…or a mix
1/3 cup water
1-2 cinnamon sticks cut in half
1 T dark brown sugar
2 tsp amber maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 T fresh lemon juice
Core and peel the apples. Cut into small chunks. Put the apples, water and cinnamon sticks in a 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy saucepot. Heat to a rolling simmer and then lower heat and cover. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar, maple syrup and salt and stir up well. Cover and cook on medium low until apples are very soft about another 10-15 minutes. Uncover and cook to evaporate any excess water and caramelize the apples, stirring often. Be careful not to cook out all of the liquid. Remove from heat and let rest. Stir in the lemon juice. Mash the apples with a potato ricer or masher until the texture you desire. For smooth applesauce use an immersion blender or transfer the apples to a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust sugar and acid level to your liking. Enjoy!
About Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.
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