Zingerman’s chef tips for making applesauce that’s far above the grocery store variety
Since 1982, we’ve filled our kitchen with the fragrance of fresh apples and sweet cinnamon stewing on the stove to create our homemade applesauce. Though the recipe has evolved a little over the years, it’s always been here like our iconic checkered floor tiles and the house prepared corned beef on fresh baked rye bread. Applesauce might be a backup singer to our famous potato latkes, along with farm fresh sour cream, but ours really hits some flavor high notes. Hard to believe it’s made up of just three items. With such a short list of components there’s no room to hide mediocre flavors, so we use top shelf ingredients. Like we always say, you really can taste the difference!
Zingerman’s Deli Applesauce Secrets Shared
Spoiler alert: our homemade applesauce starts with really great apples. We use a blend of sweet and tart apples (like you would for making apple cider) from our friends at Nemeth Orchard in Milan, about 12 miles from us here in Ann Arbor. Like all local produce, apples are seasonal. With the length of harvest time and proper storage we can sometimes go the entire year with local apples, though sometimes we may need to supplement with others. That means the blend of apples we use changes depending on what’s available and what’s best at the time. It could include Jonah Golds, Ida Reds, Macintoshes, Ginger Golds, Cortlands or others.
First, the non additions. We don’t add sugar, We rely on the natural sweetness of good apples. Then we add high quality fresh korintje cinnamon. It gives the applesauce that warm subtle spice note we’re looking for. And finally a touch of local farm fresh Calder Dairy butter. Fat is flavor. A little dab of butter gives the applesauce a well rounded flavor and mouthfeel.
When prepping the apples, we always leave the skin on as nature intended. It adds nutrients, fibers, flavor, and color. We wash, core, and slice the apples thin. Then we layer them in a heavy gauge pot with the butter and cinnamon and let it simmer and stew on the stove until it, well, as Rodger says, “Sauces up.” We like the texture uneven and full of tender apple pieces, not pureed like a jarred commercial sauce. In a typical week at the Deli we’re cooking up ten pounds of applesauce, three times a week. During Hanukkah that volume jumps to about 200 lbs a week.
As it should, the changing blend of apples causes the color of our applesauce to vary right along with them. It’s like a Farmer’s Almanac you can eat! In early fall the apples are on the green and translucent end of the spectrum. In late winter the apples are dark red resulting in a pretty almost hot pink applesauce. Nature’s beauty in your bowl!
Most of our lovingly crafted applesauce is served up to Deli fare fans alongside our prized potato latkes. The rest is often enjoyed as a kid’s meal side dish. Applesauce is always available a la carte for your Deli grocery, sandwich or catering orders.
Chef Rodger’s Tips for Superb Applesauce At Home
- Use firm, flavorful apples
- Leave the skin on
- Don’t add sugar
- Do add a little butter