The majority of Jewish immigrants who came to the United States in the last 150 years trace their roots to Germany and Eastern Europe. Apple trees grew all over this region and Jewish cooks used apples in dishes to make them special for Shabbat, Jewish celebrations, and Jewish holidays. Harvested as one of the first fruits in early fall when Rosh Hashanah occurred, apples were dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet and fruitful year ahead.
Since they stored well, apples were eaten all through the winter and were made into applesauce. This was the original topping for potato latkes in the early 1800’s when potatoes became popular and latkes were served, first in Germany and later in Eastern Europe and Russia, at meat meals for Chanukah. (Sorry, no sour cream!)
Cooking the apples with their peel (where the flavor cells are located) gives it a pretty pink color and provides a natural sweetness, which means you can use very little or no sweetener. This recipe should be in every home’s repertoire. It doesn’t get fresher than this and it is so easy to make, especially if you have a food mill.
1 cup water (or enough to fill pot ½ inch)
1 2-inch cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4-6 Fuji, Gala, or other sweet red apples
1/4-cup sugar (optional)
1. Using an apple corer/slicer, core the apples and cut into eighths.
2. Cover the bottom of a 3-quart saucepan with ½ inch water. Place the cinnamon stick and the apples in the water. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes or until the apples are very tender.
3. Remove the cinnamon stick and strain the water from the pot into a bowl. Set aside.
4. Place the apples in the basket of a food mill. Place food mill on top of a 2 quart bowl. Following the manufacturer’s directions, use the medium disk and turn the handle to pass the apple through the disk leaving the skins in the basket and the applesauce in the bowl below. If mixture looks too thick, add some of the reserved liquid and cool. Mixture will thicken when cold.
5. If desired, add sugar to taste. Serve warm or chilled.