We all have different ideas of what is comforting: familiar movies, certain songs, a big bed piled high with blankets. When I’m lonely, comfort might come through a friend dropping by. When I’m tired, an afternoon nap. But when it’s early October and I’m feeling overwhelmed or discouraged or just like I miss someone very much, point me to the kitchen.

Cooking is such a gift, you know? You can walk into the kitchen with a million things on your mind—the client you lost at work, the list of things you have to finish by Monday, the way that long phone call just ended—and grab something off the counter, say, five green apples, crisp and tart and beautifully tangible, able to be held in your hand in the way ideas and anxieties and conversations can’t. You can peel them, one long and curly strip after another, watching their bright skins fall into the trash even as your shoulders relax, focusing on your knife slicing the exposed flesh rather than focusing on whatever was on your mind a few minutes ago.

wedding apples

And you’ll find repetition can be wonderfully soothing: pour the ingredients, stir the apples with spices, take a minute or so to blend everything into a sauce. While you do these things, you can think, of course, or you can be quiet. You can sing, or pray, or pray out loud. I do those things when I drive or when I clean; I do those things when I cook. I feel the apples softening as I stir, and I tell God I love having afternoons like this one, good gifts from Him. I add extra cinnamon, and my mind shifts from conflict to the things that make peace.

applesauce

Applesauce, in particular, is a kind of kitchen comfort: not only is it simple to make, with few steps and easy-to-find ingredients, but it’s delicious, like the inside of an apple pie or a more mashed version of Passover’s charoset. Warm and fragrant, this version shows something very important, that sometimes an hour in the kitchen is the very definition of comfort, especially when it ends with something good to eat, and you can follow its steps almost mindlessly—freeing you up to, you know, think, pray, sing or, do nothing else at all, while your hands lead your mind in the very important task of mixing together something sweet, spiced and, most importantly, able to be eaten with a big spoon.





Easy Homemade Chunky Applesauce
Makes about 2 1/3 cups

I still can’t believe how easy this was—no food mill, no intense mess, just 40 minutes of cooking the mixture over low heat, then blending it. Voila: delicious applesauce that defines comfort food.

Ingredients:
5 medium-sized apples (mine were green, a little tart)
3 Tablespoons Sucanat (or some other sugar)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup pure apple cider (I like Martinelli’s)
Juice of half a lemon (about 1 1/2 Tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of sea salt

Directions:
Peel and core the apples, then dice them into small, similar-sized chunks. In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the diced apples with all the other ingredients, and heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every now and then. To speed things up, I covered the pot for a while, but if you do this, just remember to check on the apples—the mixture can start to bubble up if left in there too long. Taste and adjust seasonings as you like.

Use a blender, a food processor, a masher or an immersion blender (what I used) to blend the apple mixture thoroughly. I left mine pretty chunky, but you could definitely puree it until very smooth.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. MaryAnn

    Oh my – that sounds really good! I have been wanting to make homemade apple sauce but I hadn’t tried to yet because I don’t want to make a huge batch that needs to be preserved. I’m going to have to try this one – thanks for posting!
    And you are so right; sometimes when there is something brewing – worry, conflict, restlessness – all we need to do is find something that our hands know how to do well on their own. Then our mind can be free to relax, talk things over with the Lord, & let our shoulders come down from our ears.
    Have a great Tuesday!

  2. Lan

    applesauce is also on my list of things to make with the apples i picked recently. there is just something so mindless about making a dish like this while your mind is just FULL of randoms. another relaxing thing i do when i’m stressed, other than hanging out in the kitchen, is crocheting a particularly complicated pattern. and i’ve taken up yoga. it’s amazing what pretzeling your body will do to the mind! :)

    have a safe trip!

  3. Jacqui

    love seeing those green wedding apples up there! my sister just sent me a recipe for applesauce that i’m definitely going to try with my remaining apples. it looks very similar to yours — easy, comforting, perfect. and i so know what you mean about cooking as comfort. last night, in fact, at about 10 pm after i had already had dinner and showered, i decided to make black bean and squash chili, just because, ya know? i wasn’t even hungry, but it just felt good to cook.

  4. Maddie

    This applesauce looks incredible — funny how the simplest foods are the most comforting! And I agree with you about the act of cooking, which can feel almost like meditation if you focus on enjoying the process and not fretting over creating the “perfect” result. (I have to remind myself to do that sometimes, though. :) )

  5. Jarrelle

    i love that you said,. . . “But when it’s early October and I’m feeling overwhelmed or discouraged or just like I miss someone very much, point me to the kitchen.” this is so me shanna!!! put me in the kitchen and i feel 100% better! thank you for your encouraging posts and fabulous recipes! keep em’ coming:)

  6. Angharad

    I’ve never tried making my own apple sauce – what a GREAT idea! How long do you think it would last for?
    And in growing agreement about cooking soothing the soul. It didn’t used to do that to me but it’s starting to. The more I cook and learn, the more comfort I find in the simple things – cookies that I know will turn out just so when the day was crazy – that’s comfort!

  7. Alicia

    I literally did just this. Yesterday, I had an incredibly hectic day with work, and someone I had to interview nearly made me cry. SO. What did I do? Went to the kitchen and made this applesauce. Love it. Love the apple cider in it!

  8. Shannalee

    Thanks for that sweet comment, MaryAnn. I love that you get what I mean about kitchen comforts, and I love what you pointed about this recipe being a small batch one. That’s a huge plus for me, too!

    Lan, I haven’t tried yoga, but I def feel a release from exercise in general. So true!

    Jacqui, Yes! I so get that. It DOES feel good to cook. And thanks again for these apples! I loved every one of them. ; )

    Maddie, Oh, I have to remind myself of that, too. Sometimes it’s nice to cook without thinking of the blog… funny how even the blog I love can become another ball to juggle, ha! But when I just focus on the food and embrace the process, it’s always such a comfort.

    Dana, Thank you! I’m finding apple cider is a great addition in SO many things!

    Jarrelle, Kindred spirits!

    Gemma, Thank you so much!

    Jessica, Do it! Today’s a perfect fall day!

    Angharad, That’s an excellent question. I wasn’t sure how long it would last either, so I froze mine while I was out of town this week. I’m guessing a lot less time than store-bought ones because it lacks the preservatives. Maybe two weeks?

    TJ, Yay! I hope you do!

    Alicia, YES! So sorry you had a rough day and a rough time with an interviewee. Bah. But so glad you had a kitchen to comfort you. : )

  9. Sanura

    I’ve recently started making applesauce, and the taste is phenominally different from the commerical brands. I like your idea of adding fresh black pepper and apple cider to your version. Definitely using it next time I made applesauce.

  10. riceandwheat

    Yes! I agree heartily to that sentiment – sometimes, I have to admit that my mind is calmed even if I do nothing else but wash dishes in the kitchen. I also love that cooking requires hands-on work and focus, so that no matter what else is going on in your life, for that comment, you only care whether you’re burning the garlic. :) Thanks for this lovely post.

  11. Shannalee

    Lime Cake, On ice cream! There’s something I’ve never tried!

    Sanura, I’d love to hear how you like it when you do!

    Riceandwheat, So true, even about washing dishes. Sometimes you really need something tangible to do, if only for a distraction. : )

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