When I think of applesauce, pictures pop up in my mind. The first, as a kid when dessert was always on the menu for weeknight suppers. In the spring, a more or less steady supply of stewed rhubarb, then summer's succession of fresh berries, peaches and when summer turned to fall, applesauce. If there was nothing else, the rounded white Leonard door opened to a bowl of applesauce. It was one of the first things I learned to cook - so simple: peeled apples, a splash of water, some heat, a little elbow grease with the potato masher and a touch of sugar or honey for sweetness. The second applesauce image comes from a visit to a boyfriend's family home near Pittsburg in the US. The boyfriend loved applesauce - only for breakfast. During the visit, after I'd been OKed by his family, his mother took me to the chest freezer to show me the quarts of applesauce -frozen in the fall, ready for when the golden boy came home from college, yearning for his applesauce breakfast. As I remember, it went with strips of crisp bacon, and I may have imagined this part, cinnamon toast. On reflection, this was Mom passing the applesauce baton onto me, future wife and cook. The guy's long gone from my life, and but not his applesauce. Move the kitchen up to the 70s when Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a best seller, and all the rage - the first time round. The book inspired the introduction of Charlotte aux Pommes (Apple Charlotte) and Tarte aux Pommes (Apple Tart) to my entertaining dessert repertoire. Simply put, a charlotte is a moulded dessert, in the case of apples, a rich thickened applesauce surrounded by butter crisped strips of bread, baked, turned out and eaten with lightly whipped cream. The Tart features artfully arranged and glazed apple slices over applesauce simmered to a lustrous deep golden apple "marmalade". A far cry from a humble bowl of applesauce, well beyond the companion to cinnamon toast and bacon, these desserts are the "haut" of the applesauce world. So why, in the 21st century would anyone take a perfectly good apple and bother to make applesauce? Is it frugality? What was thrifty eating now has the cachet of local and seasonal. Apples are not expensive, especially at markets and roadside stands. Applesauce is simple to make - a good introduction for kids interested in cooking. Best of all, different varieties of apples make different tasting applesauce - and you don't get that out of a jar in the supermarket! You can sweeten as you like and according to the sweetness of the apples - not much for Gala, a touch more for Cortland or Northern Spy. And applesauce is a delightful ingredient, adding the essence of a crisp fall day to muffins, quickbread loaves, puddings, and as they say, much more...see below. Very Simple Applesauce This template recipe yields about 4 cups (1 L) applesauce - enough to enjoy for a few suppers and breakfasts. Double or quadruple the amount if you want to freeze or preserve some in jars for cold times. While cinnamon is almost wedded to apples and sauce, I recommend making the sauce without so you can enjoy the clean taste of the apples. You can always add cinnamon or a grate of nutmeg to the sauce at serving time. 10 cups (2.5 L) peeled, cored and sliced apples (7 large apples or 3 lb/1.5 kg) 1 cup (250 mL) water 1/4 cup (50 mL) granulated sugar, optional . In a medium-large saucepan, bring the apples and water to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender, about 20 minutes. . Mash with a potato masher or fork for chunky sauce, or for silky smoothness, press through a food mill or puree using an immersion blender or stand blender. . Taste, adding sugar if desired. . Makes about 4 cups (1 L) applesauce. Microwave Applesauce: Pack the apples with the water into a large microwaveable bowl. Microwave uncovered on high for 12 minutes, stirring twice; let stand for 2 minutes. Mash as desired. Rosy Pink Applesauce: If you're making sauce with red apples such as Cortland, McIntosh, Spartan or Empire, wash the apples thoroughly and leave the skins on when you're coring and slicing the apples. Press the cooked sauce through a food mill or sieve to remove the skins - but not the colour they've added to the sauce. Or puree the cooked sauce in a food processor or blender so the skins become part of the sauce. Slow Cooker Applesauce This nicely tarted up applesauce comes from the brand new Canadian Living/The Slow Cooker Collection, Transcontinental Books, $22.95. But again, nothing could be simpler than putting the ingredients in the slow cooker and buzzing off for a few hours of fun...work or errands. 8 cups (2L) sliced peeled and cored apples 1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar 1/4 cup (50 mL) apple cider or juice 1 strip lemon rind 2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice Pinch each cinnamon and nutmeg, optional . In slow cooker, gently toss together the apples, sugar, cider, lemon rind and juice. . Cover and cook on low until apples are tender and break down, about 6 to 8 hours. Discard lemon rind. . Using an immersion blender or potato masher, puree or mash apples to the desired texture. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg, if using. (Make-ahead: Let cool. Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.) . Makes 4 cups (1 L) Preserving Applesauce . Freezing Applesauce: The simplest way is to pack cooled applesauce into freezer containers, bags or rigid. Mark "applesauce" on the container, the date of production and the amount. I don't know about you, but it's so easy to forget what's in the containers. (The freezer seems to wave a wand of sameness over the containers.)You will bless yourself when you go to look for the applesauce and can find it easily. Pack it away in amounts that suit your household needs, especially if you're planning to use the sauce as an ingredient. . Canning Applesauce: To preserve in jars (funny how the word canning is still used even though jars have replaced cans for home preserving), pack piping hot applesauce into hot preserving 1 or 2 cup 250 or 500 mL) jars leaving 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) headspace. Seal with new discs you've softened for a few minutes in hot water, and bands tightened until resistance is met, then to fingertip tightness. Place in the rack of a boiling water canner about 2/3 full of very hot water. Add boiling water if necessary to cover the jars by 1-inch (2.5 cm). Cover and bring to the boil; boil for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and uncover until boiling subsides. Using canning tongs, lift out and set on a rack to cool for a day. Check that the seals have flipped downward before storing in a cool dark spot.Refrigerate and eat up any that haven't sealed properly within a week. If you respect the headspace, new lids and good preserving jars rules, all your jars should seal properly. What To Do With Applesauce . Eat it for breakfast, either half and half with plain or vanilla yogurt, or to top a bowl of oatmeal or granola. Spoon over pancakes. . Treat it as a snack for after school with cinnamon toast. . Spoon applesauce into bowls and top with frozen vanilla yogurt for a quickie weeknight dessert. . Pack it for lunch - for adults and kids in a reusable container. . Serve it with latkes for Hannukah. . Moisten and flavour stuffing - add a cup of thick applesauce to stuffing for a turkey, alongside, of course, the usual onions, celery, herbs and cubed bread. . Make Apple Fool, a 5-minute mini dessert: If your smooth applesauce is unsweetened, or only somewhat sweet, stir in 1 to 2 tbsp. (15 to 30 mL) liquid honey into a cup of applesauce. Whip 3/4 cup (175 mL) 35% cream. Layer applesauce and cream in demi-tasse cups or small glasses, finishing with cream. Dust with cinnamon or nutmeg, or top with toasted sliced almonds. Makes 3 to 4 desserts. . Count on applesauce to go with grilled pork chops, lusty sausages, crispy roast pork loin and tenderloin. Delicious with goose and duck too. . Mix into pureed rutabaga to temper the rutabaga's bitter edge. Or stir into pureed parsnips or sweet potatoes to add another dimension to the vegetable. . Preserve applesauce either processed in jars (see above) or in plastic freezer containers in handy 1 cup (250 mL) amounts. Then you have applesauce handy for Applesauce Raisin Loaf, Applesauce Muffins and much more. Even a fancy French Charlotte. Glazed Applesauce Loaf The recipe is slightly adapted from Judith Comfort and Katherine Chute's Apples, Apples, Apples published by Doubleday in 1986 - still one of the best books on the fruit. 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar 2 large eggs at room temperature 1-3/4 cups (425 mL) all-purpose flour 1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder 1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking soda 1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt, ground cinnamon and nutmeg 1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground cloves 1 cup (250 mL) applesauce, unsweetened preferred 1/2 cup (125 mL) walnut halves, chopped 1/2 cup (125 mL) raisins or dried cranberries Glaze: 1/2 cup (125 mL) icing sugar 1 tbsp (15 mL) apple juice or milk . Line a 9 -x 5-inch (2 L) loaf pan with parchment paper - 2 layers are best, or grease; set aside. . In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until well blended and light. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. . In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Add to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with 1 addition of the applesauce. . When the last addition of the dry ingredients is almost incorporated, sprinkle the surface with the walnuts and raisins. Mix just until the ingredients are combined. . Scrape into the prepared pan, spreading the batter evenly. Tap the pan lightly on the counter. . Bake in the centre of a 350°F (180°C) oven until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. . Let cool in pan on rack for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a rack, using a second rack or a small rimless baking sheet to turn the loaf upright and to slide it back onto the rack, top up. . Glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the icing sugar and juice. For a clear glaze, brush the glaze over the loaf while the loaf is warm , or for an opaque glaze, drizzle over a cool loaf. . Makes about 10 to 12 slices. Make-ahead Tip: The loaf freezes well thoroughly cooled and without the glaze. Freeze either the entire loaf, sections or slices that suit your household's needs. Wrap the pieces using quality plastic wrap and enclose in a freezer container or bag. The loaf also stores well at room temperature. Wrap or enclose in an airtight container, sneaking the odd little slice to test for mellowness and keeping qualities. Applesauce Muffins This is an easy bake recipe, ideal for kids interested in helping make school lunches or make-ahead breakfast items. 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour 3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar 2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder 1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking soda 1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon, optional 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt 1 large egg 1 cup (250 mL) applesauce, unsweetened preferred 1/3 cup (75 mL) canola oil 1/2 cup (125 mL) diced peeled and cored apple 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped walnut halves Cinnamon Crunch Topping: 4 tsp (20 mL) granulated sugar 1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon . Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or grease; set aside. . In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda , cinnamon, if using, and salt. . In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, applesauce and oil. Pour over the dry ingredients. Sprinkle the diced apple and walnuts over the wet ingredients and with a wooden spoon, swiftly and neatly stir the ingredients until just blended. . Scoop into the prepared muffin tins. . . Cinnamon Crunch Topping: Stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Spoon a generous 1/4 tsp (1 mL) over each scoop of muffin batter. . Bake in the centre of a 375°F (190°C) oven until domed, firm to the touch and fragrant, about 20 minutes. . Let cool in pans on rack for about 5 minutes; remove from pans to cool on a rack. (Make-ahead: Let cool; store in airtight container for up to 3 days. Or wrap in quality plastic wrap, then enclose in a freezer container. Freeze for up to 2 weeks.) . Makes 12 muffins.