It's apple season and fall is in the air! (Just not here in Florida. It's still around 90 degrees every day. But the humidity is down very slightly, so I'm just going to pretend.) There are so many fun things you can do at school to enjoy fall with your students. One of my favorite activities is making applesauce in my crock pot. It's a super easy recipe that you can make right at school and and your classroom will smell amazing all day long.
Super Easy Slow Cooker Applesauce
Peel, core, and slice about 4 pounds apples (This is just enough apples for 20 students to get a little cup of applesauce, so you might want to use more.)
Place sliced apples in your slow cooker
Add a bit of water (about 1/4 cup)
Set crock pot to low, cover, and let cook all day
Check periodically to make sure the apples aren't sticking
An hour before you plan to serve the applesauce, check to see how soft they are. If still firm, turn the crock pot up to high.
By now, your classroom should be smelling divine! Other teachers might even be popping in to find out what that amazing aroma is.
When the apples are soft and you're ready to eat, turn off the heat.
Pour off a little of the water if the apples made too much.
Stir in a little bit of sugar (a tablespoon to two should do).
Easy as that, you have delicious homemade applesauce! And it's so much better than what you buy at the grocery store.
Now there are plenty of ways to customize this to your liking. First, there are so many different varieties of apple. Different apples have different levels of sweetness and firmness. I suggest just using your favorite type of apple. But remember, the firmer the apple, the longer it will take to cook down. In my opinion, the best apples to use are Gala or Golden Delicious. I find that firm ones, like Granny Smith apples, don't make the best sauce.
You can also adjust the sugar to your taste. Tart apples will require a little bit more. I've made unsweetened applesauce many times and I think it's just as good (and the lower sugar content is healthier).
Besides sugar, you can also put in a little cinnamon. I've never measured this. I just sprinkle some in the pot. However, I've noticed that with young kids, less cinnamon is better than more. Instead of using ground cinnamon, you can toss a couple of cinnamon sticks in the slow cooker to add that subtle flavor. My favorite way to make the applesauce extra special is by adding a few drops of vanilla extract at the end.
If you like somewhat chunky applesauce, you can serve it just the way it is. But if your desired consistency is a bit smoother, it's super easy to use a potato masher to smooth it out right in the pot. If you like your applesauce really smooth, an immersion blender will do the trick. This is all just personal preference, so feel free to adjust the texture to your liking.
This is what my applesauce looks like when mashed with a potato masher:
Now it's time to serve the applesauce to your students. They will be so excited after smelling it all day long! I like to use the mini Dixie cups to serve it. They are just the right size to give each student a few good spoonfuls. But PLEASE test the temperature of the applesauce before serving. If you turned the crock pot off earlier, it should be fine, but you may need to let the cups cool for a few minutes.
To make your applesauce party extra special, try serving it with (or on top of) a little vanilla ice cream. Wow, amazing!
Freezing or canning your applesauce
So what if you have a whole bunch of applesauce left over? You can freeze it! or can it! All you need is a few mason jars or freezer bags.
When canning, make sure you fill the jar to 1/4" of the top and stick a knife down inside to get the air bubbles out. I don't use any special canning recipe. The same one above works perfectly. You can either use a pressure canner or water bath canner to process your jars. For complete instructions on how to can applesauce, check out this article from the National Center for Home Food Preservation - Canning Applesauce
other Apple activities to do at school
Back to the classroom - Living in Florida, I'm stuck buying my apples from the grocery store. But if you live near any apple orchards, ask if they have any less-than-perfect apples they can donate (slightly bruised apples work just fine for applesauce).
Other ideas for an apple-themed day: