I am making applesauce and then freezing it. The recipes call for white sugar. I was told I need to add this so the apples do not turn brown. Is there something else I can use? I prefer not to use any sweetener. Thank you very much.--Mary
Apples brown because they contain an enzyme that causes the flesh to turn brown when it is exposed to air. If you want to prevent cut apples from turning brown, there are a number of things you can do. These include using firm apples, not over-ripe or wind fallen ones, submerging them in a solution of cold water and citric or ascorbic acid, or cooking them. Cold temperatures slow down the browning reaction while acidity interferes with the browning reaction. Heat destroys or "denatures' the enzyme responsible for browning.
We make and freeze applesauce all of the time around here from the Westland* apples that grow in our back yard. The applesauce maintains a nice light cream color. Here's how to do it. First pick the apples at their ripest. Then get ready a large bowl with about 2 or 3 quarts of icy cold water with the juice of one lemon mixed in. You could dissolve a teaspoon or so of powdered citric or ascorbic acid into the water instead. Also get ready a microwavable bowl large enough to hold about a quart of peeled and cored apples.
Now you want to peel and core the apples as quickly as possible and drop them into the water as you go along, making sure they are completely dunked. Instead of fussing with the apples too much trying to peel them, I remove the stem and quarter then from end to end. Then I remove the core simply by putting each quarter on the cutting board and making a slice with my chef's knife the full length from end to end, taking enough flesh to remove all or most of the core. This is a bit wasteful, but much faster than fussing with a paring knife or a melon baller. The waste is only slightly more than if you use one of those tubular corers that you shove through the apple. Then I grab my sharp paring knife and make a few lengthwise passes to remove the peel. The poetic image of going around and around the apple removing a continuous strip of skin sells good in movies, but it is way too slow! As each quarter is peeled drop it into the lemon water.
When you have enough peeled apple to make a quart or so, drain them by hand, put them into your second bowl, cover with plastic wrap and pop them into your microwave on high for around 5 minutes. The exact time will depend on the freshness of the apples, the amount you are heating and the power of your microwave. The beauty of using the microwave is the speed with which it heats the apples and destroys the browning enzyme. You can tell they are done when a knife passes easily into a slice with almost no resistance.
Now you can either mash the apples with a potato masher or blend them with a hand blender. We use a hand blender, but that does tend to make a smoother applesauce than if you mash them. Be careful not to burn yourself, though. If you want, you can add sugar or sucralose at this point to taste, or just leave the applesauce unsweetened.
Finally, pack the apples into freezer safe containers and let them cool somewhat before freezing. We use freezer plastic bags since you can squeeze out any air. The enzyme should be inactive anyhow, so it may be like "belt and suspenders" thinking to worry about air in the package at this point.
* Westland apples are a variety bred for growing in the short Saskatchewan summer. They are a good apple, but the timing to pick them is very short. They go from ready to rotten in about a week!