ISSUE 100  |  Thanksgiving Feast

Dorothy’s Applesauce for Hanukkah

November 29, 2013 4:00 PM

BY Susan Brenna

It’s Friday, the third night of Hanukkah. You could re-heat Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, but why? After yesterday’s spiced pecans, roast turkey, five side dishes and two kinds of pie, you want simplicity. And what could be more simple than crispy friend potatoes? 

On the many nights of Hanukkah when we’ve made potato latkes the sole entrée at my house, I’ve never heard a complaint. For that, I can thank my neighbor Dorothy. Dorothy has been married to Arthur for more than 50 years. Every night after dinner, Arthur wants just one thing from Dorothy. A bowl of applesauce. It’s got to be homemade. And it’s got to be delicious. With Dorothy’s special applesauce snuggling up to the latkes on your plate, no one will be missing yesterday’s drumstick. 

For ingredients and step-by-step instructions, see below:

Photographs by Zoe Quittner. Photography shot with the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 digital SLR camera. Small in size, enormous in performance.

 Above: Photograph by Zoe Quittner.

You can make Dorothy’s applesauce in any quantity. The trick is to use a ratio of two sweet apples for each tart one. Dorothy likes to mix Cortlands with Granny Smiths, but you can substitute McIntoshes with Pippins, or, really, whatever you have in the back of your crisper drawer.

Above: Photograph by Zoe Quittner.

Dorothy peels cores, and slices 18 apples and puts them into the strainer basket of a 12-quart pasta pot (in my house, an 8-quart pot suffices because that’s what I have). Then she puts about a half-inch of water in the bottom of the pot and steams the apples, turning down the flame after the water has boiled. As the apples soften, she uses a big wooden spoon to push the apple pulp through the holes of the strainer until all she has in the bottom of her pot is sauce. 


Above: Photograph by Clementine Quittner.

Since I generally make applesauce in smaller quantities, I usually just cook apples in a little water in a saucepan until they’re soft enough to mash with a fork. It’s what comes next that elevates this sauce above the rest. 

When her sauce has cooled a bit but is still warm, Dorothy adds a quarter teaspoon of vanilla. Then she reaches for her jar of vanilla sugar (granulated sugar perfumed by a vanilla bean), and adds it by the spoonful until it’s exactly as sweet as Arthur likes it (usually around a quarter-cup).

 If you didn’t know about that drop of vanilla, you’d never taste it. But it somehow makes the apples taste more intensely apple-ish. 

If my son is around when there’s applesauce on the stove, he’s likely to grab the warm pot and the wooden spoon, plop on the couch for a “Mythbusters” marathon, and spoon away until the pot is empty and there are no more myths to be busted.

Before yours vanishes, you might store the applesauce in a tightly covered container in the fridge, then bring it to room temperature before you serve it with latkes for dinner. 

Dorothy's Applesauce


  • 12 Cortland apples
  • 6 Granny Smith apples
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • Vanilla sugar to taste


Peel, core and slice your apples. Pile them into the strainer of an 8-quart or 12-quart stainless steel pasta pot. Put about ½ an inch of water in the bottom of the pot, bring it to a boil and steam the apples (the Cortlands will soften first). As the apples soften, push them through the strainer holes into the water in the bottom of the pot. 

When the sauce has cooled a bit, stir in the vanilla and vanilla sugar to taste.

Serve the applesauce on Leek Latkes Fit for a King.