Best ”Apples and Applesauce Playdate” with Grandma

AppleI think you can see by now that this Grandma makes reservations.  It seems the only time I actually cook or bake anymore, is to cook with or for our grandchildren.  I think you can also see by now that I consider recipes a means to a great time to play with and teach our grandchildren.  I think you can also see by now that Grandma can make this a multi day or multi trip activity or just making the recipe.  Grandma’s choice is to adapt a recipe to lifestyle, desires, time and effort and still reap the joy of grandchildren.

I understand the winter is the best time to buy apples.  I always thought harvest, fall, but several sources on the web say apples are cheapest in the winter.  It seems the crop is smaller and prices higher in 2013 but February is a great month for getting the best prices.

The best winter “apples and applesauce playdate” is learning about different kinds of apples, different kinds of applesauce; buying apples and store bought applesauce; making homemade applesauce; comparing and tasting store bought and home made applesauce; and then learning about applesauce toppings, tasting different kinds and adding favorite topping(s) to favorite applesauce and enjoy!

The best winter “apples and applesauce playdate” with grandchildren has five parts :  (1) Anticipation; (2) Recipe(s) and list(s) of what to buy and utensils need (3) Supermarket or Farmer’s Market  (4) cooking (5) comparison eating.  There is even a (6) art and science project, if you choose to continue the theme.  Adapt it for your use.  Make it organic or not.  Buy some or all of the ingredients yourself.  Make it all about the recipe and nothing else.  Your choice: all, or part, your part, or just cook and eat.

I went to look on the internet for the comparison price of making homemade applesauce to store bought and came upon a blog entry from 2011 which sort of tells you the experience for your grandchildren and how to set it up and make it a game.  Yes, the cost to make homemade, I found from this entry is about $12:

The Contenders: Mott’s Original Applesauce vs. Spiced Applesauce

Applesauce has long been valued as a cheap and nutritious food product. Mott’s started selling the stuff in 1930, but recipes for apple puree date back to at least 18th century England (similar apple preparations, like apple pudding, were around in the Middle Ages). In its simplest form, applesauce can be made using just apples, water and heat, although sugar, lemon juice, and spices are commonly added to enrich the sauce’s flavor. Applesauce is traditionally paired with pork or other game meats, as well as eaten on its own as a snack food, especially by children.

Relative Costs: Homemade is more than twice the cost of store-bought, but neither breaks the bank. A 2 1/2-cup jar of the Mott’s goes for $1.99 on Peapod, which works out to 80 cents per cup. The ingredients for 7 cups of homemade applesauce cost me about $12, or $1.70 per cup.

Relative Healthfulness: Apples are super healthful, but bear in mind that both applesauces tested here contain their fair share of sugar. While homemade calls for granulated cane sugar, Mott’s is sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup. 

Time Commitment: It took me 90 minutes to make 7 cups from scratch, including cooking time.

Leftovers Potential: Homemade applesauce can be refrigerated for a week to ten days; it can also be frozen or canned for longer-term storage. Mott’s recommends its applesauce to be used within ten days of opening.

What The Testers Said: First let me introduce our panel.

THE HEALTH NUT: A delicate eater, the health nut is calorie conscious but also likes to eat well

THE FOODIE: Calorie agnostic, our foodie judge has a sophisticated palate and a love of cooking

THE DUDE:  Ambivalent toward food trends and health concerns, this guy just wants to be fed when he’s hungry

THE KID: Between ages of 9 and 12 years old, not jaded, typically not into strong flavors

Testers sampled both applesauces blind. Everyone characterized the store-bought’s texture as grainier and more watery compared with the silky homemade version. Homemade was roundly praised as having a more complex flavor.

 The Health Nut: Homemade. “Store-bought tastes over-sweet, whereas homemade is nice and tart.”

The Foodie: Homemade. “It has really great body and texture, and the flavor has a nice complexity.”

The Kid: Store-bought. “The homemade is too sour for me.”

The Dude: Homemade. “The store-bought has a gritty, almost sawdusty texture and a weird aftertaste.”

The Verdict:  Make it.

Store-bought applesauce doesn’t hold a candle to the richly flavored, silky, tangy homemade. Invest a little bit of time in cooking it from scratch, and you can freeze or can enough leftovers to make the fruit of your labor last. The exception: If you’re playing to the delicate palates of a kids-only audience, consider buying the unsweetened Mott’s Natural version, and add honey and cinnamon to it before serving. –Elizabeth Gunnison

Read More

I did not include Elizabeth Gunnison’s recipe because we are talking about applesauce for kids here, and her kid thought hers was too sour!  You can go to the link above to get the sour kind.

So, if you choose to take the mission, is that each grandchild gets to pick (a) a store bought kind of applesauce that the grandchild thinks is the best one and (b) one kind of apple in the supermarket with which to make applesauce at home.   Add the complication of toppings or not, or maybe just berry toppings and choose a kind of berry to top the applesauce.  Have taste tests, with parents or not.  Enjoy.

So here is a play date with the parts in detail:


At our long age, we have learned that anticipation is sometimes the best part of any activity or trip.  Studies actually show that people have a better time on vacation if they personally plan it ahead.  So the first part of any successful playdate is anticipation.  Tell the children the next time you visit we are to make a surprise and buy a surprise to eat and compare which we like better.  “Buy” always gets their attention.  You can play a few games with this but ultimately at the end of the questions, leave it to something sweet to eat that can be made at home or bought at the supermarket.

How to create anticipation for applesauce.  Several ways.  Tell the children they will get a book in the mail which is a hint to the special playdate.  Send or bring a book about apples.  Look up different kinds of apples on the I pad.  Learn which are the best apples to buy to make applesauce.

Having been a teacher, I say why recreate the wheel.  On the web, I found a great teacher’s lesson plan for the book, ‘Apples, Apples, Apples,”by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. You can do the Science Project and Art Project first, last or not at all.

Grade Level Equivalent: 1.9

Guided Reading Level: J

Age: Age 6, Age 7, Age 5

Subject: Cooking, Outdoor Activities and Recreation, Parents

Subject Area: Science and Math

Book Summary 
Join the bunny family on an apple-picking trip to the Long Hill Orchard. The story incorporates fiction with informational text to teach children all about apples. Includes an applesauce recipe and several apple-related activities. The perfect fall book for any classroom (OR GRANDMA, I ADD) planning a trip to an orchard or farmer’s market.

Children will develop science and math skills as they learn about different types of apples, identify characteristics of apples, and engage in cooking and graphing activities.

Before Reading 
On a sheet of chart paper, write the following question: What can you do with an apple? Show the children the book Apples, Apples, Apples. Ask them to look at the cover and describe what the bunny is doing. Review the question that is written on the sheet of chart paper. Ask the children to think of different things that can be done with an apple after it has been picked from the tree. Record their responses.

Teaching plan written by Risa Young

Learning About Apples, Apples, Apples


  1. 1.    Chart paper
  2. Markers
  3. Several color varieties of apples (red delicious, golden delicious, granny smith)
  4. Soil
  5. Plastic cups
  6. Masking tape
  7. Construction paper: white, brown, red, yellow, green
  8. Glue sticks
  9. For planting: soil, apple seeds, plastic cups or pint-size milk cartons

In advance: Read the book Apples, Apples, Apples with the class (GRANDCHILDREN). Plan a class trip to an orchard, farmer’s market, or local store to purchase different varieties of apples. Explain to the children that they will engage in a variety of activities using apples, including the activities that are presented in the book.

Observing Apples. Show the graph of the different varieties of apples depicted in the book. Review the information with the class. Explain that they will learn about different types of apples. Place the apples in the middle of the meeting area or on a table. Invite the class to look at and compare the shapes of the apples. Ask them to describe the differences and similarities. Invite the children to feel the different apples. Prepare a sheet of chart paper to record their observations.

Smelling Apples. Place one of each type of apple in a small basket or container. Tell the class that they will each have a turn to smell the different types of apples. Ask them to compare the different apple smells. Do the different-color apples all smell similar? It is important to encourage hands-on sensory exploration of the apples. Record their responses on chart paper.

Comparing Apple Seeds. Show students the page in the book where Mr. Miller cuts an apple in half to reveal a star and the seeds. Ask them to recall how many seeds an apple can have. Have an adult cut each apple in half. Invite the children to predict how many seeds they will find in each apple. Do they think that different types of apples will have more or less seeds? Will the seeds all be the same shape or color? Cut all of the apples in half and show the section with the seeds. Record their observations on a sheet of chart paper listing the type of apple, number of seeds, and any other information that the children would like to include.

Apple-Seed Study. Save the seeds from each apple for a planting activity. Place each type of apple seed in a separate labeled plastic cup or bag and set aside. Ask the children if they think they can grow an apple tree from the seeds. Provide them with plastic cups or pint-size milk cartons for planting, seeds, and potting soil. Label each planting container with the type of apple seed it contains. Assist students (GRANDCHILDREN) as they fill the containers with the soil and seeds. Add water to moisten the soil. Encourage the children to find an area inside the classroom to place the containers. Plan to observe the apple seeds over a two- to three-week period. Prepare a weekly observation chart to record information about the growth of the plants.

Tasting Apples and Graphing Our Favorites. Make a graph on a large sheet of chart paper to record the children’s favorite apples. Write the following question on the top of the graph: What is your favorite kind of apple? Divide the paper into vertical columns for each type of apple that the children will taste. Label each column with the name of each type of apple. Use colored construction paper to make apple cutout shapes to depict the different types of apples the children will taste. Cut the apples in advance, giving a slice of each type to the children. Invite the children to taste each type of apple. Engage the children in a discussion about the different tastes and textures. Is the apple sweet or tart, crisp or soft? Show the children the graph and review the question with them. Invite them to glue a cutout paper apple in the column that represents their favorite apple. Encourage the class to observe the information on the graph as it is being completed. Invite the children to read the completed graph and develop a summary sheet. What was the most popular apple? What was the least popular? What was the taste and texture of the most popular apple?

Apple Parts Collage. Show the children the page in the book that illustrates an apple cut in half and the parts of the apple. Explain to the children that they will use construction paper to make a similar apple collage. Provide the children with pre-cut construction paper representing the stem, skin, core, flesh, seeds, and leaf of the apple, and a sheet of blue paper and glue sticks. Invite a small group of children to the art area to assemble their apple collage. Offer assistance if needed. Encourage the children to label the parts of the apple. Children can also label the leaf and seeds of the apple. Who remembers the other name for an apple seed?

Book Activities. Don’t forget to incorporate the various activities presented at the end of the story into your “Apples” study! Follow the recipe to make delicious applesauce. Collect small baby-food jars and send home a sample of the applesauce along with the copy of the recipe. Invite families to send in additional easy apple recipes that the children can use for further classroom cooking activities.

Other Books About Apples

Johnny Appleseed
by Steven Kellogg
This beloved folktale describes the legendary hero, John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed), who plants apple trees across the American wilderness.

The Apple Pie Tree
by Zoe Hall
An enchanting story about two young girls who care for their apple tree through all seasons.

I Am an Apple
by Jean Marzollo
Hello Reader Series book describes the life cycle of an apple.


2.    Here is the recipe and shopping list:

4 organic sweet apples  (choose apples that are naturally sweet, like Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Winesap, McIntosh, Yellow Delicious, Mutsu )

Also recommended is to always use a mixture – never just one type. So when you are done with your grandchildren you can mix a little of each child’s applesauce together, from comments on :This year (2013) I used a mixture of Fuji (40%), Gala (35%), Red Delicious (20%)  and Yellow Delicious (5%).  If I could have found some STayman Winesap, McIntosh or Cameo, I would have added them, too. It was so sweet I did not need to add any sugar at all.  And the flavor is great! The Fuji’s and Gala’s give it an aromatic flavor! Honeycrisp and Pink Lady are also excellent, sweet, flavorful apples (but a bit watery)

Remember each child gets to pick one apple of one kind.  If you are doing this will one grandchild, the grandchild gets to pick two apples and two kinds.  Of course, buy extras so the children can smell, taste uncooked, play with the seeds, etc.—see lesson plan above.

The rest of the recipe is divided into how much for 4 apples and how much for one apple and each child can do one apple in their own pan, of course, with Grandma doing the hot, hot, hot:


  • Apple peeler
  • Apple corer
  • Knife (Grandma only of course)
  • Masher
  • Saucepans for each child
  • Cooking spoons for stirring
  • Small bowls to pour apple sauce in
  • Blender, optional
  • Four organic sweet apples
  • ½ cup (equals 24 teaspoons) to 3/4 cup purified water (equals 36 teaspoons) (1 cup equals 48 teaspoons)—(can start with 24 and add more water as needed to make it consistency you like)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (12 teaspoons) (can use organic raw cane sugar)

Peel, core, and slice the apples.  Cut the apples into little chunks.

In a sauce pan, put in apples and water.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on medium low heat for 20 minutes  Stir, cover, and contine to cook on low heat until apples are mushy. Stir in sugar to taste up to recipe amount.  Cool.  Mash with masher.  You can add cinnamon or just let children smell and sneeze with cinnamon.  Or cool until warm and enjoy over ice cream.  Or refrigerate and eat cold.

  • One organic sweet apple
  • 6-9 teaspoons water
  • 3 teaspoons sugar

There is even a blender applesauce recipe which requires NO cooking.  Put the raw ingredients in a blender.  Blend at medium speed until smooth, about one minute.  Serve at room temperature or chill.

You can always leave the applesauce unsweetened if you use one of the sweet varieties above, and then add sugar at the table.  It will give the children an idea of how sweet is sweet.

Topping choices to buy:

  • Ice cream: vanilla or any flavor
  • Cinnamon (an acquired taste, let them smell first)

Fresh Fruit or Berries: Top applesauce with chopped, fresh watermelon, honeydew melons, pineapple slices or oranges. Fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries also make great toppings, depending on your flavor preferences. Enjoy a bowl of fruit in addition to applesauce, or add the fruit right in.

Nuts and Seeds (Ask the parents if this is okay—young grandchildren should not eat nuts):Nuts and seeds such as almonds, sesame seeds, walnuts, peanuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and pine nuts add more calories and nutrition to applesauce. The taste can vary greatly depending on the type of nuts you select. Pine nuts have a robust, hardy flavor while almonds and peanuts have a slight sweetness. Adding nuts can greatly increase calories, so only add a small cupful, unless you’re not concerned about caloric intake. All types of nuts and seeds contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Raisins
  • Maple syrup
  • Caramel Ice Cream Topping
  • Whipped Cream
  • Graham cracker crumbs (another activity to crumble graham crackers; another way to try cinnamon is to use cinnamon graham crackers)

Alternative for left over apple sauce:  I love this recipe for cinnamon applesauce milk shakes for left over applesauce from :


  • 3 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce
  • 1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon rum extract


In a blender, combine all ingredients; cover and process until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.


I think you know the drill.  Make a shopping list.  Get all items but the apples before you go to the supermarket with the grandchildren, unless you are going with adding toppings or making milkshakes.  Make sure you have the utensils before you begin.

Remember, this Grandma likes targeted supermarket shopping to save stress and angst.  Bring a list of the type of apples the grandchildren are going to look for, and even pictures for the little grandchildren.  Go on an apple hunt.  For this recipe, you can make the trip all about two aisles:  the fresh fruit aisle (for apples and maybe fresh berry choices for topping) and the aisle for ready to buy apple sauces.  Each child gets to pick an apple, a store bought apple sauce, a type of berry.  You can add a kind of ice cream if you are a grandma like me.  I would already have bought caramel topping for the children to try at home, smell and taste.  If you are really in a spoiling mood, I wonder how sprinkles, chocolate chips would taste with applesauce!

4.    COOKING.  Easy.  See above.  Wash the apples in plain cold water first, of course. Chopping them is much faster if you use one of those apple corer/segmenters – you just push it down on an apple and it cuts it into segments. 

5.    TASTING.  If you have not added any sugar to the cooking, you can add sugar, maple syrup, or any sweetener here. You can use the blindfold game above to compare store bought to homemade.  You can make any number of tasting games, with or without toppings. 




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