Ancho chile applesauce DSC2304

Ancho chile applesauce

I went apple picking in Connecticut with my mom last weekend. It wasn’t the first time I’d picked apples—we have apple trees at the family farm and every August they need to be harvested. (Though this year, some creature ate all the apples so there weren’t any for us to eat.) But it was the first time I’d been apple picking in New England.

When we arrived at the farm, I was struck by how the air was fragrant with apples, made prominent by the recent rains. My mom said, “I wish there was a way to photograph this smell so I could keep it with me forever.”

And everyone was so happy! The orchards were filled with teenagers, young families, grandparents and little kids, with nary a frown to be found. While ostensibly, apple picking could be construed as work, it’s definitely joyful work. Is it because apples are so round and cute? Or is it because apples are the hallmark of a new season? I don’t know, but having pulled vegetables out of the ground and plucked apples from trees, I can attest from personal experience that apple picking is definitely the superior farm task.

Ancho chile applesauce | Homesick Texan

My mom was in Connecticut for a job interview. This is a very important job that I hope she gets, but at the same time I have mixed feelings about it as it would mean she would have to move away from Texas. And as my brother and dad have moved away from Texas, too, I told her that I just might have to move back home so someone in our immediate family would still live there. Of course, this would be highly ironic since if she does move to Connecticut she will only be a train ride away. She wasn’t pleased with this bit of information.

When you live in New York City, you have very limited storage space. My mom has been gracious enough to store both a large trunk filled with all sorts of grade-school mementoes (photos, yearbooks and old papers) and my library of children’s books ever since I moved out the house many, many years ago. But she told me this weekend that if she got the job that I’d have to reclaim these items as she would probably downsize. I was speechless—where would I put all this stuff?

As you can probably gather, I’m going through a bit of a crisis by her possible move. OK, so it’s not really a serious crisis—I just have issues with change, even if it’s for the best. But no matter, I needed some solace from all this news.

Ancho chile applesauce | Homesick Texan

If my mom moves to Connecticut, one of the books I will be reintroducing into my library is an old childhood favorite, “Rain Makes Applesauce.” But despite my love for this book, for some reason I’d never made applesauce.

When I returned home, I took a few of my apples and threw them in a pot with some spices, ancho chile powder and lemon zest. For a first-time attempt, it was pretty darn good. And while I’m a bit anxious not knowing how this Connecticut story will end, at least as I ate my applesauce I felt content and warm.

You can serve the applesauce as a side dish or as a condiment. (It’s terrific on pancakes). And this spicy applesauce cake would work well with it, too.

5 from 1 vote

Ancho chile applesauce

Servings 6
Author Lisa Fain


  • 1 1/2 pounds red baking apples, about 4, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • Pinch cayenne


  • Place the apples, ancho chile powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, lemon zest and water in a pot, and cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • After about half an hour, the apples should be cooked down to almost mush. Stir in the sugars, vanilla, cayenne, and salt and cook on low for 5 minutes. Serve warm or cold. Will keep refrigerated for 1 week.


If you use really sweet apples, such as Honeycrisp, Fujis or Galas, you might find you don’t need as much sugar. I used more-tart Winesap and Liberty apples, which is why I used this amount of sugar.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Lisa,
    Native Texan here.
    I just noticed your link at Robbie's blog.
    J. and I lived outside TX for only 4 months back in 1985 but I swore that if I ever lived outside TX again I would have a big TX flag hanging somewhere inside. I would not leave the state without one again. I don't know if that would help or not.
    Picking apples and the air smelling like apples sounds wonderful !

    SB Smith
    College Station TX

  2. Well it did occur to me that if everyone in your family had moved out of Texas, then you would really be a Homesick Texan (hope that doesn't make you feel worse!) I think it might be very nice to have your mom so close. Love the applesauce too!

  3. habanerogal says:

    My childhood fave book was the Rascally Cake but the recipe in that one is kind of gross. Good luck to your mom. Thanks for another interesting and inventive recipe.

  4. You are so selfish! 😉 You can visit Texas anytime and stay in a nice, luxurious hotel, while you may soon be able to jump on the subway and have your mom's home cooking! Look on the bright side, Lisa!

  5. Miss Meat and Potatoes says:

    Serve mine over a pork chop please! Wow – what an ironic story about your mom. I'm in Fredericksburg right now and the weather is gorgeous. My sisters and I ate at Rather Sweet yesterday – SO good. Good luck with your decision Lisa – I know I will be crying on the plane ride back to NY next week:(