What’s a food mill?

apple sauce
You’re going to do me a solid and ignore the Asian Pear and star anise in this photo and pretend that the deliciousness in the bowl is the recipe below for applesauce and not the Asian Pear Applesauce that is actually in this photo. Thank you!

This. This is a food mill. Well, this is one is commercial grade. I’m guessing if you own, or have seen a food mill that it looks a lot like the one your grandmother or your mom had. In fact, one of them probably passed it down to you.

This is a food mill. It is a manual way to make a puree that leaves behind the solids for a smoother more delicate puree.
Photography by Matt Hocking

Food mills work by pressing soft foods through a disc with holes in it to produce a delicate purée. Because it is pressing and not chopping, like a blender or food processor, you leave all the tough, fibrous bits behind in the top rather than chopping them up into smaller, but still tough and fibrous bits.

This is perfect for the lazy cook (that’s me) who doesn’t want to peel apples or try picking cloves out when making applesauce. A food mill will also make the most magically creamy potatoes you have ever eaten so you should give in and buy one now. Trust me, you’ll say “thank you” later. And not much later, but about 20 minutes after you purchase yours when you’ve already made your first batch of fresh, delicious, no-sugar-added applesauce in just 20 minutes.

Homemade Applesauce

Serves 6

The mix of apples will determine the sweetness or tartness of the sauce. Try different mixes to find what you like. Ask your local farmer for advice. Do yourself a favor and buy a food mill just for this! It keeps the skins behind and you don’t have to peel any of the apples.


Canned applesauce. With the right mix of apples you don't need to add any sweetener or acidity like honey or lemon juice.
Canned applesauce. With the right mix of apples you don’t need to add any sweetener or acidity like honey or lemon juice.
  • 4 sweet apples, like Honeycrisp
  • 3 tart apples, like Winesap, Macoun or Granny Smith
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • Lemon juice
  • Honey


  • Core apples. Don’t bother peeling them. Roughly cut them into about 8 pieces each.
  • Place apples, cider and spices in a 4 qt saucepan, cover and simmer over med heat for 10-15 min until they’re really soft and mushy.
  • Run apples through a food mill.
  • Add honey or lemon juice as needed. With the right mix of sweet and tart apples you won’t need any at all. The last batch I made included GoldRush for their spiced notes, Stayman for acidity and Crimson Crisp for sugar.

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