As we harvest apples, we sort out the top-quality apples for selling fresh, and save aside seconds, or imperfect apples. This time of year, we see a lot of imperfection. We use some of these to make apple butter (that we sell at the farmers market), applesauce for our son (who will eat like a quart of it a day if we let him), or cider. We'll also bring some seconds to the farmers market, and have them available for sale at a reduced price.
What makes an apple a "second"? Most of them have a little too much surface blemish, or slight cracks, or stings from an insect feeding on the sugars. Some are deformed where some bug tried to lay an egg in them early on. We don't sell apples that have been bird-damaged, or where something has completely broken through or eaten away at the skin. It's not impossible to find a small worm in a 2nd, usually in the core, though that's rare.
Now is the perfect time to save a little bit of autumn's abundant deliciousness for those cold, bland winter days. Purchasing 2nds makes preserving more economical. If you've never made applesauce before, you'll be surprised at how non-intimidating it is to make, and even to can (though if you don't feel like canning, you can also freeze it). Here's a straightforward recipe, that requires so special equipment:
Keep in mind that the sauce will taste sweeter while it's warm, so once you've got the texture you'd like, it's a good idea to take out a dollop and put it on a plate or a shallow bowl to cool quickly. Evaluate the sweetness of this cooled sauce to decide if you want to add sugar (or honey, or your sweetener of choice). Ditto with the spices, if you're using them.
Once you've made the sauce, it's only a matter of reducing it on the stove (or in a slow cooker) to make rich and spreadable apple butter.
I always think that the best applesauce comes from a nice mix of apple varieties, though some varieties make good sauce all on their own (like Chestnut Crabapples!). When we sell 2nds, we like to mix up varieties, so you can get a lot of different flavors. With a mix of sweet and tart apples, I never find that I have to add acid (lemon juice) or sugar to applesauce.