A favorite staple of the preschool set, applesauce rarely makes it off the kids’ table. But this old-fashioned comfort food deserves a place in every kitchen. Applesauce pairs beautifully with pork, adds subtle sweetness to pancakes, and transforms into something different altogether when flavored with hints of cardamom, cranberry, or lemon. And who can forget that applesauce can replace up to half the fat in muffins and many other baked goods?

The problem is that we’ve forgotten how good the real stuff tastes. Most commercial sauces are monotone in flavor, overly sweet, and often mixed with other fruits or sugar to make them even sweeter. Not so with Hotchkiss-based Ela Family Farms’ five varieties of applesauce, which contain nothing but organic homegrown apples. Four varieties consist of single flavors (Fuji, Braeburn, Gala, and Jonathan), but the fifth, Apples Aplenty, is a crowd-pleasing blend.

Steve Ela, the partner-manager who developed the recipe for Apples Aplenty, says he drew inspiration not from cookbooks or an heirloom recipe but from music. “When you’re listening to a good band, you don’t just have high notes and bass, you have a mix of all of them,” he says. “The bass you don’t really hear, but you know when it’s missing, and that’s the tart side of applesauce. The high notes are the sweet sides.”

If time’s not an issue, make your own applesauce for these maple-applesauce pancakes from chef Scott Bauer at Snooze. Or open a jar of Ela’s applesauce, available at local farmers’ markets (in season), specialty markets, and by mail-order at www.elafamilyfarms.com.

RECIPE: Maple-Applesauce Pancakes (Makes 18 pancakes)

For Maple Applesauce

  • 2 apples peeled, cored, and diced, or 1 cup store-bought applesauce*
  • 1/8 to ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup maple syrup

For Pancakes

  • 1 apple peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil

For Maple Apple Sauce: Cook all ingredients, except maple syrup, over medium heat until water is gone. Add maple syrup and serve as a condiment for the pancakes.

*Note: If using store-bought applesauce, omit brown sugar, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and water, and use ¼ cup maple syrup and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon.

For Pancakes: Combine apple and milk in a blender and purée. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and add wet ingredients. Mix until smooth. Drop on a hot griddle from a ¼ cup measuring cup. Flip when bubbles rise to surface, and cook until lightly brown on other side. Serve immediately with applesauce.