Cooking the apples with their skins on adds a beautiful rosy blush to the finished sauce.
- 4 pounds any combination of apples (about 8 large), rinsed, halved or quartered
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine apples, cinnamon stick, lemon juice, salt, and ¼ cup water in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add pod. Cover pot and cook over medium-low heat, occasionally stirring with a wooden spoon and checking to make sure apples are not scorching (add a splash of water if they are), until apples are soft and falling apart, 35–45 minutes. Uncover pot and let apples cool slightly.
Working in batches, pass apples through food mill fitted with a medium disk into a large bowl; discard solids. If sauce is watery, return to pot and simmer over medium heat until thickened.
Do Ahead: Applesauce can be made 4 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.