How to Can Applesauce… in 9 Simple Stepsposted by Andrea | 01/4/2013
One of the projects I tackled over Christmas break was canning a bunch of applesauce.
And while the winter months might sound like an odd time to can anything in Michigan, I’ve found that the winter is actually the perfect time of year for canning applesauce. We can often get apples from local orchards until mid February, and the winter is kind of a “down time” for me. So while I usually try to wait until January or February, I had to do it in December this year due to a shortage of apples.
The whole process always SEEMS so overwhelming to me… but once I’m finished, I realize that it really only takes a few hours for me to can enough applesauce for an entire year (and we eat A LOT of applesauce).
Also, I’ve found that with canning, so much of it is learned through experience and “hands-on” training. So while I can’t give you a hands-on experience via my blog, I hope that the step-by-step photos and instructions below will at least be a good guide to help you get started!
If you’d like to start small and just try a tiny bit of homemade applesauce, you might consider trying my 8-Minute Microwave Applesauce recipe first.
However, the method I’m sharing today is so much tastier than the microwave method
OK, let’s get started!
Step 1: Buy and wash your apples.
I always get my apples from local orchards — it’s usually the most frugal approach to get large quantities of apples. It’s also often the “freshest” option. We buy most of our fruit from Moelker’s Orchard.
I almost always by a variety of apples (the orchard will be able to recommend good “applesauce apples”). I personally prefer red apples to yellow/green apples and my favorite “blend” is Idared, McIntosh, and Empire.
I usually can anywhere from 2 to 3 bushels (about 4-6 large paper grocery bags full). I’ve found that one bushel of apples gives me almost 20 quarts of applesauce — but this depends on how thick/thin you like your sauce, how big the apples are, how much you cut out of the apples, if you peel the apples before cooking etc.
Step 2: Cut up the apples.
This is probably the most time consuming part — and it works best if you either do it the night before or have a helper.
You can easily cut up the apples the night before and just soak them in salt water for a few minutes. Rinse the salt water off and dump the apples into large buckets, bowls, or other containers — they honestly won’t turn brown!
If you process the apples like I do in the food mill (see instructions below) you can leave the skins on — which will save you TONS of time and give your applesauce a deliciously sweet flavor and a fabulous pink/red color.
When you’re cutting the apples, the trick is to waste as little of the apple flesh as possible. I cut the apples into quarters, cut out the tiny seed area, and then cut each quarter into 4 -6 chunks.
This is a “sticky” process so I cover my table with an ugly plastic tablecloth
I usually put one plastic container on my lap for the apple chunks and another container on the table for the “discarded” seeds pile. Again — this part seems overwhelming, but once you get in your groove, it goes quickly (although you’ll definitely want to use a good paring knife!)
Step 3: Cook the apples.
If you don’t have many large stock pots, you might want to borrow a couple. I often have 3 large pots cooking at one time to help the process go faster.
Simply fill the pans to the top with chopped apples, add a cup or two of water (not exact at all — just to keep the apples from burning to the bottom), and boil until VERY soft .
I stir the pans every few minutes and scrape the bottom so the apples don’t burn. Then, when the apples start getting soft, I turn the heat down and just simmer for a few more minutes. Depending on your stove, your pans, how full your pans are, and how big your apple chunks are, the cooking process could take anywhere from 20 – 40 minutes… so this is where the “hands-on experience” comes into play!
Step 4: Pour cooked apples into a large food mill.
You’ll save yourself LOADS of time by not peeling all your apples before you cook them, but then after you cook the apples, you’ll need to run them through a food mill to separate the peels.
I use either my aunt’s or my grandma’s food mill (they both have the same one). It’s SUPER nice and I know they both found the mills at local garage sales for really cheap!
As you can see by the picture, once it’s assembled, it simply clips onto the edge of a counter or table.
When the apples are cooked, pour the mixture directly into the top of the food mill…
Then start cranking the handle and pressing down on the apples. The sauce will start coming out the bottom and the peels will be “discarded” out the side.
I always run the discarded peels through the food mill once or twice just so I don’t waste anything!
Doesn’t it look SOOOOO delicious!
Step 5: Add water and/or sugar to the sauce.
Once that container starts to get full, dump it into a large bowl and add more water if the sauce it too thick. You may also add sugar at this point — however I don’t think I’ve ever added any sugar to my sauce because the apples are sweet enough on their own.
Step 6: Ladle applesauce into jars.
I always use quart jars because we go through applesauce very quickly; however, if you’re worried you won’t eat it fast enough, you could use pint jars instead.
I use one of these handy canning funnels specifically design for canning jars. They make the process so much easier — and much less messy!
Step 7: Put rings and lids on each jar.
You’ll need to boil the lids for a few minutes before topping each jar with a special canning lid and then tightly screwing on a ring. This is standard “procedure” for canning anything in a hot-water bath.
Step 8: Process the jars in a hot-water bath.
This is the easy part… but it can sometimes take the most time
With applesauce and other non-acidic foods, there is no need for fancy (and expensive) pressure cookers. A simple hot-water bath canner like mine will do the job at a fraction of the price.
A canner holds 7 jars (I only have 6 jars in the picture below, but you can put another jar in the middle hole) so unless you have access to multiple canners, you can only process 7 jars at a time.
I usually like to have 2 canners going at the same time — especially now that I have a bigger, more powerful stove. However, you can easily manage with one canner.
Once the jars are covered with water (just barely covered otherwise it will boil over). Put the lid on and turn the burner on high.
It will take awhile for the water to come to a full rolling boil, but once it does, set your timer for 20 minutes.
After the jars boil for 20 minutes, turn the burner off, remove the lid, and CAREFULLY remove the jars from the canner onto towels to dry and cool.
Let the jars sit for 24 hours and then make sure they’ve all sealed (they’ve sealed if you can’t press down on the middle “bubble” on the lids).
Step 9: Wash and store the canned applesauce.
If the jars all sealed properly, you can then remove the rings (after they’ve sat for 24 hours), wash the jars to remove any sticky residue, and store them in a cool place.
The applesauce should last for a few years if properly sealed and stored (we keep ours on shelves in the basement)
If one or two of the jars don’t seal, you can just stick them in the freezer (they will last several months) or in the fridge (if you can eat it within a few weeks).
That’s the whole process — and while I know it might seem overwhelming, it only took me 3.5 hours from start to finish. I did have my mom helping me for almost 3 hours, and Dave was home to watch Nora, but I promise, it’s not as bad as you might think.
Plus, if you’ve never tasted homemade applesauce before, you’ll agree that it’s worth a little extra work
Obviously, there are many other ways to can applesauce — however this is the way I’ve always done it, it’s the way my mom has always done it, and it’s the way my grandma has always done it (although she didn’t have the nice food mill!)
If you’re still not convinced, just start small. Do 5 pounds of apples — which should probably make 1 or 2 jars of sauce. If you like it, do more. If you hate it, you won’t have wasted much.