How to Can Applesauce… in 9 Simple Steps

posted 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.

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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!

Scooping Applesauce into Jars

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).

DONE!

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.

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38 comments

  1. megan @ whatmegansmaking

    01/04/2013

    OK, next time you’re canning, call me and I’ll come over help in exchange for a hands on canning lesson. ;) I’m always terrified I’m going to die of botulism if I start canning my own food…

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Well, I probably won’t be canning anything for a while Megan… but I’ll remember your offer next Fall :)

    [Reply]

  2. Calliope

    01/04/2013

    In Greece applesauce is not at all common. So i am curious. Where do you use it?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    We just eat it… with everything :)
    We have applesauce on the table almost every single night (and yes, I totally understand if that sounds weird to a lot of people!) It’s like a condiment and/or side dish for almost every one of our meals.

    You can also use it for baking in place of oil, for jello recipes in place of water, or as baby food!

    [Reply]

  3. Linda

    01/04/2013

    I speed the process up by not taking out the core and seeds. I run the warm apples through the food grinder and fruit/vegetable strainer attachments on my Kitchen Aid mixer. I do 5-6 bushels of apples into sauce this way.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    We’ve tried that Linda — but we noticed that applesauce had a more “bitter” taste if we left the seeds in… not nearly as sweet. Plus, the seeds get stuck in the mesh strainer part of our food mill :)

    [Reply]

  4. Deanna

    01/04/2013

    A peeler/corer/slicer from Pampered Chef works WONDERFUL when canning apples. My grandma came to my house this fall and we canned applesauce and pie filling. The whole process was a learning experience for all since my grandma hadn’t done either before and this was my first time canning. We used her food processor instead of a food mill, and we used the leftover water from boiling the apples as apple juice! :)

    [Reply]

    Sandy K Reply:

    Deanna, the apples are sliced very thin with the Pampered Chef peeler/corer/slicer. The apples will soften much quicker. Will that take away from the flavor by not cooking longer? I have this product.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Just an FYI, if you use an apple slicer, peeler, corer, you will waste a ton of the apple. I basically just cut out the seeds and that’s it — it will take longer if you do it by hand, but you’ll get a lot more sauce.

    Also, I don’t peel my apples before hand — and the peeling give it a really great flavor and a fabulous pink color.

    [Reply]

    Sandy K Reply:

    With the Pampered Chef Peeler/Corer/Slicer there is no waste. But the slices are quite thin and do work well or an apple pie. I’m wondering if the thinness of the slices would diminish the taste. The peel usually comes off in one long strand so you could put the peel in the water and get the same color affect and just pull out the peels after the apples are cooked. Just wondering. I think I’ll have to try it.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Sandy, The point I was trying to make with the peeler slicer is that you waste the entire core of the apple — which has TONS of useable apple pulp. I literally only take out the seeds and the stem — nothing else of the core — so the entire core gets cooked down. And if you’re doing bushels of apples, that will add up to lots of extra applesauce. :)

    [Reply]

  5. Melanie

    01/04/2013

    Might have to try this sometime. My kids would love it. I really like your t-shirt!

    [Reply]

  6. Liss

    01/04/2013

    There is a easer way to can. Where you dont have to do the water boil after you fill the jars. Boil the lids and rings. Get you applesauce to boil for 5 min or so. Fill your jars put on tops and rings. Flip the jars over onto a towel with the jars not touching for 5 min or so the flip the jars over. After a few min. You should start to hear them pop. If some dont just rewarm the sauce and fill again and flip. I have cut my canning time down by 20 min doing it this way.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is the method I use for canning jam — however it is not recommended for applesauce. The main reason is because it’s difficult to get the applesauce to a high enough temperature for a long enough time to kill any lurking bacteria. The applesauce would most likely burn if you achieved a hot enough temperature, and if you don’t kill the bacteria, the jars might seal… but the bacteria would be sealed inside and then your applesauce could still go bad over time.

    [Reply]

  7. Jen

    01/04/2013

    This is great! I’m hoping to start doing some canning in a few years, when we build our house and I have a big enough kitchen and a place to store canned items.

    Did you guys get rid of your farm table or is it just put up? I love that table. In fact, I’ve already shown it to my husband so that he knows exactly what he’ll be building for me in our new home. lol

    [Reply]

  8. Katie

    01/04/2013

    This year I tried softening the apples in the oven and it worked great! I used a large roasting pan with a bit of water and filled it full with apples. It was so easy to soften them in the oven and that way my stove top was free for the water bath canner. I was able to have a pretty good assembly line going that way.

    [Reply]

  9. Starla

    01/04/2013

    Oh yes – I love applesauce. We do 3 – 4 bushels a year, but I freeze it instead of canning it.

    I always just quarter the apples, take out the seedy part, and then cut each quarter in half again, skipping the chunking part. You might need to cook them a little longer – not sure. But it may save time in the process of getting them ready to cook. Otherwise I do it pretty much the same way you showed. It is the fruit I prefer to preserve – a lot easier than peaches or pears!

    I also freeze the applesauce in small disposable containers for school lunches. It is very convenient when packing lunches! The boys have the option of applesauce, blueberries, peaches, or crushed strawberries. They love it!

    I also use a food mill just like that. We sometimes remove the handle and rig it up to a drill to run it faster and do the cranking for us. =)

    Glad to see you have retained what is becoming a lost art!

    [Reply]

  10. Kristia

    01/04/2013

    I make a lot of applesauce every fall; enough to last us through the winter and spring. We eat it almost every night at dinner too. I freeze mine though.

    My food grinder is pretty sturdy, so I just wash the apples and quarter them. I don’t bother removing seeds, my grinder separates it for me. I usually use 7-8 different varieties from a local orchard. I find that using so many varieties, I never need to add sugar.

    [Reply]

  11. Jamie

    01/04/2013

    Really like your site. I am trying to pin this post so I know where it’s at when I go to make applesauce but none of your images are able to be pinned. Why is that?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Jamie — I don’t know why I keep having issues with this… but if you just click the “Pin” button at the bottom of the post it should work. For some reason, my flickr photos cause the issue even though my account is set to “Share” all my images.

    Sorry!

    [Reply]

    Jamie Reply:

    Thanks Andrea for replying so quickly. I used the pin button at the end of the post as you said and it worked just fine. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  12. Erin

    01/04/2013

    I canned applesauce last year and was doing it the same way you were with cutting the apples. I got tires of cutting so about halfway thru I grabbed my apple slicer/corer, similar to this one http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Grips-Apple-Corer-Divider/dp/B00004OCKT
    I thought it ended up going faster and I didn’t lose much of the apple.

    [Reply]

  13. Jance

    01/04/2013

    I am always so amazed at the energy you have, especially with Faith being such a busy, non sleeping little girl! Of course, you are half my age, but I didn’t have as much energy even at your age :^). I’m originally from Michigan, so I really loved your t-shirt. I have made some radical changes in my life lately and one of them is to eat a raw food only diet ( I eat nothing cooked-only fresh foods) and was looking for an uncooked method of preserving applesauce and found one that is so easy. Maybe this will be an option for those who eat like I do or maybe they don’t want to take the time to can. This way is cheaper and less time consuming. Of course, I hate putting the in Ziploc bags that are contaminated with BPA , but at this point, I can’t afford to buy the ones that aren’t produced with the harmful chemicals. I just don’t understand why those of us who want to be as healthy as possible, have to pay out the nose? That’s another subject. It’s just 3 easy steps. 1) Core the apples 2) Put them in a Vita Mix blender and blend until your desired chunkiness or smoothness. The only thing I add is a little cinnamon, not only because I like the taste, but it also has healthy proprieties. To finish this super easy process, I put them in whatever size ziploc bags I want and freeze. Hope this helps those of who would be interested. I pray that your New Year will be blessed with sleep :^) and full of ALL THAT IS GOOD!! As always, I love your site….keep up the great work Andrea!

    [Reply]

    Jane Reply:

    We also started eating healthier (no MSG, high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or sweeteners) so we cook a lot of meals from scratch. This would be nice to have on hand. I didn’t realize you can can a years worth of apple sauce in a day. Thanks for the information.

    [Reply]

  14. Jennifer M.

    01/04/2013

    This is exactly the way I can apples and both my Mom and my grandmas canned. I have a apple core/peeler/slicer though. I had a lot of apple to do this year. It took me a little longer than usual but with four children under 5 running around what do you expect. Besides too large batches of applesauce, I also made apple butter, apple pie filling, fruit leather, apple desserts, etc. Now, I’m plannning to can some pears that I have (our baby will use some for baby food), as I was waiting for some rubber rings for my older jars passed down from my Nana. I guess I will start on them next week.

    [Reply]

  15. sheri

    01/04/2013

    My mother always did her canning in the winter. She would freeze her pickings during the picking season and can in the winter. Her thought was that you were stuck in the house anyway and you wanted to make the house warmer during that season.

    I love the applesauce canning process. I would love to try this.

    [Reply]

  16. Paula

    01/04/2013

    This is almost exactly the way I do it. I never add sugar to my apples. Our favorite is Jonathon. However we now live in GA (grew up in MI) and it is harder to get Jonathon apples.

    One of the things I do different is to put some cinnamon on my apples when cooking them. Makes the house smell even better.

    We have applesauce on the table almost every night too. I have one picky eater and she doesn’t eat many vegetables so she always has applesauce and I don’t feel bad as it has no added sugar.

    [Reply]

  17. Vicki

    01/04/2013

    A food strainer makes the best applesauce! I did want to mention that canning lids have changed in the last few years, and they no longer recommend to boil them. I usually bring a small pot of water to a boil, remove it from the heat, and then add the lids. If I am in a hurry, I might even just use hot tap water. I know of people who have boiled their lids and had seal failures. It has to do with the composition of the sealing compound.

    [Reply]

  18. Sandy K

    09/09/2013

    Your tutorial is wonderful. We eat a lot of applesauce. I buy the unsweetened kind and add cinnamon which I love. Do you use organic apples? Thank you for all you do.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I honestly don’t know if my apples are organic — I just get them from a local orchard. The family who owns the orchard sends their kid’s to Dave’s school so I figure I’ll support them :)

    [Reply]

  19. Meghan

    09/24/2013

    I’m wondering if you stick some unsealed jars in the freezer if you need to remove any of the sauce? My mom said I should do that, but I can’t imagine you wouldn’t have said so if it was necessary! You thought of everything else.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I’ve honestly never had a jar of applesauce that didn’t seal — so I’ve never tried putting them in the freezer before. however, a pretty common “rule of thumb” is that if you put ANYTHING in the freezer, you need to leave room for it to expand. So yes, I would definitely remove about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of sauce before freezing — just to be on the safe side!

    Good luck :)

    [Reply]

  20. Kristen

    09/24/2013

    Do you have any tips on making the purchase of apples more economical? We picked last weekend and it was about $20 for a 1/2 bushel of apples. Does that seem expensive? It kind of did to me. I know that the the nutritional value of homemade is completely worth it (I have a 3 y/o & 5 months old), but with a husband that’s laid off…well, we have to watch the budget on it a bit. And if I’m going to go to the trouble of getting everything out for the canning process, I’d like to make a large batch. Thanks for any advice! :)

    [Reply]

    Stephanie Reply:

    Ask for seconds. They might have a few more bruises or black spots to cut out but overall the apple is still delicious and around half the cost.
    If you are local there is an orchard on Riley and 16th in Jamestown area that also sells apples for around the same price. For me it is more economical to purchase from them. Grand view Orchard is the name.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Stephanie — we ALWAYS get 2nds for apples… they are half the price (or cheaper.

    We go to Molker’s orchard in the Northern Grandville area because they send their kids to Dave’s school!

    [Reply]

    Stephanie Reply:

    With the addition of the bakery at Moelker I do go there more often. Good thing there only open for about 6 months!

    [Reply]

  21. jeanette

    09/02/2014

    why does apple sauce turn dark in the jars

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    what do you mean by “turn dark in the jars”. Mine doesn’t change color much at all — but I do use all the skins for my sauce so it’s very pink/red in color compare to the yellow stuff you buy at the stores.

    [Reply]

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