Food Storage: Make and Can Homemade Applesauce

Ooohhhh… the smell of baked apples and homemade applesauce has been filling my home for the past couple of days and it smells like Fall Heaven on Earth. 🙂 My initial applesauce drama tempered the enjoyment a tad at the beginning (you can read all about that fun HERE), but on Saturday I finished my fourth day of working with apples in the kitchen, and let me tell you… the pain of the first two days was worth it for the enjoyment of the last two days! Days 1 and 2 were definitely my learning days. Having never really attempted homemade applesauce (especially in this quantity), it was a bit overwhelming. I stuck to strictly using apples in my applesauce, no futzing with anything fancy, and just tried to survive! 🙂 Day 3, I took a break from applesauce and treated myself and my family to a heavenly apple crisp, which perked up the apple enjoyment level (yes, I’ll share that recipe soon!), and Day 4 I did one last round of applesauce making. But with all benefits of learning from the first two days behind me, I enjoyed smooth sailing and some wonderful success! So buckle up and I’ll take you on my applesauce making ride (with all the tips and tricks I learned along the way!) 🙂   {P.S. I will add more pictures to this post as I find the time, but I wanted to at least get the process and what I’ve got done so far up and posted before Fall is actually over.} 😀

How To Make/Can Homemade Applesauce

Okay, well if you read my drama story, you know that I tried making applesauce two different ways*. I will only show you the second method I used, because the first is still too traumatic for me to re-live. 😀

Get Your Apples: What Kind and How Much

So alright. First things first. Clearly, you’re going to need a bunch of apples. Experts suggest using a variety of apple types. This will apparently produce a better applesauce flavor in the end. Well, I didn’t have a variety. I had two big boxes of Golden Delicious, but they worked wonderfully for me. (Although in the future I think it would be fun to try different apple blends as well.)

Obviously, you can use as many or as few apples as you would like and that will just determine the total amount of finished product you get. My two boxes produced 17 quarts and 12 pints of applesauce, two apple crisps, and two apple pies. (I wish I knew how much those boxes weighed so I could give you a better accounting. I’ll see if I can find that out.) From what I can gather from online resources, though, a bushel of apples (which is estimated roughly to 42-45 lbs) will produce in the ballpark of 15 quarts of applesauce. On a smaller scale, 3 lbs of apples should make about 1 quart of applesauce. So I’m guessing each of my boxes was about a bushel. Okay. Moving on…

Check and Prepare Your Equipment

Make sure you’ve got clean, warm jars (I like to run them through the dishwasher, or if they’re already sparkling clean, just have them soaking in hot water in the sink to keep them warm) and check them for any nicks or cracks. Check your canner to make sure it’s in good working order; new lids; good rings that are rust free; pots to cook the apples in; a large bowl for working in, something to mash with, and that should about do it!

Prep The Apples For Cooking

Once you have your apples, you need to prep them for cooking. For me this meant using my cool new apple peeler/corer/slicer. But even without a cool gadget, you’re going to need your apples peeled, cored, and then sliced into small sections.

{Helpful Tip: What I actually found that I really liked was that on the end of Day 2 (when I still had almost a whole box of apples staring at me), I sat there and just peeled/cored/sliced all the remaining apples, stuck them into gallon size ziploc baggies, and then stuck them in the fridge. This meant they were ready for use whenever I was ready to tackle the rest of my applesauce project. I did most of the remaining applesauce two days later, but five days later I still have some sitting in baggies in my fridge to make an apple crisp with and they are still doing great. So this gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of being able to work around your own schedule. It also creates a whole lot less stress in the kitchen when you’re actually making the applesauce: less mess, less things to worry about… it made my last day of applesauce making really nice!! So I plan to prep my apples a day or two in advance every year from now on!} But I digress.

Cook Your Apples

This is super easy and makes your house smell appley wonderful!! I used a steamer for this step and it was perfect, but you can also just use a big stock pot as well.

For the steamer, I added filtered water to the bottom part and then filled the steamer basket full of my prepped apples. For a stockpot, you basically do the same thing: add your apples till it’s full and then put some water in the bottom to keep the apples from burning. {Tip: It took about 1½ of my gallon sized bags to fill the steamer (which is about an 8-qt pot), and doing this twice made enough applesauce to fill 6-7 quarts… which is just the right amount to process one batch in the canner. So 3 gallon size baggies will do one batch for me.} You’ll want to cook your apples until they’re soft and start to break down (this will be roughly 15-20 minutes over medium-high heat). And don’t forget to give your apples a stir occasionally to keep them circulated through the pot and cooking evenly.

{Another helpful hint: Get your water heating up in your canner at this point so it will be ready for you when you’re done filling jars. Also get your lids boiling in a small pot of water.}

Mash, Mush, Blend

Now it’s time to turn those apples into applesauce! {Helpful Hint: So here’s the trick with this part… You need to keep your applesauce warm right up to the time you’re going to process it in your canner (otherwise you end up with spillage in your jars… yes, I learned this the hard way). This can be difficult if you aren’t able to cook enough apples all at the same time to fill your jars and process right away. So what I found to work well is that I’ve got a large bowl with a lid, and when my first batch of apples was done cooking, I tossed them in the bowl, covered them, and then cooked my second batch of apples. The apples in the bowl stayed warm enough till the second batch was done, and then adding the second batch on top of them heated the first ones right back up. Was that confusing?! You could also keep the first batch of apples in another pot over low heat on the stove, but I don’t have that many big pots and I don’t have that much room on my stove!) Well, however you do it, with all your warm apples in a large bowl, choose your favorite way* to mush those apples down. It can be as simple as using a potato masher (this will give you a chunkier sauce), or you can use something like a food processor or blender to get a smoother texture. I used an immersion blender, which I loved for a few reasons: 1) It meant I could leave all the apples in my big bowl and not dirty up any more items, and 2) I had good control over the texture this way– some batches I made ultra smooth, and some I left a little more chunky. (BTW… if you just wanted to make applesauce to eat right away this is where you’d stop. Just stick the applesauce in an airtight container and keep it stored in the fridge. It will probably be good for a week or two. Otherwise, continue on…)

Fill The Jars

Simple, easy peasy. Using a wide-mouth funnel for less mess, fill your warm canning jars near to the top, leaving at least a 1/2-inch headspace. Give the jars a little jiggle to help the contents settle, wipe the rims, and then place a hot lid on top. Secure a ring on it (just till tight… don’t crank it on or anything!) and it’s ready to go!

Process The Applesauce

There are two ways to process applesauce: a hot water bath, or pressure can it.
For the hot water bath, simply place your jars in your canner (preferably with already warm/almost boiling water in it), and then make sure the water level rises enough to cover your jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil (checking every now and then to make sure the water level has remained at an inch above the jars), and once the water is boiling, you can start your timing. Quarts will process for 20 minutes; Pints will process for 15 minutes.
For pressure canning your applesauce (which is the method I ended up preferring), follow the directions on your pressure canner… but it will likely go something like this (or at least these are the directions for my Presto pressure canner): fill your canner to the 3-qt line with water (and add 2 Tbsp of vinegar to prevent hard water on your jars) and bring that water up to a boil. Add your jars. Seal the lid on the pressure canner and continue to boil until the steam starts to vent out the top. Time 10 minutes and allow the steam to vent the entire time. At the end of 10 minutes, apply the pressure regulator (use 5 lbs of pressure for applesauce). Wait until the pressure regulator starts rocking and then start your processing time. Quarts will process for 10 minutes; Pints will process for 8 minutes. At the end of the processing time, turn the heat off and let the pressure come down of its own accord. (Do NOT attempt to speed the pressure release by removing the regulator or by trying to open the lid!)

Whichever way you process the applesauce, once they are done take the jars out and place them on a towel to continue cooling. Check the lids to make sure all have sealed (they should not ‘pop’ when you press on the top but should be sucked down). It may take several hours for this to happen. (Note: If after 24 hours, there are any jars that have not sealed, stick them in the fridge and use them within a few days. Or you could re-process them with a new lid. Your choice.) After 24 hours, remove the rings and wipe down the jars. Label, store, and you’re done!! Woohoo!!! Now you can just enjoy your delicious homemade applesauce.

Getting Fancy

Depending on the kind of apples you used, or the kind of applesauce you like, you may want to add some stuff to your applesauce. For my first two days of applesauce making I used straight apples, and although I enjoyed the taste I wasn’t “wowed” by it. On my last day, I knew I wanted to make some jars to give away, so I thought I’d start getting a little fancy. The first thing I did was to add a little bit of lemon juice to my prepped apples in the ziploc baggies. (I used maybe 2-3 Tbsp in each baggie and tried to spread it throughout the apples.) This really helped zest up the flavor a bit. Then, when it was time to mash into applesauce, I added some cinnamon and sugar. For my whole batch (which was 3 of the gallon bags cooked down) I added a tad over 1 cup of sugar and about 3/4 Tbsp of cinnamon. This was absolutely delicious but almost made it more like a dessert! (Next time I’ll maybe try a 1/2 cup of sugar (and maybe the same amount of cinnamon) so it’s not quite as sweet.) But I really liked the additions and will definitely be using them again!

Wanna know a ton of fun facts about apples? Check ’em out HERE. 🙂

*I also know of/have learned of several different gadgets available for use in making applesauce (or other such things). If you happen to own a KitchenAid mixer, they have an attachment called the ‘Fruit/Vegetable Strainer and Food Grinder’ that does the same thing my friends gadget does (it strains out the applesauce part and discards the skin, stems, and seeds for you) but without having to manually crank anything! It’s all done by machine. I could see that being a super quick and convenient method, although the attachment is quite pricey (in the $100 range). Ya… that goes on my ‘someday when I’m rich and famous’ list. 🙂 You can also use a food mill, a food processor (you’d need to peel, core, slice first), or even a blender (again, peel/core/slice first) to get the job done.There are tons of possibilities. 🙂