Applesauce was the very first thing I ever tried canning at home. In other words, it was my gateway drug into the world of home canning.
Since it’s so easy to make, is safe for water bath canning and requires very few extra ingredients or special processing instructions, applesauce truly is one of the best things a first-time canner can make. And since it’s that time of year again when the apple trees are bursting with fresh fruit and the markets are stocked full, what better time than now to try canning applesauce for yourself?
Of course, if you don’t want to can it, you can always store it in the fridge or freeze it for later. The downside to either of these options though is that if you store in the fridge, you’ll need to use it up within a couple weeks at most. And if you store it in the freezer, you’ll need to wait hours for it to defrost when you want to use it and it takes up lots of space in your freezer.
I opt for canning my applesauce because it’s ready to go at room temperature whenever I’m ready to use it. All I need to do is dump it out of the jar.
What to do with canned applesauce
There are so many things you can do with canned applesauce. It’s great to eat on its own (especially with the addition of a little cinnamon and brown sugar), added to oatmeal or baking recipes, or as a quick-serve baby food.
Last summer I gave birth to our daughter and canned up as many jars of applesauce as I could so that when she started eating solids I would be ready with baby food on hand. Sure enough, a few months laters she began eating puréed solid food and we went through all 20+ jars of apple and pear sauce in no time at all.
Now, I prefer to make my applesauce without any added sugar precisely because I try to avoid feeding my daughter extra sugar whenever possible. Plus, if you’re using applesauce for baking, it’s best to start with sugar-free sauce and then add sugar to your liking so that your final product isn’t overly sweet.
Same with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. While applesauce taste heavenly mixed with these spices, I can always add them later. I’d rather have a “clean slate” to start with and then decide how I’d like to adjust the flavour.
How to process apples for applesauce
Applesauce makes quick use out of apples if you have a couple key tools to work with. If you have a sieve or food mill, this will really speed up the process because you can cook your apples whole and then use the food mill/sieve to separate the peels, cores and seeds from the applesauce.
Using a sieve or food mill
To process with a sieve or food mill, put washed, whole apples into a large stainless steel pot and add about an inch or two of water (just to have the apples simmer and not burn to the bottom of the pot). Put the lid on and bring water to a simmer so that the steam from the water can recycle through the pot and steam all of the apples to cook them. Cook for about 10 minutes and then check apples and water level. Add more water if necessary. Continue to cook apples until the skins have split open and the flesh is soft all the way through.
Allow cooked apples to cool for a few minutes before processing. Then run them through your sieve or food mill to remove the flesh from the skins and seeds. Put applesauce back into a stainless steel pot and continue to simmer. You can then add peels and seeds to your compost or use them to make apple cider vinegar at home! Here is a link to my favourite homemade apple cider vinegar recipe.
Processing without a food mill
If you don’t have a sieve or food mill, you’ll want to start off with a good vegetable peeler like this one. I find it much easier to work with a peeler than to use a knife to cut the skin off.
Also, to make coring your apples quick and painless, invest a few bucks in an apple corer like this one. It will save you sooo much time in the end! The first year we canned applesauce I had a pear corer but not an apple corer (they’re different sizes), so I had to core 50+ pounds of apples with a pairing knife. I was able to process the pears for pear sauce in probably about ⅓ of the time that it took me to do the same amount of apples. Trust me. It’s worth the few dollars it costs to get a proper apple corer. Your time is worth it!
* Hint: As you peel and core your apples, toss them into a large bowl of cold water mixed with lemon juice. The water and lemon juice will help to preserve the apples and keep them from turning brown.
After you’ve peeled and cored your apples, put the slices into a large, stainless steel pot with an inch or two of water and simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes. Check the apples after 10 minutes and add more water if the water is completely dried up and the apple slices aren’t yet soft enough to mash up. You don’t want your sauce to be too watery though! So only add more water if absolutely necessary and do so sparingly.
Once your apple slices are soft enough to mash (similar to the consistency of potatoes when they are ready to mash… you can check with a fork), use a potato masher or a hand blender to mash them up in the pot. You could also transfer the apples to a blender or food processor, but this transferring can get messy and you need to make sure the apples are cool enough that they won’t suck the lid on too tight or expand and explode all over your kitchen while you’re blending!
I find a masher or hand blender the easiest way to go. I recommend the Breville brand immersion hand blender. We use ours for all of our soups and sauces and it works like a charm.
Once your apples are mashed, blended or have been run through a sieve or food mill, continue to simmer the applesauce in a stainless steel pot until it’s heated all the way through. If you will be canning the applesauce, be sure to sterilize and prepare your jars at this point.
Canning your applesauce
Once applesauce is thoroughly heated, add a little lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon for every 3 lbs of apples). The lemon juice helps to preserve the applesauce as different types of apples have different natural acidity levels. It also helps to preserve the colour.
If you would like to add any sugar or spices, do so now. If not, you’re ready to can your applesauce! Pour into hot, prepared jars, leaving ½-inch headspace, and process in a water bath canner (15 minutes for pint jars, 20 minutes for quart-sized jars).
After processing, allow jars to cool completely on a towel on your countertop (use a folded towel as hot jars on a cold countertop can break), and once cooled you can store your shelf-stable jars of applesauce in your pantry and use all year long, whenever you’re ready!
- 6 lbs of apples
- 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice
- Water (just enough to simmer apples in pot)
- Prepare water bath canner, jars and lids: Inspect jars to ensure there are no nicks or cracks in the glass, especially around the jar rim as this can prevent a proper seal. Wash jars and bands in hot, soapy water, rinse and then sterilize by simmering in water over medium-high heat, either in a canner or large pot with a rack in the bottom on. Leave jars in simmering hot water until ready to fill. Sterilize new lids in a bowl of hot water.
- Process apples: If using a peeler, peel and core apples first and then transfer apple slices to pot with an inch or two of water and simmer until soft all the way through. If using a sieve or food mill, put washed, whole apples into a large stainless steel pot with about an inch or two of water and simmer with the lid on until the skin splits and the flesh is soft all the way through. Then run through sieve or food mill and transfer applesauce back to pot.
- Blend or mash apples into applesauce. If using a peeler and apple corer or knife, mash or blend cooked apple slices in the pot with a potato masher or a hand blender. (If using a sieve or food mill, this part is already completed).
- Cook applesauce until heated all the way through, stirring constantly so that nothing sticks or burns to the bottom of the pot.
- Add 2 Tbsp of bottled lemon juice and stir in until well blended. (If you would like to add any sugar or spices, do so now).
- Ladle hot applesauce into prepared, hot jars, leaving ½ inch headspace.
- Run a knife along the outer "edge" of the jar to get rid of any air bubbles. Adjust headspace as needed.
- Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp cloth or paper towel and place lids on jars. Screw on bands to fingertip tight and place jars into canner and put the lid on.
- Bring water in canner to a boil and process for 15 minutes for pint jars or 20 minutes for quart-sized jars. After time is up, turn heat off, take the lid off the canner and allow jars to sit in hot water for another 5 minutes.
- Remove jars from canner and place on a folded paper towel on your countertop. Allow to cool completely (at least 12 hours) before storing in a cool dark place.