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Canning a year’s supply of healthy applesauce can save a lot of money, and provide local organic fruit all year round as well.
It may seem daunting to process so much applesauce, but there is a simple, non-taxing approach that will make wonderful sauce that’s ready to can and store so it can be enjoyed through the winter, and right up until the next apple harvest.
The apples should be washed in a water and vinegar solution, and then rinsed with clean water two or three times.
Since the skins are left on during processing, a good washing ensures that they’re free of any dust or dirt.
The apples can then be quartered with a chef’s knife and put into the slow cooker. There is no need to remove the stems or seeds, or peel the apples. However, any worm or bug holes or soft or dark parts of the apples should be removed before they are put into the cooker.
I fill the slow cooker as full as I can get it, since the apples will shrink down as they cook. In my slow cooker, the apples cook on high for four to five hours, or on low for about six to eight hours. The cook time can vary according to your model’s size and power.
When leaving the cooker on the high setting, a half cup of water should be added at the beginning, to keep the apples from scorching before they begin to release their own juices.
When the apples are mushy and may easily be smashed with a fork or spoon, they are ready to be pureed and processed.
I use a Victorio Strainer to puree my apples, but a regular food mill will work as well, if not as quickly.
The Victorio Strainer allows foods to be fed from a large hopper into the milling mechanism, and it separates out any seeds, peelings, and stems from the apple puree. The waste comes out the end of the grinding spiral and the applesauce pours down the chute into a waiting container.
The applesauce should be poured back into the slow cooker to keep it hot until the whole batch has been pureed and it’s time to start canning.
The waste that’s left over, i.e. the pithy cores, seeds, and peels, all cooked and ground into a sort of dry mash, is great for a lot of different things.
I give it to my chickens as a treat because they just love it. It could also be used as mulch, or added to the compost barrel.
Remember never to eat apple seeds, and do not put them through a juicer or blender. They contain arsenic, and can lead to digestive upset.
If the sauce seems too watery, it can be cooked down in the slow cooker with the lid removed for a while before canning. But I find this method actually produces a thicker and richer applesauce than recipes that call for peeling the apples before cooking do.
This is because the peels contain a lot of pectin that is cooked out into the sauce, adding to a thicker, creamier mouthfeel for the finished product.
After the sauce has been pureed and is heated through, it can be canned in the water bath canner following standard procedures and safety precautions.
Alternatively, a pressure canner can also be used.
The sauce should be ladled into sterilized quart jars with half an inch of headspace. Apply the lids with rings and process for 20 minutes.
Processing time should always be counted from when the water in the canner returns to a rolling boil, not from when the jars are first put into the canner.
Apples that are naturally sweeter will result in a sweeter sauce. If a tart flavor is more popular with your family, you’ll want to mix in some tart apples when you start cooking them. I find that mixing up lots of different kinds of apples results in the best sauce.
My favorite mix is a combination of Ida Reds, Jonagolds, and Fujis. This combination results in a brown sauce with a pink tinge. The brown tone is just because apples oxidize, and it’s harmless. The pretty pink comes from the peels being left on during cooking.
Sugar can be added if desired, but I’d recommend processing the jars without any added sugar.
If the sauce is unpalatably tart, brown sugar could be sprinkled on or a drizzle of honey could be mixed in before serving. Since apples have so much natural sugar, this isn’t likely though.
Homemade applesauce is also delicious flavored with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
What are your favorite types of apples to use in homemade applesauce? Let us know in the comments!
About Lynne Jaques
Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!