homemade applesauce: my first canning experience
I grew up on homemade chunky applesauce. Store-bought applesauce tastes alright, but it's been blended to the point of qualifying as a liquid. I greatly missed my mom's quality applesauce during my college years. Now that I'm all grown up, I have to make my own if I want the homemade stuff. My mom freezes hers, but spare freezer space is something that I'm lacking. I would have to can my applesauce. I invested in a waterbath canner, a canning tool set, and some jars. All of the supplies cost me roughly $70, but like I said, it's an investment. The applesauce was surprisingly easy to make, and I hope to make some salsa this year as well. It was a little time intense, though. An apple peeler/corer/slicer tool would cut the time in half, but that's an investment for next year.
I combined advice/recipes from several sites (listed below), and opted for cooking the apples in the Crock-pot. I have two 5-quart Crock-pots, so I made 2 batches of the following recipe across 2 sessions for a total of 4 batches. I used 1 bushel (2 pecks) of apples and made about 7.5 quarts of applesauce. I bought the apples at the orchard by the peck; some of them were seconds, so they were much cheaper. I spent about $25 on apples averaging $3.33 per quart. (Of course the total cost per quart is higher after accounting for other ingredients and the jars.)
For more information:
Ball Canning and Recipes - Ball has tons of food preservation recipes and tips. It's a great place to start if you're a complete beginner like me.
Ball: Applesauce Recipe
National Center for Home Food Preservation: Canning Applesauce
Simply Canning: Canning Applesauce
PickYourOwn.org: How to Make Homemade Applesauce
Cooks.com: Crock Pot Applesauce Recipe
What you'll need:
1 peck of sweet apples - This is about 12ish apples and yields 3-4 pints (1.5-2 quarts). I used roughly 50% fuji, 40% red delicious, and 10% golden delicious. I read that using a mixture of apples gives the applesauce a nicer flavor. However, my mom typically uses only golden delicious, and it tastes just fine.
1/2 cup of sugar - It was sweet without sugar, but I liked it better with the sugar. Some recipes call for much more sugar. The amount added is a personal preference.
1/2 cup of water
cinnamon to taste - I didn't add any, but some people like cinnamon. I'm not a fan of cinnamon applesauce, but my husband prefers the cinnamon variety. I usually just sprinkle it on his portion later; it makes everyone happy!
vinegar (optional) - I wash my produce with a vinegar wash.
vegetable peeler (optional) - Some people prefer peeling the apples with a veggie peeler.
apple slicer (optional) - It makes the slicing a bit easier.
5-quart or larger Crock-pot
21 quart waterbath canner with rack
canning tool set: lid lifter, funnel, ladle, bubble freer, jar lifter, jar wrench
saucepan or stockpot
Make the applesauce.
Step 1: Wash your apples. I'm a germaphobe, so I sanitized my sink, placed the apples in the sink, filled the sink with water, and added a bit of vinegar. After they sat for a minute or so, I drained the sink and rinsed them.
Step 2: Peel, slice, and chop your apples, adding them to the Crock-pot as you go. If you like smooth applesauce and have a food mill you can leave the skin on the apples, as they will be separated during the blending process. Apparently KitchenAid makes a grinder/sieve attachment for their mixer. However, if you like chunky applesauce, you have to peel them before you cook. Apple slicers don't always get everything, so make sure you cut out any seeds or hard parts of the core. In my first batch, I finely chopped my apples. For my second batch, I cut each slice into 4 or 5 chunks. The second batch turned out just fine, so save yourself the time. Get comfy, and find something good to watch on TV; this takes a while.
Step 3: Add the sugar, water, and cinnamon to the apples.
Step 4: Cook the apples in the Crock-pot for 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
Can the applesauce.
Step 5: While the applesauce is cooking, wash the jars. Keep them in the warm dishwasher (or water) until you're ready to use them. If you suddenly add the hot applesauce to cold jars, they might shatter with the extreme temperature change.
Step 6: When the applesauce is nearing completion, fill the waterbath canner 2/3 of the way with water, and heat it to boiling.
Step 7: Put the lids and bands in a separate saucepan or stockpot of water. Bring it to nearly boiling to sanitize them.
Step 8: When the applesauce is done, use the immersion blender to blend the apples to the desired consistency. Intuitively, less blending yields chunkier applesauce.
Step 9: Ladle the applesauce into a jar leaving 1/2" of headspace (space between the top of the jar and the top of the applesauce).
Step 10: Remove a lid and band from water. Center the lid on the jar, and tighten the band until it is snug. Do not over-tighten.
Step 11: Place the jars on the canning rack, and place in the canner. The jars should be fully submersed at least 1" below the surface of the water. Add more water if necessary.
Step 12: Boil the jars for 20-25 minutes (at sea level). This kills all of the bacteria that causes spoilage. Water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitudes, which requires a longer processing time. Refer to one of the sites above to find out the appropriate time adjustment for your altitude.
Step 13: Remove the jars from the canner, and place on a towel. The lids won't necessarily be sealed at this point. As they cool, you'll will hear a pinging/popping noise as the lids get sucked down. All of them should be sealed after 12-24 hours. I got lucky, and all of mine sealed within 15 minutes or so. If they don't seal properly, consult one of the resources linked above as to how you should reprocess them.
Step 14: Label the jars.
Step 15: Enjoy your applesauce!
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