Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Canned Applesauce Tutorial

It's apple season! We live in the land of Martinelli's. There are apples everywhere! Neighbors, friends, and even our own front yard, have have all been gifting us with lovely apples. Now the question is... 

What the heck do I do with all of these apples?
Enter, a comfort food classic: 

I was so fortunate to receive fresh from the orchard apples. All in all, my newly acquired apples filled a 5 gallon bucket! I knew there was no way we could eat them all in time, so I decided to try preserving them by canning applesauce.

Canned Applesauce Tutorial

First things first, you need to wash and dry all of your canning equipment. You can use canning stuff like this. Or just use a cheaper version like the one I use and your own large pots.
I like to use mason jars, any kind will do.

Load jars and lid rings in the dishwasher and run it through a cycle. Wash on hot, and be sure to use a heated dry setting too. We want to kill any junk that could be living on there. While that's running, use the time to prep you apples.

The experts recommend mixing at least 2 different types of apples. Also (for some reason) tart apples (like Granny Smith, usually used for pies) aren't recommended. I used a bunch of different kinds of apples, I have no idea what they were. Some were red, some green, and some reddish green. Some may have even been Granny Smith, but, oh well. Applesauce is a forgiving creation!
I did a lot of research, and found that some people insist on peeling their apples first, and other people don't peel them at all. So, I decided to do a little of both. Since we'll be pureeing them all later, a little peel in the mix won't really matter.

I peeled a little over half of the apples, and I did a better job with some than with others. Whoops. But, I have to say, there is something so satisfying about mastering the one-piece spiral peel! Hurray, i'm an apple peeling master!
Then I cut the core out of them, and cut the rest roughly into quarters. If you have one of those cutting/ coring doohickies this job would go a lot faster.

*Side Note* 
Some of the apples I cut a crosswise section (about 1/4" to 1/8" wide) to use for a subsequent decorating project (a dried apple garland). This step is not necessary, but can be a fun side project since you have so many apples handy. See the full tutorial here

Back to the apple sauce... You can cook your apples in a slow cooker, or in a large stock pot on the stove.

Since I had so many apples, I decided to try both. I filled the slow cooker with cut apples, a little lemon juice (to prevent browning), and about 2 cups of water. Then I turned it on high.

Next, I filled my biggest pot with cut apples, about 2 cups of water and a few dashes of lemon juice. Once it began to boil, the pot method worked much faster.

After about 5 minutes boiling in the pot, my apples were soft and mushy (some recipes say this can take anywhere from 5-20 minutes).

Next, you need to sterilize the jar lids. Completely submerge the lids in a pot of water and boil them for 10 minutes. Leave them in the warm water until you are ready to use them.

Then, I removed my apples from the heat, and strained them in a fine mesh strainer. Most recipes omit this step, but I wanted to be sure that I didn't end up with watery applesauce.

It's a good idea to further sterilize your jars too. Submerge them in a pot of water and bring to a rolling boil. 

While those are heating up, it's time to blend baby blend!
For this step you can use a blender (be sure to leave room for heat expansion!), a food processor, or something called a "food mill" (I'm not familiar with this one, but everyone says you can use it).

I opted for the food processor. Fill it about 3/4 full of cooked apples and blend until you reach your desired consistency. You can leave it a little chunky, or blend it until it's smooth.

Since I had bits of peel in the mix (as a result of the above stated peeling laziness) I opted for a velvety smooth texture.

Next, using a jar lifter or tongs, remove your jars from the boiling water and put them on a heat proof surface. I use wooden trays, but you could even just lay down a few dish towels and put them on those.

Return all of the blended apples to a large pot and gather additional ingredients and supplies:

-Lemon juice
-Canning equipment like this (or the one I use this) or tongs
-Optional Ingredients: Sugar, Brown sugar, Spices (like Cinnamon, Allspice, Ginger, Nutmeg etc.)

Real lemon juice is not optional. The acidity helps with the preservation process and adds a nice tart flavor. For this large batch I used about 9 tablespoons of lemon juice. It might have been overkill, but I'm a little paranoid about safety.

Then I opted to add about a cup of brown sugar and a cup of white sugar. This is completely optional. But I wanted mine to be full of sweet goodness, so I went for the calories. I also read a tip about adding butter, so I tossed in a couple tablespoons of that too. Yum, fatty goodness!

Bring your applesauce to a boil, stirring often or even constantly. But watch out! Keep a lid handy. Once this stuff starts to boil it goes everywhere. I had globs of applesauce land as high as the fan above my stove! Cover it, quick.

Leave it on low heat and begin to fill your jars. A funnel isn't necessary, but it sure does help! Ladle jars full of applesauce, leaving 1/2 inch of "head room" (empty space) just bellow the rim.

*Variation* When I had about half of the jars filled, I decided to add spices to the remainder of the applesauce. That way I ended up with 2 versions, a mild "kid friendly" blend of plain applesauce, and a spicier adult version.
For the spiced applesauce I added generous amounts of cinnamon, ground allspice, ground ginger, ground cloves, nutmeg and several dashes of white pepper (to give it some kick).

Once all of you jars are full, run a rubber spatula, or the tool that comes with your kit, around the edges of each jar a few times to release any air bubbles. Trapped air can interfere with the preservation process.

Wipe edges and rims clean using a damp paper towel or a clean damp dish towel. Any left over apple residue can interfere with the seal later.

Wash your hands! Then using the magnetic tool, or tongs, remove the round lids from the pot of water and place them on the top of your jars. Be sure to line them up correctly. 

Then screw on the bands, but not too tight. Just until you feel resistance. 

Place your jars of canned applesauce in large pots for processing.

Fill the pots with enough water to cover the jars by at least one inch. Place the pots back on the stove. 

Bring water to a full rolling boil.

Once they begin boiling, set timer (or watch the clock) and boil them for a full 20 minutes. This will seal the jars.

Turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for 5 minutes. Then using your jar lifter of tongs, gently remove jars from water and pace on a heat proof surface to cool. 

At some point now you will begin to hear the satisfying "pop" of the lids sealing. I love that sound; it's so delightful!
You may not hear it until they have been sitting out for a while, that's ok too.

Let jars cool for 24 hours, and check each one for a seal.

Checking for a seal: The little bump on each lid should have flattened out, and you shouldn't be able to push it down.

One thing I've noticed is that after processing there is a dingy film left on my jars. It might just be because our water has a high mineral content. But, whatever the reason it isn't pretty.
So, to clean it off I usually just wet a rag liberally with white vinegar and wipe them off.
*Note: I use white vinegar to clean everything! It's so handy, cheap, chemical free and leaves all surfaces sparkling clean!

As you can see in the photo a good cleaning can drastically improve the appearance of your processed jars. They are much better for gift giving! 

I was surprised that a 5 gallon bucket full of apples didn't yield more applesauce. It cooked down and condensed quite a bit. 

5 Gallons of Apples

The last step is to find some cute labels, and decorate the jars of canned applesauce however you wish, For giving gifts sometimes I like to tie a ribbon or a piece of jute twine around the jar.

Then arrange them, take pretty pictures, brag on your blog about your creation (tell me about it!), and enjoy!

Store your canned applesauce in a cool dry place, for up to 2 years. 

Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. Awesome tutorial. Too bad we don't have many apple trees in Texas.

  2. Yum! I made apple butter in the slow cooker recently, but I want to get more apples while they're still cheap and do a batch of apple sauce as well.

  3. Hi Hayley! I am so impressed to see how much fun you are having in the kitchen even though I know you and I share a loathing of kitchen duties. Canning is a little more like an art project than cooking dinner, isn't it?! SO fun, and hope I get to taste some :)


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