Adventures in Homesteading: Canning Applesauce

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How to Can Applesauce - Step by Step | The Coupon Project

Would you believe I’ve never canned?

Oh, I’ve had intentions of canning. I have a decent-sized garden and I even bought a couple books about canning. But quite frankly, I was a little overwhelmed. So many steps, so many things I needed (or so I thought), so many warnings such as “follow instructions exactly or your food could be contaminated and you could DIE and everyone who eats your food could DIE.” (Well, maybe not that bad, but you get the gist.)

I had one more post I needed to fill in for this series and deep down I knew I needed a post on canning. After all, this whole series is called Adventures in Homesteading, is it not? So I put on my big girl pants (er, apron?) and got down to business. And I was delightfully surprised to find I’d made the thing way more complicated in my head than it ever turned out to be.

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I dusted off the canning book I bought on Amazon last year:

(If you’re interested, the book currently retails for about $15 on Amazon).

Now this seemed particularly fortuitous, but Tacoma Boys just so happened to have Fuji apples on sale for $0.50/lb this week or $10 for a half bushel. I’ve never purchased apples by the half bushel, but it sure sounds like a good amount to can, doesn’t it?

What a half bushel looks like…I think

As far as equipment goes, for some reason I had it in my head that I’d have to spend at least $100 on stuff to get set up. There again, I was so wrong!

Here’s what I discovered: there are high-acid foods (fruits, tomatoes) and low-acid foods (think meats, vegetables). The high-acid foods? They only need what’s called a boiling-water canner. This is basically just a large pot with a rack inside. In some instances, a pot you have at home could work. You would just want to make sure that about 3-4 inches of water could cover the tops of the jars. (The low-acid foods do need a pressure canner, but that’s another post for another day.)

I didn’t have a boiling-water canner, so I picked this one up for just $24.95 at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If you head to the store, note that you might not find it or other canning supplies on the shelf. Just ask, they should have some in the back (or phone your location ahead of time). Even better if you have a coupon of some sort – and I noticed on my way out the door that they take competitor’s coupons, too.

(If you wanted to go the online route, the same canner is about $20 now on Amazon).

I also picked up this Ball Canning Kit for $9.95. I wasn’t sure how essential these items were, but they were all mentioned in my canning book. Turns out, I used EVERY item in this kit today and I highly recommend it!

(If you wanted to go the online route, this kit is $12 on Amazon today)

The jars I ended up paying $12 for 12 quart-size at Fred Meyer. Also note that we are not in the prime of canning season (late summer/early fall), so it’s possible we’ll see better deals and even coupons for these in a few months here.

The first step was to prep my apples. I started by rinsing them out in a bath of cold water.

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I then peeled, cored, and quartered them.

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Threw them in a deep pot with just enough water to keep them from burning on the bottom (about 1/3 cup) and a healthy splash of lemon juice to prevent them from browning.

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I brought to a boil and let them cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Next, I pureed them in small batches using my Vitamix. You could also mash them by hand or use a food processor.

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From here, you want to keep the sauce hot while you prep your jars, lids, and rims. I decided to keep my sauce unsweetened as I intend to use a fair amount of it in dairy-free baking recipes. I figure I can always heat, sweeten, and season a batch as I desire. But you could certainly add sugar and cinnamon or whatever else you wish at this point.

Next, you’ll want to process your jars. Separate the jars, lids, and rims and wash in hot soapy water. You don’t need to worry about drying them.

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Now you’re going to want to place the jars in the boiling-water canner, fill each jar about 2/3 full of water and bring the level of water up in the canner to match. Simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes, but don’t boil. This will ready the glass for the processing.

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While that’s happening, take the lids (which are just the round parts, not the bands), and simmer them in saucepan of hot water over the stove too. Here again – you don’t need to boil them, but the idea is to have all your elements hot before processing.

Funnel your sauce into the jars leaving just 1/2 inch of space at the top (also known as head space). My canning kit came with a funnel, or you could pick one up inexpensively to use. I do recommend this!

In my canning kit I also found this fantastic magnetic lid grabber stick (I’m sure that’s the technical name). I used it to pick up a lid after each jar was finished.

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From here, put the bands on, and place back in the boiling-water canner for processing. Cover with water. Do follow the instructions for your recipe as different items will require different amounts of time to process. Applesauce only takes 20 minutes of boiling and then you let it sit for 5 minutes before removing.

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Now probably the tool that was THE most helpful in my canning kit was this jar grabber tool. I couldn’t imagine how I would’ve otherwise pulled glass jars out of a pot of boiling water! Recommend.

Now you just let them cool. Make sure to just let them sit with plenty of space between them. Remember they’ve just been through a lot, so be gentle. Don’t toss or roll them, place them in a freezer, let your two-year old play with them, or stand them upside down. Not only could these things damage the jars, they could prevent the lids from sealing properly, and that would be sad indeed.

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The next morning, test the seal by pressing down on the lid with your finger. If it does not pop back up at you and you cannot lift the lid up, congratulations! You successfully canned!

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According to my books, you can safely store home canned food for up to one year. Your jars of yum will be best stored in a cool, dark place.

“I’m kind of impressed, you know.”

I know that this is a really long post, so I thought I’d sum up just a few key points for anyone wanting to can something for the first time:

  • Read the instructions first. As in ALL of them. While canning is easy, there are a few steps and nothing should be omitted for safety’s sake.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. The day you have several errands to run plus soccer practice and ballet is probably not the best day to can. I’m sure this will not take so much time in the future, but this project took me about three hours from start to finish.
  • Make sure you have everything you need first. Gather all the supplies, equipment, and food you’ll need ahead of time so you don’t run into unexpected uh-ohs.
  • Give it a try! Don’t be intimidated by canning. I promise, you CAN do it! I’m so proud of myself for doing this and I can’t wait for my next canning project!

Now I’m a bit bummed but I’d spend extra time and effort making a short video of my process yesterday, but my FlipCamera is erroring out and I have no idea what’s going on. If I can figure it out, I’ll make sure to come back and share it with you….wish me luck.

EDITED TO ADD: fixed the video! Enjoy!

For more resources, I recommend Ball’s website. I also adore the blog Food in Jars for stunning recipes and practical help.

Missed a post in this series? Head to my Adventures in Homesteading page to catch up!

21 thoughts on “Adventures in Homesteading: Canning Applesauce”

  1. FYI on Bed Bath and Beyond – you can use competitors coupons as well as their own expired coupons AND you can use a whole bunch of them (I think last time I went in they took as many as I had which was maybe 8?). I never go to BB&B without my 20% off coupons and they’ve got me . . . I always check there first for things I think they’ll have because they’ll take a coupon. 🙂

    • Yeah I was bummed I didn’t have any! It was only on the way out the door I caught the competitor’s coupon thing. Should’ve stopped at Macy’s first!

  2. I canned for the first time last year and my list of things to can this year is growing (just added applesauce, obviously). I prep my jars in the dishwasher instead of boiling them. I run them on the sanitize cycle while I am prepping everything else. Then I just take them out as I need them. The point to prepping them is to clean them but also to keep them warm so you aren’t putting cold jars in hot water which can cause the glass to crack. I’ve found the dishwasher method keeps them warm for a longer period of time so I don’t have to work quite as fast.

  3. I did some canning for the first time last summer. I did peaches, pears, pear jam, raspberry jam, fig jam (using a fig tree from my yard), and pickles (dill & sweet). I also did some freezer applesauce, but I’m thinking this summer I’ll do it canned. One thing I found is that the really tedious part is peeling everything, especially when the peaches are SUPER ripe.

    A good place to find the jars is on craigslist/garage sales. I’ve also found them at goodwill/value village, but their pricing can be hit or miss; one time I saw them listed for ~50 cents a jar and another time they were ~$2 a jar.

    • A tip on peeling peaches:
      Boil a pot of water and fully dip each peach for 30-45 seconds. Then dip into a bowl of ice water. The skin pulls off easily after that!

      And with apples I have a peeler/slicer/corer from Pampered Chef. Much faster than peeling and chopping all by hand.

      Also, instead of the jar grabber, I improvise with a pair of tongs I have.

      • Yes I could see value in buying one of those apple contraptions if you end up getting into this quite a bit!

        • The apple/peeler/corer is handy to have. Not only for making applesauce, but for peeling and slicing apples for pies. You can also peel potatoes which comes in handy at the holidays for the mashed potatoes. My is from Bed Bath and Beyond and my kids like to turn the crank. And if you decide to compost, you will have some great scraps to add.

    • A friend of mine was just suggesting Craigslist last night. I’m thinking I might try there first for a pressure canner, which I now want to can my vegetable broth.

      • If you buy a used pressure canner, please have it tested. Your local extension office can help with that.

  4. Great tutorial! I’ve canned for years and make jam, pickled onions, pickles and apple butter. It’s so nice to see them stored and to know you did it yourself. Keep everything clean and sterile and don’t rush. Don’t forget to date your jars. I usually put the month and year on the lid. or label which I don’t use because it’s work to clean the glue off since I use my jars over and over. Get canning ladies! 😀

  5. Congratulations on a successful canning session!

    Applesauce is a big hit in our house, I was actually kind of surprised to find a jar from last summer in my garage this week. This year, I may go to one of the local farms to see if I can get a full bushel.

    I typically leave it unsweetened as well, but I throw in some cinnamon and nutmeg in and my husband and daughter inhale it (seriously, I think they’d bathe in it if I let them…the kiddo will eat a half pint in one sitting). Also, I like to pick up some Granny Smiths and throw them in for a little punch; they’re my husband’s favorite, but since I can’t always get them super cheap this is a good way to treat him to something he loves, while staying within the grocery budget.

  6. I ordered 8 lbs of strawberries this week through Bountiful Baskets. As a birthday present to myself, im going to can strawberry jam for the first time! I always like to learn something new for my birthday! I cant wait, I pick them up tomorrow! 🙂

    • Oh good luck!! If you end up doing it – send me a photo – I’d love to share it on Facebook!

      angela @ thecouponproject dot com.

      Good luck!!

  7. My mom and grandma canned applesauce every fall. It was so good, and it totally ruined me for store bought. So yummy with pork chops. Good on pancakes, too.

    I’ve never done it because of that whole, “You could DIE thing,” you mentioned, but you’ve made it seem very do-able!
    Maybe I’ll assign this to my husband-he’s the more capable cook in our house.

    • I think it was the paralysis of analysis that got me! It just seemed sooo overwhelming, I didn’t know where to start. Picking a simple recipe – like applesauce – ended up being a great place to start.

  8. I started canning a few years ago, and now I’m hooked. I do tomatoes, salsa, peaches, pears, pickles, and assorted jams. I’m considering getting a pressure canner so I can do vegetables, broths, and soups.

  9. There’s an apparatus called a Squeezo that you might be interested in. I’ve had mine forever so don’t know where they are sold now. Anyhow, it looks sort of like a meat grinder and attaches to a counter or table. It has a choice of three screened sections (small, medium and large holes) that fit over the body of the grinder section and a tray that fits under it to conduct the sauce from the Squeezo to the bowl. You simply cut the tomatoes, apples, pumpkin or whatever you are pureeing, cook it and run it through the Squeezo by cranking a handle. (No peeling, coring or seeding required.) The seeds and peels come out the end and the pureed sauce comes out through the screen, running down the tray into your bowl. Makes it SO easy to make applesauce, tomato sauce, pumpkin puree or whatever. If you intend to do much canning you should look for one.

  10. Great post, and congratulations Angela for joining the ranks of home canning women! It is so cost effective and satisfying to be able to provide home prepared, natural food your you family huh? I love that! I wanted to add to Patricia’s comment, I haven’t heard of a Squeezo, but my mom has always canned applesauce with the help of a Victoria Strainer.

    Instead of peeling and coring, you wash your apples, then put them (whole) into boiling water. When they are soft, scoop into funnel on top. Crank and push down. The applesauce is forced through the horizontal strainer and down the “slide” while everything else goes straight out the side.

    So fast for applesauce! Happy canning!

    • I realized, after I posted, that the list price on this handy tool is kinda high. I believe I got mine at a yard sale or Craigslist, but I’ll tell you, I’ve used it year after year, and if you can’t find a good deal used, and you intend to can applesauce more than once, then I can’t recommend the investment more highly! It seriously saves so much time!

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