Saturday, November 20, 2010

Canning Applesauce - How To

**2015 UPDATE: When this post was originally created, I was using a steamer for this tutorial.  Since then the FDA has deemed steamers unfit for healthy canning practices, since the necessary internal temperature for killing bacteria and microorganisms is harder to regulate in a steam canner.  Please be advised that you should use a hot water bath canner.

Home made bottled applesauce is a HUGE contribution to my food storage.
And we hardly ever eat it plain.
Not that it isn't delicious (because it most definitely is), I am just surprised at how much I use it for cooking.
Here is everything you need to know to make it yourself!

Materials Needed:
- Apples (obviously) - I like Romes or Gala
- Sterilized Mason jars, lids and rings
- Victorio Strainer 
- Water Bath Canner
- Bottle Funnel
- Bottle Lifters
- Old Towels
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Small Mixing Bowl
- Rubber Scraper
- Large casserole dish / cake pan
- Apple wedger
- Knife and cutting board
- Stock pot (or the biggest pots you have)
- Apple Juice, Water, Sugar (optional)
- Spices (optional)

 Start by washing your apples.
I fill a sink full of cold water and dump them in (careful not to bruise them).
Rub each apple with your hands or a rag, removing any dirt.
I find it much easier to clean a whole sink full at a time.

Now, use your apple wedge to cut each apple.

Applesauce  Rule #1: when you put the apples through the strainer, everything small enough to fit through the screen will be included in your sauce (which is why you have to clean each apple individually to remove dirt).  The little 'hairs' on the bottom of the apple classify as 'small enough'.  You will want to remove them.

It is easiest (for me), to simply break the core off just above the bottom (leaving the hairs inside the middle portion of the apple wedge).

Throw all of the good apple pieces (including the core) into a large pot.
Throw the bottom hair section away.

Apples that are too big for the wedge should be cut into equal sized pieces.

When your pot is full (or above the rim), put about 3 inches of water in the bottom.  Turn the unit on high and put the lid on it.
**You can use a stockpot, but I find it much easier to use two large pots - easier to stir, and easier to work in smaller batches.

 If you are using two pots, fill up the second one.
While waiting for the apples to cook, set up the Victorio Strainer.

Applesauce Rule #2: The apples are going to need to cook for about 20 minutes, and should be stirred occasionally to prevent the bottom ones from burning.  The water should be boiling the entire time, but you will have to continually turn down the heat to keep it from scorching.

After 20 minutes the apples should be soft (but not mushed), and the skins will start to come off:
 You can see that the outside is 'cooked', but the inside is still raw.  Raw apples will go through the strainer, but you will get a very good arm workout in the process.  When cooked properly, the handle should turn fairly easily.

When apples are cooked, scoop them into the bowl of the strainer and start cranking.

The juices will obviously run through before the solid apples, so your first bit of sauce will be very thin, as you can see by the 'colored water' in the bottom of the casserole dish.

As you continue, the sauce will thicken (a lot), and it may be necessary to remove it from the screen with a rubber scraper.
The pulp, or everything that wont fit through the screen, is pushed out the opposite end of the strainer, so you'll need a small mixing bowl to catch it all.

As you continue to squeeze the apples through, you will be left with thick and watery parts of sauce, like so:

When your casserole dish fills up, dump it into your large mixing bowl, put the lid on it to maintain freshness, and keep going!
Applesauce Rule #3: Reuse the pulp.

There is still a lot of good sauce in that bowl of 'garbage', so send it through the strainer again.
**Personally, I send it through only one more time - my mom does it at least twice.  Its a personal preference type of thing.
You may need to add some water to help it along.

Once you are through with the first pot of apples, the other will probably be done cooking.
At this point, I like to let the freshly cooked batch of apples cool down a bit while I work on filling up the first pot again (another reason why I like to use two small pots instead of one large one).

When you have emptied your casserole dish enough times to fill up your large mixing bowl with sauce, it is time for the taste test.

Applesauce Rule #4: Spices, sugar, water or apple juice are all optional, and based on personal preference.

I find that it always tastes delicious freshly made, and I think to myself "it doesn't need anything".  And the consistency always seems to be perfect.
After opening a bottle sometime down the road however, I find out that it definitely needs some sugar, and almost always needs to be thinner.  A lot thinner.

So after years of making the same mistakes, my general rule of thumb is that it needs to be sweetened and thinned out.  I prefer to do this one of two ways:

1) Sugar and Water:
 Add water until the desired consistency is reached.  I like my sauce to be slightly runny, as I find that it thickens up a bit when steamed, and I like it that way for cooking purposes.
Once thinned, add the sugar.  My rule for sweetening any canned fruit is 1/4 c. sugar per quart.  I know that my bowl holds enough applesauce to make 7 quarts, so its easy for me to figure out.  One quart = 4 cups, so if your bowl has measurements on the inside you could figure it out that way.  The first time you may just have to experiment.

The other way you can sweeten and thin out your sauce is by 2) using apple juice.
 This is definitely the more expensive route, but it is healthier (which makes me feel better).  Just be sure and use a good quality 100% juice.

Adding additional spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc. is totally a personal preference.
I never use them.
For two reasons:
1) I use applesauce for cooking, to replace butter/oil/shortening.  I don't want whatever I am making to taste different because of the spices in the applesauce.
and 2) Applesauce Rule #5: sauce will darken over time, and the amount of spices you add will only darken it more.
For example, here are two jars of sauce (both made without any spices).  The one on the left is 3 years older than the one on the right.  Just FYI...

Moving on...
Once you have reached your desired consistency/taste, start  filling up your jars:

Fill each jar to the base of the rim (about 1/2 - 3/4" from the top.
Now you will need to remove any air bubbles (look closely and you'll see them):

This can be done by running a knife repeatedly down the sides of each jar.

After that, make sure that the rims of the bottles are completely smooth and clean, without any chips or dings in the glass (this step should be covered while preparing bottles for sterilization, but I do it again anyway).
Use a wet rag to clean jars if necessary, and then run your finger around the rim to check for debris/chips.

Once rims are clean, put new lids on and screw bands as tight as possible using one hand only.  If they are too tight it will cause the bottles to break.
Place bottles in water bath canner and fill with water. 

Turn unit on high and put the lid on.
Sauce needs to steam for 20 minutes.
Remember to adjust for altitude - Utah time is 30 minutes.

This includes pint and quart sized jars.  Do not start the timer until steam is consistently coming out.  If you are unsure if it is consistent or not, it probably isn't; it will be obvious:

When finished, remove jars from steamer and place on an old towel using bottle lifters to let them cool.

Once cooled, you will need to clean the bottles.  After a few days it turns into glue, so do it now!
Throw the lids in a hot soapy water bath and scrub around the inside of it after it soaks.

The bottles can be scrubbed with a Brillo pad under running water to remove adhering sauce.

Once washed, lay them out on a clean towel to dry.

Write the date on the lids, screw the bands back on, and put them away.

And continue to enjoy delicious applesauce all year!


  1. Hello! My name is Kim Hansen and I use your tutorial every year for my applesauce; thank you for it! It's always nice to read through and get a refresher every season:) I see you have updated the tutorial with a warning at the top regarding steamers. Are you still using a steamer or have you switched to a water bath? I personally own a steamer and have used it for the last 8 years. I haven't every had anyone get sick to my knowledge. Feel free to email me back at

    Thanks again,

    1. Kim,
      I'm happy to hear you enjoy the post - thank you so much for letting me know!
      I still have a steamer, but I also have 2 waterbath canners that I use most often. I grew up helping my mom can with a steamer, and I personally used one for several years with great success.
      The FDA has come out within the last few years with warnings against steamers, claiming that the internal temperature of food does not get hot enough to ensure food safety.
      However, I don't necessarily agree with everything the FDA says.
      I want my blogs to be a good place to come to for referencing, so I try to keep them updated to standard canning practices. That being said, if you feel confident and comfortable with a steam canner, more power to you! If that is all that I had I would use it without a second thought! I ended up converting to waterbath canners because I found I had better success with bottles not breaking during processing.
      Anyway, I hope this answered your question in a round about way. Thanks for commenting, and good luck with your canning endeavors!