How to Can Applesauce: A Favorite Fall Tradition

Every Fall I make and can my own applesauce.  And every Fall I find friends and acquaintances that think this is an extraordinary feat.  Thinking of my mother and her mother canning applesauce and more every year for as long as I can remember (and long before that too!), it is just an ordinary part of the changing season for me.

Although canning can seem difficult, canning applesauce is easy, inexpensive, and, dare I say, even fun.  And the best part is that a sticky day or two in the kitchen translates into delicious homemade food to be enjoyed all year long.  There is nothing quite like a warm bowl of homemade applesauce with cinnamon to brighten a winter morning.

These are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy our home canned Applesauce:

  • As a healthy waffle and pancake topping.
  • As a sweetener in a bowl of oatmeal or other hot grain cereal.
  • Heated up and poured over a bowl of vanilla ice cream for dessert.
  • As a base for a chicken or ham glaze.
  • Poured over pork chops and baked.
  • As a baking subsitute – you can use applesauce in place of oil/butter in many muffin, bread, and cookie recipes.  
  • And, of course, all by itself with a sprinkle of cinnamon – warm or cold!

Have I convinced you of its delicious virtues yet?  Ready to make it, eat it, and can it?  Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years from Mom and Grandma in their Autumn Kitchens.

Tips and Instructions for Canning Applesauce:

Where to find Apples

  • The most important part of making applesauce is picking the right apples.  Finding them locally, if possible, is best.  Picking them yourself can add another element of fun, but sometimes it’s easier to just pick up a few boxes from the farmer (that’s what I did this year). Check out the Pick Your Own site or the Famers Market Directory for apples near you. You can even try craigslist for people who are giving away apples for free – this has worked for me more than once!
  • If purchasing apples at the grocery store is your best option, buy a few first and taste them.  Make sure they aren’t mealy, but rather crunchy and juicy.  If possible, find out when the apples were boxed (this is often printed on the boxes kept in the back at grocery stores.)  You want the freshest apples possible, not last year’s crop that has been stored away.

What type of Apples are best for Applesauce

  • The flavor of the apples will be the flavor of your sauce, so good apples are crucial.  Really good apples make sugar and spices completely unnecessary.  Look for apples that are sweet (no Granny Smiths) and flavorful (no Red Delicious).
  • Always use more than one type of apple.  A mixture of flavors will ensure delicious sauce.  Two or three types of apples is enough, but feel free to experiment with more if you have a good supply!
  • Good choices are: Jonathan, Gala, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, Fuji, Winesap, and Honey Crisp.


How many Apples do you need?

  • When buying for canning, apples come by the bushel.  A bushel of apples is approximately 40 pounds.   You can count on approximately 12 to 17 quart jars of sauce per bushel.  This year I canned about 90 lbs of apples and ended up with more than 50 quart jars of sauce – almost one a week for the next year, and that sounds just about right for our family!

Canning Supplies

  • An Apple Peeler can speed up the process significantly.  I use the Victorio Apple and Potato peeler, but if all you’ve got is a paring knife, that works too.  
  • Quart Jars.  You can buy these online, or you can find them at almost any grocery store. Once you have them, you can keep them and reuse them forever.  If you are buying new jars then they will come with rings and lids.  If you are reusing jars, you will need new lids every year.  You will only need to purchase new rings if they start to rust.
  • Jar Grabber.  Amazon has a perfect inexpensive one for pulling those hot jars out safely.  
  • Jar Funnel.  I like this stainless steel one.
  • A Waterbath Canner with a rack.   Although this Granite Ware Canner is the cheapest one you can buy, I’ve used it for years and it’s held up well.
  • Things you probably have on hand: spoons, ladle, towels, and a large pot (at least 8 quarts) for cooking the applesauce in.
  • Optional items: Lid Lifter (this might be handy, I always use a fork instead), sieve or food mill (I like my sauce chunky, but if you want it to be perfectly smooth you’ll need one of these), and a good canning book or two for help along the way – I like Putting Food By.

Canning Applesauce in Five Easy Steps

  1. Sterilize your jars and lids. You can do this by putting the jars through the sanitize cycle on your dishwasher.  The jars need to stay hot during canning to prevent them from breaking/cracking so leave them in the dishwasher on “heated dry” until you are ready to use them.  You can also handwash the jars and then boil them for ten minutes and then leave them in the hot water while you prepare the apples.  To sterilize the lids, place them into a pan of simmering water for 5 minutes, then remove.
  2. Prepare the Apples.  Wash the apples then peel, core, and slice them.  As you are working, place the prepared apples into a large bowl of water + one teaspoon of salt (to prevent discoloration – this is drained off later). 
  3. Cook the Apples.  Place about 1 inch of water in the bottom of a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Drain the salt water off the prepared apples and place them in the pot.  Fill pot with apple pieces then cover and bring to a boil.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and cook until apples are very tender.   Sweeten if needed – I rarely do.  Leave as is for chunky sauce, or put it through a food mill for smooth sauce.  (I personally like to can it chunky, because I always have the option of pureeing it later before use.)  Do not let sauce cool before moving to next  two steps.
  4. Prepare Hot Water Bath.  Insert rack in canner.  Fill halfway with water and turn on high heat.  Meanwhile, heat a separate kettle of water (or prepare to heat water in microwave.) 
  5. Fill the Jars and Process Them.  Fill the clean, hot jars with hot applesauce leaving 1/2 inch of headroom.  Secure lids and use jar lifter to lower into your canner. Place them about 1 inch apart then pour enough hot water around the jars to bring the level to 2 inches above the top of every jar.  Process in the Boiling Hot Water Bath (212 F/ 100 C) for 20 minutes – or specific time determined by your altitude (see this helpful chart).  Then carefully remove and place on a towel to dry.  As cans cool, you will hear the lids POP! and you will know that they have properly sealed.  Label with date and store in a cool, dry place.
Are you into canning? What do you can? 
I haven’t tried pressure canning yet, but I think I’d like to try! 
This entry was posted in food, kitchen tips, snack + appetizer, whole living. Bookmark the permalink.

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