Canning applesauce is the perfect way to preserve a bumper crop of apples.
Applesauce is one of the easiest ways to preserve apples at home and a perfect place to start for the beginning canner. Apples are naturally high acid, so they are canned in a water bath canner. Just about anything goes when you’re canning applesauce at home.
Want chunky applesauce? No problem!
Leave the peels on? Yup, that works too.
Sugar-free or maple sweetened? Do it!
It’s hard to go wrong canning applesauce at home.
How to Make Applesauce
The first step to canning applesauce is actually making applesauce. Start by peeling and coring enough apples to fill a large stockpot.
I’m pretty quick with a paring knife and it only takes me a few minutes to peel, core and slice a full pot of apples for homemade applesauce.
Still, If I’m making an absurdly large batch when our summer apples come ripe in July, I’ll still opt for making applesauce with a food mill. The machine separates the peels, cores, and seeds from cooked applesauce, saving a lot of time.
If you have a Kitchenaid food strainer attachment, hand crank food mill or chinois sieve, simply coarsely chop the apples and add them to the pot. Once they’re soft, run them through the food strainer to remove the unwanted seeds/peels/cores before returning the cooked applesauce to the pot for canning.
Either way, cored or not, whichever you decide based on the equipment you have on hand.
Add a bit of water to the apples to prevent them from scorching before they release a bit of juice, and bring the pot to a boil.
The water will cook off as the applesauce cooks, but feel free to add apple juice or cider for a slightly sweeter finished applesauce.
Cover, and cook until the apples disintegrate, stirring occasionally.
If you don’t have a food mill, process the apples with an immersion blender. For a chunkier sauce, you can just stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or stick to a few quick mashes with a potato masher.
The finished texture is completely up to you, and canning chunky applesauce works just as well as perfectly smooth applesauce.
At this point, taste your sauce.
Most modern apple varieties are sweet enough without any added sugar. Apples like Honeycrisp are the perfect balance of sweet, with just enough acidity to make an exceptional sauce with no other ingredients.
Wild apples and antique varieties may require a bit of added sugar to balance out tartness or acidity.
Generally, I don’t season applesauce before canning. I want the finished product to be as versatile as possible, and dusting a little cinnamon on top of a bowl of sauce works well enough.
If you’re adding seasoning, I’d suggest seasoning lightly. Spices tend to intensify during storage, and a hint of cinnamon now will taste quite a bit stronger in a few months.
Method: Water Bath Canning
Jars: Pint or Quart
Headspace: 1/2 inch
Process Time: 15 min for Pints, 20 min for Quarts
Apples are high in acid and sugar, so they can be safely processed in a water bath canner without adding any special ingredients. No need to add sugar, unless you want to. Acidifiers like citric acid or lemon juice are optional too. They may add extra flavor or zing to your sauce, but they’re not required for safe canning.
Fill canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Be sure to remove any air bubbles, especially if you have a chunkier sauce. It’s common to can applesauce in pints, but quarts work well too.
Canning applesauce in half-gallon jars was practiced historically, but it’s not currently endorsed by the USDA. The jar is too large to ensure adequate heating all the way through, and air bubbles can be a serious problem with so much sauce in a jar. The only foods currently approved for half-gallon jars are juices from high acid fruits, such as apple juice or grape juice.
Apply canning lids and process in a water bath canner, 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts.