This years marks the second time I have tried my hand at canning, and I am so excited with the experiences! There is something so empowering about canning your own food from some abundant fruit of the garden and then enjoying that fresh item all throughout the winter and spring seasons. Last year I canned 12 quarts of apple sauce, and it was delicious! This year I have already canned 14 quarts, and I am hoping for another round sometime before the end of apple season, but we will see. This all depends on when the newest Filter baby decides to make his grand entrance in the coming weeks =0)
Canning Season: Homemade Applesauce (w/ Bonus)
This year I tried a different recipe for making the applesauce with a bit more simplicity. Last year I spent the day at a friend’s house who already had experience canning and had all the necessary supplies (which I did not…I just had the apples). We spent hours cutting apples, cooking them down to soften them, grinding them through a sieve, and then finally getting them into the jars to pressure can them in her fandangled pressure canner. This year I chose an easier path.
First, I don’t have a pressure canner…they kind of scare me. Yes, yes, I am sure they are safe, but I am just not there yet! I mean, even using a water bath to can is a stressful event the first few times around. There’s this unsettled fear about getting it just right because the FDA and USDA make it clear how dangerous it all really is! At least that’s how it felt to me, lol. I did though have a friend who came by a used water bath canner at the thrift store that I was only to happy to take off her hands!!! (THANK YOU!) So, I was all set in that department.
Secondly, I only have so much kitchen space and finances for extra gadget, much less the places to store said gadgets, so I wanted to try to use the things I presently already own. I found a great plan for this on Lindsay’s site Passionate Homemaking where she only used a simple blender to make her applesauce. Jackpot! This would be my inspiration!
Thirdly, I am 9 months pregnant…I wanted this to be easy!
Time to get to work. I have a wonderful local source for apples each season, so I get a bushel (40 lbs) every two weeks, which means lots and lots of apples. I oddly enough have not taken to make a ton of baked goods with them, but I really do like processing them into storable goods for the cold months. We also eat plenty of them while they last. Here’s the process I used, according to Lindsay’s directions, to successfully can about a bushel of apples as applesauce:
First, I washed my apples in a simple white vinegar/water rinse, letting them soak about 10-15 minutes per batch. The ratio was about 1/4 cup vinegar (or a glug or two) into the container of water that covered the apples.
Second, I sliced up the apples, cut out the cores and set them aside for the bonus product I got to make after canning! Then, I threw the chunks into my VitaMix until it was full to the very top. I did not have to worry about peeling them or cooking them to soften, which is awesome in my book! Two traditional steps, GONE!
Once the blender was filled to the top, I put on the lid and turned it on to high speed. Within minutes, applesauce filled the blender. (*Note: this is a super simple way to make applesauce on the fly. If ever a recipe calls for applesauce that I don’t have on hand, I will whip up some blender applesauce quickly…or if I just want some for the kids. It burns through the apples a bit faster, though, so take note)
After blending thoroughly, I poured the applesauce into a large pot (largest one I own, which happens to be a stock pot) on the stove. This process, starting at washing the apples to cutting to blending to pouring, simply repeats over and over until the entire pot is filled completely, or you run out of apples, whichever happens first. My pot filled up completely….
(**Another note: To keep things moving, when you remove apples from the rinsing water, make sure to add another selection of apples to get them soaking and rinsed while you cut, blend, and pour the first batch. Keeping things going simultaneously is a key factor is reducing the time it takes to get everything done in a reasonable period of time.)
Once the pot was filled, I had to heat the applesauce through to warm it up and prepare it for canning. It is important when canning that everything be warm or hot to avoid any cracking and breaking of glass with the boiling water. It was also during this time that I added a couple tablespoons of cinnamon to the applesauce, for added flavor. The apples we get are plenty sweet to not need any additional sweetener, so I skipped that addition. I filled up the canning pot (on the right) with water about 2/3 full and brought it to boil, too.
While the applesauce warmed through I took some to sanitize my jars and prepare my lids. The lids I just put into a small pot of water and heated up until hot, but not boiling, then I just let them sit while I canned. The jars I chose to sanitize by pouring boiling water all over and inside of them. Another way to sanitize is to put them through the dishwasher on its hottest cycle, but our dishwasher was acting up on that day, so I could not use it…sigh. The boiling water, though, was sufficient.
Soon the applesauce was heated through, so I funneled the applesauce into the quart jars leaving about 1/2 inch headspace (I did not leave enough in a few jars and they leaked after pulling out of the water…lesson learned), placed the heated lids carefully on top using a magnetic canning wand to get them out of the water, and then screwed down firmly but not too tight the screw cap lids, which help to hold on the lids while boiling.
I then placed the jars carefully into my pot of hot water, using a canning rack I bought from Amazon. If you don’t have a rack, canning tongs can help with this process. Once the jars were placed I checked the water level to make sure at least an inch of water was above the top of the jars. Then, I turned the heat up as high as it would go to return the water to a boil. When the water began to boil, that was when the countdown began. In our location, at our altitude, 20 minutes in a water bath is enough with applesauce, but if you are in a different situation, living somewhere other than sea level, make sure to check your recommended times.
After 20 minutes, voila! Those jars were done. I turned down the heat, grabbed my fancy canning tongs, and went through the tricky maneuver to lift out the canning rack without scolding my fingers! It involved two very thick oven mitts and fast hands. They were very wet by the end, and I had to be careful about touching them because of the boiling water they absorbed. I use a folded towel on the counter to help give a soft, neutral temperature place for the hot jars to sit and cool, so once that was set up, I began to move the jars using my canning tongs and a hot pad from the boiling pot to the towel on the counter. Once again, this process simply repeated until the applesauce was all gone, which for me was two times (14 quarts). Some of the jars were already sealed (meaning they don’t make a popping noise at the top when you push down the middle with your finger), while others needed the cooling period to suction down, but by the next morning all of the tops were sealed. I did, though, have two with noticeably different sounds when I pinged on the top with my finger,so I put these into the fridge to eat the next week.
And, that was my applesauce canning adventure this year! BUT, an additional bonus I learned about was to use the raw apple cores, which totaled a whole bunch for me from the bushel I cut up, to make homemade fruit scrap vinegar (which will essentially be apple cider vinegar). I was so excited to do this!!! Here’s what I did for that:
I dumped all my apple cores into a large 5 gallon food grade bucket. I bought this one at Lowe’s, but you can use any non-oxidizing container you might have. I wasn’t 100% sure of my stock pot and whether it could handle the acid of the fermenting apples, so I opted for the bucket.
I then measured out a quart of filtered water and added 1/4 cup sucanat (sugar is fine if that is what you have), mixed and poured it over the apples, repeating until the apples were covered and floating a bit in the sugar water solution. Once covered, mix well to combine.
I then placed a tea towel over top of the apples in sugar water, but for a day I did not have a real mode to keep the towel in place. I did, though, find that the apples and solution were already fermenting by day two, which was very cool to see! I knew this because there were tons of fermentation bubbles, plus it was really starting to smell like apple cider vinegar.
My MacGyver of a husband set me up with this solution to keep the tea towel on top of the bucket to make sure fruit flies and little hands did not successfully destroy my fermenting glory! I made sure to mix the apple vinegar at least once a day to keep mold growth at bay, and that has been successful! Today I will be straining out the apple cores, and then I will let the vinegar sit for another 2-3 weeks to finish the fermentation process. At the end, I will have about a gallon of homemade apple cider vinegar! EXCITING!!! I just love it when I get to use ALL the pieces of God’s produce to make something awesome.
So, think you will try your hand at making homemade applesauce, canning, or even fermenting apples for vinegar? Whether large or small, every skill learned is a benefit and a blessing. =0)