We eagerly look forward to canning applesauce as soon as we turn the page of the calendar to the month of September. Our main motivation for canning is so that we can have those wonderful tastes of summer and autumn deep into the winter. We also want to save money by growing fruits and vegetables or by looking for the best value.
We have an old apple tree in our back yard that does not produce well, and the apples aren't so great for applesauce. So we do our legwork each year looking for the best tasting apples at the best price. It's fun, especially when we find it! We strive to make the sweetest applesauce .... without adding sugar!
We call local farm markets to get their prices, and we take a drive to a nearby Amish community. We aren't able to call for a price as they don't have phones. It's hit or miss, but we always enjoy the drive. Their prices are usually good, but sometimes we miss the apples by a day too soon or too late.
On one such fruitless trip, we were on our way home when we saw a hand-written sign along the road that said, "Apples for sale." We stopped. The apples were picked from the tree in their back yard, and their price was the best we had found. We bought a bushel of the lovely Rome apples for canning our applesauce. The texture was perfect, and they were so sweet we didn't even have to add sugar! We would definitely buy Rome apples again for making applesauce.
The next year we bought Cortland apples at a good price. We found them to be firmer and more tart than the Rome apples. We had to cook them longer before saucing them, and we added a little sugar to sweeten the sauce a little more. The sauce turned out great, but we liked the Rome applesauce better.
The following year we bought Honeycrisp apples. They were really pricey, but we wanted to try it once. They made a wonderful, naturally sweet applesauce, but I'm not convinced they are worth the high price.
This year we are going to try combining two varieties. Our options at the Amish community produce stand were Cortland, Honeycrisp, Golden Supreme and Gala. We decided to try mixing Gala and Golden Supreme (which is like a Golden Delicious).
The Golden Supreme turned out very light in color due to its yellow skin and was not as sweet as we like our applesauce. The Gala had a rosier color due to its red skin and was a little sweeter than the Golden Supreme. We mixed the two sauces together which produced a really nice color and texture, but not sweet enough for our taste. So we cooked up and strained a quarter bushel of Honey Crisp and added that in. Much better. We are really spoiled with the sweetness of Honey Crisp. They cost twice as much as the others, but when we can find a good price for them, we'll buy them again.
It's fun to try different apples for making sauces and pies to become familiar with the different varieties and know your preferences. So far we prefer the Roma and Honey Crisp. Follow this link for a chart that compares various popular U.S. apple varieties.
Following are the step-by-step instructions for how we make and can applesauce.
Canning Applesauce with a Food Mill - It's so easy!
Wash and quarter the apples, removing the stems. Cook the quartered apples to soften them. You can cook them on high in the microwave for 10 minutes, stirring them halfway through the cook time. (Cook the apples in a colander placed inside a bowl to catch the liquid.)
Another way you can cook them is to steam them in a strainer placed inside a pot with a couple of inches of water on the bottom. Cover them with a lid and cook for 15 minutes, stirring the apples halfway through the cook time.
Place the cooked apples (core, seeds, skin and all) in the bowl of the assembled food mill. As you turn the crank, the roughage comes out the front, and the pureed applesauce comes out the side chute. I am sure our mothers and/or grandmothers would be crying to see how easy we have it today. (Tip: we run the roughage through the mill a second time and get additional sauce.)
Heat the applesauce to boiling in a stock pot. If it's not sweet enough for your taste, you can add some sugar. You can also add cinnamon or nutmeg if you prefer. The Rome apples and Honeycrisp apples were so sweet, we didn't add any flavoring at all.
In the meantime, heat your canning jars and lids. Fill the canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Wipe the top rim of the jars and screw on the lids. Place in the water bath and cook for 20 minutes. (On the right side of this picture you can see apples steaming in the strainer in a pot. I took the lid off for this photo.)
We can 13-14 quarts of applesauce from a generous bushel of apples.
1. Chunky Applesauce
For chunky applesauce, puree half of your apples as above. Peel, core and cut up the other half of the apples. Cook them, as above, until soft.
Mash the cooked apples with a potato masher or pastry blender until they are lumpy. Combine the apple chunks with the pureed apples and continue with instructions above.
2. Cinnamon Flavored Applesauce
Add Red Hots candy to your applesauce while it is heating up, according to your taste preference. I used two boxes of the candies (6.72 oz. each) for this whole bushel of apples.
Whether pureed or chunky, the Red Hots candies give the applesauce a pretty pinkish color and a sweet cinnamon taste.