No-Sugar-Added Canned Applesauce – Squirrel away the flavors of fall to enjoy all year with this simple and practical guide to making your own no-sugar-added canned applesauce.
With only a couple of weeks left in apple season here on the East Coast, it’s time to start squirreling away applesauce for the winter. When it comes to making applesauce, I get a little nutty – like the squirrels scurrying up the oak trees in my neighborhood. I NEED to have lots and lots of jars for enjoying during the colder months. There are certain canned items that are much more delicious when I make them myself, as opposed to buying them at the grocery store (no shame here)… Secondly, I can save a ton of money by making them myself. My “must makes” every year are strawberry jam, low-sugar peaches, and then of course, no-sugar-added applesauce!
Making applesauce is a yearly tradition and an organic experience I enjoy having with my son. Kids love applesauce and it’s a great way to get them into the kitchen without having to tempt them with icing, chocolates, and sprinkles. We always start the process by picking our own apples. Aside from being fun for kids, picking apples teaches them where their food comes from; that someone has to grow it, tend it, and pick it.
Did I mention that apple picking also satisfies mommy’s obsession for canning with premium, fresh ingredients, picked at their peak? I try to haul my son out to the orchard a couple of times during the season. The available varieties change between September and November, and with that, the flavor of the applesauce changes too, which is just plain fun. The applesauce pictured in this post was made in early October with jonagold, piñata, and empire apples. I currently have a 30-pound combination of pink lady, honeycrisp, and fuji apples for saucing this afternoon!
Aside from using premium apples, my secret for great applesauce is using a variety of apples in each batch, with a variety of flavor profiles. You’ll end up with applesauce with a far more complex flavor than the jars stocked at your local grocery store – touches of sweet, tart, and mellow that change as you eat it. Applesauce perfection. One of the simple things of life done right.
Perhaps you’re experienced with canning, but for many people the canning process sounds like something they’d like to try, but find pretty intimidating. A healthy fear of canning is a good thing, as it’s important to keep things clean throughout the process and only use recipes that have been tested for food safety. As much as I am a free spirit in the kitchen, I always follow a recipe from a reputable source when I’m canning. You never want to decrease sugar and/or acid in a canning recipe, as they are, in essence, your natural preservatives. My applesauce recipe is from the Ball Blue Book, which is an excellent canning resource for people at all levels of experience. The only adjustment I ever make to this recipe is that I add lemon juice to taste if I want it to be more tart. This is safe because it increases the acid. If you’re in the market for a great canning resource, you can buy the Ball Blue Book through my Amazon affiliate link.
The canning process came naturally to me because I had sterile technique hammered into me during nursing school. To all the neat freaks out there, you were born to can! For everyone else, some important things to remember are: (1) clean your counters really well before you begin, (2) frequently wash your hands, especially before jarring your applesauce, (3) clean your tools and lids in very hot and soapy water, (4) lay out freshly cleaned towels for placing your tools on and keep your tools off of the counters, (5) sterilize your jars in the dishwasher or a boiling pot of water, and (5) for goodness sake, don’t cough, sneeze, or drool on anything! Oh, and (6) if you drop a tool or a lid, or touch the inside of a jar, you will need to rewash or re-sterilize it. This will feel unnatural the first couple of times you can, but with practice it will become second nature, just like sterile technique eventually became easy for me in nursing school.
Canning applesauce is something I’ve genuinely enjoyed teaching to a few people in my personal life, so it makes me happy to share the process with you. To help you visualize the process, I’ve taken photos of each step for you below:
- Wash your apples
- Remove the seeds and core and then roughly cut up the apples
- Add the apples to a large pot with a small amount of water to prevent sticking and bring to a simmer
- Once soft and falling apart, place the cooked apples into a food mill and process until all you have remaining are the skins
- Add your applesauce back into a large pot
- Heat until the applesauce reaches boiling point: 212ºF
Once your applesauce has reached boiling point, you’re ready to jar it up and process it in boiling water. Check out the animation and the steps below:
- Wash your hands well
- Remove your hot, sterile jars from the dishwasher
- Using a funnel, ladle the super hot applesauce into your jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of head space
- Dip a paper towel into boiling water and use it to clean the rims of your jars
- Place the lids on the jars without touching the inside of the lid or the jar
- Screw the rings onto the jar until resistance is felt and then loosen about 1/8 of an inch
8. Process in boiling water for 20 minutes.
9. After 20 minutes, remove the jars from the pot of water and place them in a spot where they can cool and seal undisturbed for 24 hours. You’ll notice a “popping” noise as the jars seal. If any jars don’t seal, store in the fridge for up to a week or reprocess with a new lid within a few hours of your first attempt.
- 20 lbs assorted apples (both sweet and tart)
- 2-5 C water
- fresh lemon juice to taste
- 1 extra large pot for boiling water
- 1 large pot for cooking apples
- candy thermometer
- 17 pint-sized canning jars
- 17 canning lids and rings
- magnet for picking up lids
- jar grabber
- clean dish towels and paper towels
- Place your canning jars in the dishwasher on the high heat setting without soap to sterilize them. If you don't have a dishwasher, you can boil them in a pot of water for 10 minutes.
- Clean all of your supplies, including your lids and rings in hot, soapy water. Note that in the past the lids would be boiled, but Ball recently changed their product. If you boil Ball lids, it can damage the seal.
- Wash your apples in cold water.
- Remove the seeds and core, and roughly cut-up the apples.
- Add the apples to a large pot with a small amount of water to prevent sticking until the apples begin to release their juice. Depending on the apple variety you may need to add more or less water, so frequently give your apples a stir and add more water if the are beginning to stick to the pot. Bring to a simmer.
- Continue simmering until the apples are soft and falling apart. Place the cooked apples into a food mill and process until all you have remaining are the skins. Discard or compost the apple skins.
- Add your applesauce back into a large pot and heat until the applesauce reaches boiling point- 212ºF. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent burning.
- Wash your hands well before beginning to fill your jars.
- Remove your hot, sterile jars from the dishwasher.
- Using a funnel, ladle the super hot applesauce into your hot jars leaving about ¼ inch of head space.
- Dip a paper towel into boiling water and use it to clean the rims of your jars.
- Place the lids on the jars, using a magnet, without touching the inside of the lid or the jar.
- Screw the rings onto each jar until resistance is felt and then loosen about ⅛ of an inch. This is important if you want your jars to seal.
- Place your jars into boiling water, also called a waterbath. "Process," or boil, for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the jars from the pot of water and place them someplace they can cool and seal undisturbed for 24 hours. You'll notice a "popping" noise as the jars seal. If any jars don't seal, then store in the fridge for up to a week, or reprocess with a new lid within a few hours of your first attempt.
- After 24 hours, remove the rings from the jars and store.
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