No-Sugar-Added Canned Applesauce – Squirrel away the flavors of fall to enjoy all year with this simple and practical guide to making and canning your own no-sugar-added 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 and canning 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. It will cost you no extra and will help support this blog that you get to read for free! 🙂
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:
- Clean your counters really well before you begin.
- Frequently wash your hands, especially before jarring your applesauce.
- Clean your tools and lids in very hot and soapy water.
- Lay out freshly cleaned towels for placing your tools on and keep your tools off of the counters.
- Sterilize your jars in the dishwasher or a boiling pot of water.
- And for goodness sake, don’t cough, sneeze, or drool on anything! Oh, and…
- 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
- Process in boiling water for 20 minutes.
- 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.
Canning is something that I’ve always wanted to do, but as you mentioned, I feel intimidated by it. I know it’s just a matter or doing it once and then feeling more comfortable with it. That said – I really appreciate all your tips and details. We’ve got an apple tree in our backyard and it would be a shame not to take advantage and have apple sauce through the winter months. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Sarah! I’m glad this was helpful. Applesauce is an excellent place to start your adventure in canning. Compared to recipes like pickles, jams, or tomatoes there’s less that can go wrong with the recipe itself. This makes it easier to practice the canning skills. If you turn some of your pretty backyard apples into applesauce, I’d love to hear how it goes, and feel free to contact me if you run into any bumps or questions in the process.
i’ve never been apple picking! this needs to change! yum
Apple picking is totally inspiring. It’s super easy and relaxing too. Not tedious like picking little blueberries on a hot day. Just lots of apples, brisk fall air, and warm sunshine!
Marisa Franca @ All Our Way says
There is nothing better than homemade applesauce. I used to make it all the time and the flavor is outstanding. We used to take our kids out to pick apples in the fall and they loved it. What sweet memories.
Thanks for sharing your sweet memory with your kids! I think I’ll still be dragging my son out to the orchard when he’s a teenager… It’s so important to get outside and enjoy nature!
Pined for Hanukkah! And your son is adorbs 🙂
Awe… thanks Lucy! It would be so yummy topped on a latke.
That looks like a whole lot of fun going on in your kitchen. I’d totally come help for a jar or two 😉
I love having a friend to can with, so come on over!
This post is SO great! Nice work on describing the canning process and the advantages of making your own applesauce from different varieties. Love the pics too. My favorite is your son on the sink with the sprayer. Such memories of me and my kids in the kitchen. They love to help! I recently made applesauce too. Love homemade!
Thanks Diane! I’m treasuring this time that my son wants to help me in the kitchen. I’m hoping he’ll leave my nest someday able to make himself something more than toast, cereal and spaghetti.
Applesauce is one of those things that’s for young and old. It’s such a timeless food. One of my favorite things about homemade applesauce is that every batch is a little different depending on which apples are used. I’d love to taste your batch!
Tina Marie says
I so enjoy making applesauce each year. We take our grandchildren every season apple picking and applesauce is first on the list to make. Yours looks so delicious.
Linda Roisum says
I love apples, especially Pink Lady and Jazz, but have never picked my own apples or made homemade applesauce. In fact, I’ve only canned once and it was with a friend, who was an old pro at it (we made homemade spicy ketchup). I always thought it was so complicated but with your instructions, I feel better and less intimidated about trying it.
That homemade spicy ketchup sounds awesome! I’m happy that this post made canning less intimidating!
Whitney @ That Square Plate says
Pinning for next time I have a ton of apples. This has got to be the best homemade applesauce, it looks amazing!
Thanks Whitney! Good luck with all those apples!
This is exactly what i need right now, sugar free recipes. i have decided to give up sugar so thank you very much.
Also the envy going on here is real!! that’s amazing that you can pick your own apples
I’m so happy that this recipe works for you Khadija. Coming from a sweet tooth, giving up sugar is a really tough thing to do! I feel like it’s added to everything! I love how fruit naturally satisfies that craving for sweets.
Kelly Hutchinson says
I had no idea caning applesauce could be so easy! It would taste so much better and be much more affordable than store bought.
The more affordable part is important in my home. I swear my kid lives on the stuff!
Homemade applesauce is the best! You are so right – it is so much better than the store bought variety! I made a couple of batches and froze them last year, but this year I think I will give your canning recipe a try!
That’s cool that you froze your applesauce. I’ve been wanting to try that. I keep hoping that Santa brings me a chest freezer (things bloggers as Santa for Christmas). I feel like there are benefits to both methods. Freezing is less labor intensive upfront, but the nice thing about canned is it’s always ready to go. No thawing out necessary.
Sherri @ Watch Learn Eat says
I haven’t canned before but it sounds like it would be a fun experience! The applesauce looks delicious! I also really love the photos you took of your son helping out. Our kids love helping too!
It’s so much fun… and a bit messy… getting kids involved in the kitchen. It’s such a great thing getting your kids involved. It feel like it teaches them so much. Math and measuring, where their food comes from, and working together to name a few.
Annie @ Annie's Noms says
I have a ton of apples in my kitchen right now and am totally in love with applesauce. This needs to happen in my kitchen ASAP!
Awesome! Don’t let those beautiful fall apples go to waste!
Simon (BBQ Bastard) says
That’s the most fantastic thing to do! Cooking with the kids! He looks so relaxed… Mine aren’t that relaxed haha.
I wish I had more variety of apples! Though we always use Pink Lady and these are so sweet you don’t need no sugar either! Never canned them… Maybe I should give it a go some time!
Thanks for sharing!
Oana @AdoreFoods says
Oh Rachel, this is serious applesauce canning operation! Not only delicious but fabulously looking. Next time you’re in serious canning mood, give me a shout! Loving the photo with your son having fun!
I love canning. Especially with friends! My canning is wrapped up for the season, but it will begin again with strawberries come May. I’d love to make something with you! I know your local, so am I sensing the possibility of a joint post 😉
Vicky & Ruth- May I Have That Recipe says
Wow! This homemade applesauce looks delicious!! I have never thought to make my own apple sauce but this is such a great idea! I also love how it doesn’t have any added sugar in it!
Thanks ladies! It’s about a simple as recipes get– apples and water. But it’s one of those things that just about everyone loves from 1 to 99!
Dawn @ Words Of Deliciousness says
Homemade applesauce is always so much better than what you can purchase in the store. I have not canned applesauce, but my mom did when I was a kid. Yours looks great and so healthy. I am sure your kids have a ton of fun with helping you.
You’ve gotta love mom’s cooking! My kiddo did have a lot of fun. He also snuck a lot of apple slices in the process!
Diana Rambles says
Congratulations! This post is going to be featured over at Diana Rambles this week and has been pinned in the Featured at Diana Rambles board at Pinterest, Yummed, and shared on Twitter. Please grab a featured button via the post guidelines graphic. Thanks for sharing this awesome recipe!
That’s awesome! Thanks Diana!
Molly Kumar says
What a fantastic process and you explained it so well. Love the ‘No-sugar’ added version, absolutely healthy !
Thanks Molly! My hope in making this post was that someone cold do it having never had any experience with canning. Glad you thought it was explained well!
Healing Tomato says
I LOVE canning Apples. Making them into applesauce is a terrific idea.
They should totally be used all year long! I’m thing about canning apple pie filling next season!
I have been trying to find a book with no sweetener added to apple sauce, jams and whole fruits, does the ball book fit the bill ?
The Ball Book has a few low sugar recipes as far as apple sauce and canned whole fruits go. Once you get into whole fruits I tend not trust a recipe from a food safety stand point that is completely sugar-free. Applesauce is an exception as it’s cooked down and the sugars are brought out from the fruit before being packed and canned. I recommend freezing whole fruits if you’re looking for a healthy way of preserving it. As far as low-sugar Jams go, I recommend purchasing a package of Pomona’s Universal Fruit Pectin. It’s a better pectin for low sugar recipes. The insert that comes with the pectin also has a bunch of great low sugar jam recipes that are a great place to start without having to purchase a book. Here’s a link to their website and actually a PDF to their insert.
Thanks for the help. It’s the first time I made apple sauce without my mother and I was a bit worried I would screw it up. The applesauce turned out thick and wonderful!
Do you think i would be okay using this recipe for apple butter? I’ve been trying to find something without added sugar on the interwebs that is still okay to can safely
Hi Airy! This recipe isn’t really an apple butter recipe… I don’t want to tell you that it’s safe to process the apple butter in a water bath for the same amount of time as the applesauce without knowing what all your putting in your recipe. It’s important to maintain a certain amount of sugar and acidity so that microbes can’t grow. It probably fine, but if I were you I’d look for an apple butter recipe. I have to say though, you have given me an idea for a blog post for next fall!
Love this recipe, Rachel! I just bought 2 bushels of apples at the National Apple Harvest Festival today & I was searching for a sugar free version of applesauce for my son who is diabetic! He’ll be excited when he comes home for Thanksgiving when I have a bunch of jars ready for him to take!
One question… for this recipe with 20lbs of apples, how much cinnamon would you add to the batch if you wanted to make cinnamon applesauce?
I’m so happy to hear this recipe meets your needs! This recipe certainly has less sugar than the sugar added version. Speaking as a RN though, the no-sugar-added version still contains fruit and could still spike your son’s sugars if he eats it in large quantities. I recommend sticking with 1/2 cup servings. Of course, if he has a insulin pump he can adjust and has considerably more wiggle room. How frustrating for him to always be needing to worry about his sugar intake!
So… for 20 lbs of apples… I’d start with 2 Tbsp of cinnamon, give it a taste, and add more if you like it a little spicer. After adding cinnamon to the pot, be sure to heat the applesauce until it’s bubbling and to cook for 1 minute before jarring.
I hope you have a wonderful visit with your son this Thanksgiving!
Hey! If I don’t have a fodmill, can I just peel the apples before I cook them? Thanks!
The answer is yes and no. Lots of people make their applesauce by peeling the skins first, but then they have runny, thin applesauce. The skins have pectin in the layer between the skin and the apple itself. When it’s cooked and incorporated into the applesauce it works as a natural thickener which is responsible for the lovely texture of this recipe. Additionally, the skins add to the flavor of the applesauce. I hope that helps!
Mary Jones says
I would like to can applesauce for my new granddaughter. It is recommended that babies not have citrus before age 10-12 months. Do I need to put lemon juice in this recipe?
Hi Mary! Great question. Don’t omit the lemon juice as it lowers the pH, making it too acidic for botulism to grow. To go a little further… when I’m not blogging I’m a nurse practicing nurse (BSN) with 10+ year of experience. As such, I don’t recommend giving children any home canning before their 1st birthday. I personally didn’t give my own children any home canned goods until their second birthday. Don’t fret though! You can still make homemade applesauce for your little granddaughter and you can even omit the lemon. Follow the direction in this blog post (omitting the lemon) to make the apple sauce, but instead of canning it, freeze it. Place the apple sauce into ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop it into a freezer safe bag. Tada! No you have baby servings that you can grab from your freezer and thaw in the fridge as needed. Bon appetite baby girl!
We are apple-pickers too. I usually freeze my sauce in 2c portions in quart freezer bags. Even with no added sugar, the fruit is sugary enough that the frozen blocks can be broken up for easy heating in our microwave. (With some force on the edge of the counter.)
But this year my freezer is Full! I am very interested to try canning it and looking for a safe no-sugar recipe. I never seem to need lemon or sugar because of my apple mix–Empire, Jonagold, Shizuka, and especially Golden Delicious. It looks like from my Ball Blue Book that canning just apples and water is safe, with good technique. Thank you for all the sterilization details from your nursing perspective. I’m feeling even more confident now.
Use Kitchen Aid mixer with the following attachments: ( Kitchen Aid ) Food Grinder (model FGA) and (Kitchen Aid) Fruit & Vegetable Strainer Parts (Model FVSP )
I am able to process a full canner pot of softened apples in 10 minutes. No peeling of apples necessary. I am only required to wash & core and remove any bad spots. The strainer separates the peel from the applesauce and I get some pectin from cooking my apples with the peel.
When applesauce turns out to be too runny, because either your apples were too juicy, or you added too much water in the beginning to soften the apples.
Place your applesauce in a large pot (no plastic handles please) and place in the oven on 250 degrees. A large pot will evaporate about 1 to 1-1/2 inches liquid when heated in the oven for several hours or over-night. Stir occasionally & check the viscosity. Using this method reduces the chance of burning your applesauce ( by not using the stove for evaporation). I am told this is a good way to make apple-butter to.