I have been canning for about six years now. Jellies, jams, tomatoes, applesauce, beets. Each time I pull out the water bath canner or pressure cooker, I am still in awe of the fact that preserving my own food is an option. We didn’t preserve food in my house growing up. We never had a large enough garden to produce a crop that would be worth canning.
Home canned goods were always intriguing to me. One of my grandmothers canned, and she had this wall leading down into her basement that housed everything from green beans to mincemeat. It was impressive. I honestly never imagined that I would one day have my own cabinet of mason jars filled to the brim with fresh fruits and veggies from my own garden. I didn’t think the process was something I could ever learn. To me, it was this unattainable knowledge that was passed on only to a select group of men and women who had proved themselves worthy through years of waking up with the sun and tending fields. I wasn’t in that group, but thankfully for me, I was wrong.
Canning food from your own garden, the local farmers’ market or even the grocery store is extremely easy to learn and execute.
The most important part is the prep. If you get your work station prepped before you start the process, you will thank yourself, as there comes a point that things move quickly and you will want everything on hand.
The second piece is making sure that everything is properly sanitized. Before I start canning, I do a full scrub of my kitchen, sanitizing all the countertops, sink and cutting board. Nothing is worse than spending a day in a steamy kitchen only to find that everything you have canned has been tainted and is inedible.
You can use your favorite apples for this recipe. You can even mix a couple different varieties. I suggest staying away from the Granny Smiths, because you will need a ton of sugar to make it sweet. I used Empire for this batch.
- 20-22 pounds apples
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
Prep your space by getting your water bath canner, large saucepot and medium-sized pot in place on the stove. Fill you canner ¾ of the way full before placing on the stove so that it will be ready when you are.
- Sanitize your jars. This can be done one of two ways. If your dishwasher has a sanitize feature, you can time it so that your jars are sanitized and kept warm, using the heated dry feature, until you are ready to use them. Otherwise, fill your sink with boiling water and soap and soak your jars for fifteen minutes, scrub them and rinse. Once they have been rinsed, pop them in the oven on the lowest or warm setting and leave them there until ready to fill. If your jars are not warm when you fill them with the applesauce, they will shatter from the heat of the sauce. Set aside your jar lids and bands. Those will be sanitized later in the process.
- Wash, peel, core and coarsely chop your apples. Put ¾ cups of water to the bottom of your large saucepot. Add the chopped apples and lemon juice, cover and cook over medium heat. If you can't fit all the apples in your saucepot, let the apples cook down a bit and then add the remaining apples. At this point, turn on the heat under your canning pot. It will take a long time to bring to a boil.
- Stir the apples every five minutes or so, mashing the soft apples as you go. After about 20 minutes, the apples will be soft enough to mash. Turn off the heat and use a potato masher to mash them into a sauce with as many or as few chucks as you want. If you like an applesauce with zero chunks, you will need to use a food mill at this point and return the puree to the pot. We like a chunky sauce so the potato masher is perfect. The chunks will continue to cook down in the second round of cooking so don’t worry if they seem a bit big.
- Once the apples are mashed, return the pot to low heat. Add butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract. You can really add any spices or flavorings you want here. Throw in some ground clove, nutmeg, more sugar. Make it to your taste. Stir in and let the mixture simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Be extremely careful when stirring during this stage. Applesauce can bubble up like lava and the results aren’t pretty.
- While the sauce simmers, bring a medium-sized pot of water to a rapid boil. Add your jar lids and bands and boil for 10 minutes to sanitize. Remove from the water using a slotted spoon or lid grabber and dry completely using a clean paper towel. Set aside in a sanitized bowl until you need them.
- After the sauce has simmered for 20 minutes, cut the heat. This is where things move quickly. Make sure you have a clean, dry paper towel, a wide-mouth funnel, a ladle and a metal butter knife on hand. Remove jars from the oven or dishwasher. Place the funnel and butter knife in the first jar and ladle in the hot applesauce. Leave ½ inch of headspace form the top of the jar.
- Repeat this process until all 7 or 8 jars are filled.
- Using the paper towel, wipe the rim of the first jar so that it is dry. Top with a jar lid and band. Do not over tighten the band. Just twist until it resists and don’t push it. Repeat until all the jars have covers.
- Very carefully lower your jars into the boiling water in your canner. Most canners come with a rack that you can load and lower into the water. If you’re like me and you have lost this rack, use a jar grabber or rubber tipped tongs to lower the jars into the water. I really do recommend using the rack though. Make sure the jars are covered with at least 1 inch of water. Cover the canner and process cans for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove jars using a jar grabber or rubber tipped tongs. Transfer the jars to a large towel. Once all the jars have been transferred to the towel, wrap the edges of the towel up around the jars. Let sit for 24 hours and enjoy!