Last week, my father in law's apple tree lost a very large section of the tree due to the weight of the apples growing there. I saw that it was down as I left for work the next morning. As soon as I got to work, I sent my husband a message to not let his dad remove the branch until I could collect the apples!
That evening, we collected two huge bins full of small green apples!
Given the amount of apples, the easiest way to preserve them seemed to be to make applesauce. So, that's what we did! Here's how we did it.
Wash the apples. Easy peasy.
We did so by filling a sink with water and dumping them in.
By the way, the great thing about applesauce is that there really isn't any sort of recipe to follow. I've never made applesauce before this, and there was no rhyme or reason to the way we measured just how many apples to prepare. Do however many you want!
One thing worth mentioning, however, is that at this point, if you do not plan to use a food mill, you will need to peel these babies. Every single one of them. If you DO have a food mill ($25-50 at a fleet farm) then you do not have to peel.
Next step was to cut them up. We cut them into quarters, cut out the cores/seeds, then cut those pieces into halves.
I had read that if you put the apple chunks into salt water for a few minutes that they won't turn brown, so I had to test that theory out for myself. It worked! It kept the apples nice and crisp and white until it came time to cook them!
Next step: Cook them!
You'll need a couple of large pots for this. Put a couple of cups of water into a pot full of apple chunks and bring it to a boil. Make sure you stir it every few minutes until the chunks become noticeably soft and almost mushy in appearance.
Once cooked, I dumped them into the food mill and cranked away.
We had cut enough apples to fill this white bowl full of sauce!
Here's why you don't really need a recipe. Once you have your raw applesauce, you can begin adding sugar and other ingredients to suit your own tastes. Need more sugar? Add some! Since our apples were not quite mature and green and bitter from literally being a backyard apple tree, we had to add sugar. But if you are using sweeter apples like the varieties sold at the store or in your local orchards, you might not need any.
We ended up using white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. My husband and I continued to taste and add until we both loved what we had!
Next, it was time to get to canning. My favorite part! We used a water bath canner. It's basically a large pot with a rack inside that you fill with water and boil. It's not much more complicated than that. We had boiled fresh lids and clean jars so that they were heated and ready. Using our funnel, we filled pint jars with the sauce, wiped off the rim of the jars, applied the lid and put the rings on. The jars went into the canner and when the water was boiling, we started our time. Appx 20 minutes.
Then they were pulled out of the pot and set on the stove to sit and seal for the next 24 hours!
You'll know that they have sealed when the very center of the lid won't budge when you push down on it. (Remember the Snapple commercials?)
I think one of the most satisfying parts of canning is after you have removed the jars, for the next few hours you'll hear the seals popping, meaning they have successfully been sealed!
Now, at this point, I feel that it's only fair for me to point out a few things to you.
As I mentioned, I had never made applesauce before this, and a few things happened that I would have loved to have been told before I tried it for the first time.
* Most of the blogs and online sites that go over canning will mention that you need to screw the rings on 'fingertip tight' which really isn't that tight at all. Understandable because you aren't trying to force the seal, you want this stuff to seal on it's own using heat. In the case of applesauce though? Forget fingertip tight! Screw those rings on tightly! Apparently, apples are made up of appx 25% air, and as you are mashing and grinding it, you're adding more air to it. This air, in turn, will expand when it gets hot. See those seven jars up there? Only three of them sealed naturally. The other four couldn't hold up to the expanding and ended up popping their tops and oozing sauce out all over my pot. I had looked up at my hubby and exclaimed "See, I knew I could smell nutmeg!" I ended up having to clean them up, put new lids on and re-process them in the water bath again.
* The easiest way to prevent this exploding, which I will certainly keep in mind for next time, is once you have added your extra ingredients to the sauce, put it in a pot and bring it to almost boiling. This will cause it to expand in the pot so that you can ladle the already expanded sauce into your jars, put the lids on and then tightly apply the rings.
* Make sure you take a butter knife and push out all of the air bubbles. You'll see them through the jars.
*Get a buddy or two to help you chop and peel. I didn't have to peel, but even the chopping and coring took a very long time even with my hubby's help, so some entertainment during the process is muchos helpful!
Of course, always use caution when canning. You're dealing with sharp knifes and scalding hot water and jars, so it's important that you take care. Make sure you set out all of your supplies and ingredients beforehand. This is my second year canning, and it always seems like I have to scramble and use speed to get things where they need to be. But trust me, you can SLOW DOWN. Don't hurt yourself trying to do things too fast.
Feel free to ask questions if you have any! I'm no expert by any means, but this was a fun project that I will definitely do again!
*One other note: I have a glasstop stove. I have read on every single canner I've ever come across that you cannot use them on glasstop stoves. After some research, I discovered a few things. The reason why they do not recommend it is because of the size of most standard canners. They are much larger than the stove's round element, and the glass above the element is treated differently then the class outside of that circle. I bought a 'mini' canner, which I believe is an 11.5 QT canner. I am able to fit 7 pint jars in there, and it's a safe size to use on my particular glass stove top. Every one is different, so you'll want to do your own research before trying it on your glasstop. However I have not encountered any problems at this point with my glasstop stove and my canner.
Hope this is helpful!
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