We LOVE homemade applesauce, but it’s been several years since we’ve made it and canned it. In the foothills of CA, we could always get great apples, usually free for the picking. In CO, we only found good apple-picking once and that was about 3 weeks before we moved, so I didn’t have time to sauce the apples (I did dry about a metric ton in the deyhdrator!).
I have high hopes for the apples here in NC. To be honest, having eaten homemade applesauce for many years has spoiled us all. We don’t want to spend good money on the commercially processed applesauce because it’s just not as good. (AND when I was in fourth grade, Willie, who I had the biggest crush on, told me that store-bought applesauce had chopped-up WORMS in it. Eeuuwww!)
The HOW of homemade applesauce is really a function of scale. Just how many apples do you have? Just how committed to applesauce do you want to be?
I have a few apples
If you have a few apples sitting around that you’d like to make into applesauce before they shrivel up completely, then this is the method for you. Peel them, core them, slice them up, and put them on the stove in a saucepan with a little water. Cook them slowly, mashing as you go. After awhile (how long will depend on the apples themselves and how hot the burner is), the apples will have mushed down into applesauce. Taste it and add sugar if you need to. Throw a dash of cinnamon in if you’d like to. Serve it right then. There’s not enough to worry about preserving. Best of all, your kitchen will smell heavenly.
I have a lot of apples and they’re all nice-sized ones
Now’s the time for one of my favorite tools in apple-saucing. If I have a lot of apples that are all of a good size, I get out my peeler/corer/slicer.
(Try, for a moment, to ignore that the peeler/corer/slicer has a pear on it in this photo.) This is the greatest gadget that no kitchen should be without. It saves hours and hours of time when you have a lot of apples to process. You can pick up an apple peeler for $20-25, usually.
Back to applesauce….peel, core, and slice all your apples into a huge stockpot. (For a fun project, keep the peels and cores to experiment with homemade fruit pectin.) Cook it on low-medium until the apples are very soft. You can mash the apples with a potato masher if you like lumpier applesauce or you can run the cooked apples through the blender or food processor in batches if you like really smooth applesauce. Add sugar to taste and cinnamon if you like that flavor. I remember my mom adding red-hot cinnamon candies to the applesauce to give it a cinnamon flavor and a pink color. Keep in mind that different apples have different degrees of sweetness, so how much sugar you need or want to add will vary from one batch of applesauce to the next.
Bring the sauce to a boil and ladle into clean canning jars. Water bath process them for the correct time in a water bath canner, determining the time from the charts here (see Table 2) or here. Although you can process applesauce in a pressure canner, apples are considered a high acid fruit and a water bath canner is sufficient.
I have a TON of little windfall apples
Sometimes, peeling and coring apples is more trouble than it’s worth. Occasionally we’ll end up with a load of small apples that just won’t work on the peeler/corer/slicer. The thought of peeling and coring all those little apples by hand makes me want to dump the whole business in the trash!
The good news is that there is another tool that will make saucing those apples a little easier–an apple mill. I don’t use my apple mill any more than I need to because it IS a lot of work, but sometimes, it’s the only tool that will work.
Start by washing the apples thoroughly and cutting out any bad spots. If you cut the apples in half, you will find any rotten-centered ones that you should just throw away. Put a few cups of water in the bottom of a heavy stock pot and then fill the pot with little apples. Heat on medium heat, mashing the apples down as they soften. When the apples are really soft, ladle them into the apple mill that is sitting over a large bowl and start turning the wooden masher. The cooked sauce will ooze out of the sides of the mill into the bowl underneath. As the bowl fills up, replace it with another bowl. Mash the apples thoroughly and get as much sauce out of them as possible. This might take some time. Eventually, you’ll end up with fairly dry skins and cores inside the mill and lots of sauce in the bowls. Keep milling until all the apples in your stock pot are made into sauce.
Rinse the stock pot out and put all the milled applesauce back into it. Reheat the applesauce until it’s boiling. Add sugar to taste and cinnamon if you wish. Now, ladle this sauce into clean canning jars and water bath can them for the correct amount of time (again, you can determine that time here or here.)
The skins and cores should not be put into a compost pile because they won’t compost after cooking for so long. I’ve heard that pigs like these leftover, but I don’t have pigs, so I really don’t have first-hand knowledge of that.
This version of homemade applesauce is, admittedly, a little more time-consuming, but it still is just delicious. One of the nice advantages of cooking the apples in their skins is that often the red apples will produce pretty pink applesauce. Usually, large quantities of little windfall apples are very cheap and often free. Because of that, I’m usually willing to do the extra work that the apple mill method takes to process them.