Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Making of Applesauce (and Canning Thereof)

Well, since ninety pounds of apples won't take care of themselves, and they certainly won't all get eaten before biology starts setting I made applesauce.  I considered making more pie filling, but really, we DON'T eat a lot of that, and unless I prove otherwise this year (by using up the six I did make...) I won't be upping that number in future years.  But apple pie can prove somewhat addictive, so it's possible that by having it on hand, I'll use an awful lot.  Who knows.  :-)

So I set to work peeling-- 50-ish pounds of apples.  I totally forgot to weight the amounts I used for each thing, which is a shame for future wonderings on the matter.  Anyway.  If you have one of these awesome gadgets, you'll know that it peels and slices, which is fabulous.  But these apples were not rigidly similar like storebought ones, and so the cores tended to be all over the place in relation to the prongs that were supposed to be centered on the core.  That meant we'd have a nice round core gone from the middle, but seeds wouldn't necessarily be gone with it.  That was a nuisance of knife work.  So I took off the core/slicing attachment, and just peeled them this way:
peeling apples, apple peeler

I had to quarter them and core them by knife, but it was easier to do that than to pick through a hollowed out center trying to find spots that needed carved out.

After I got them quartered and seeded, I was left with-- well, a lot:

So I started them off in two pots.  They quickly softened up and cooked down, so I combined them into one mushy batch:
cooking applesauce, making applesauce

...and cooked 'em down good.  I did throw some sugar into these-- they're pretty tart (wonderful for pies; not so much for sauce) and honey doesn't seem to complement them as well as sugar does.  We are talking some sugar though: 3/8 cup.  We don't like super sweet stuff anyway (in fact, we can our fruit in water) so I just wanted to add enough to bring out what sweetness the apples did have.  After I got them all boiled down, I ran them through the blender:

You can use a Foley mill (like this one) but it's a lot faster to use the blender.  I used an immersion blender the first time I made applesauce and it's a cool gadget that works for a lot of things, but it's just too small and there's too many big apple chunks.  Even after a few rounds of it I had chunks left.  So I used a blender.  Of course, this is up to taste-- we don't like chunks.  If you do, run your immersion blender around the pot a few times and you'll probably be in good shape.

I filled up a bunch of pint jars (we don't eat our sauce in large quantities) and slapped some lids and rings on them before putting them in the water bath.  The great thing about water bath canning is you really DON'T need a fancy pot for it...I just use my biggest stockpot and put a washcloth in the bottom to keep the jars from touching the direct heat.  Works like a charm.  Also, for those of you with flat top stoves (I'm one of them), normal water bath canners just don't work.  The surface of the stove is some variation of glass, and too much heat can crack it, so the stove has a setting to dial down the heat if it gets too hot.  A typical water bath canner is much wider than your largest burner, so it holds heat down onto a larger surface, and the ridges in the bottom of the pot seem to release heat instead of directing it straight to the water.  (This is entirely unscientific, but it was the best I could conclude from my experience.)  So.  A flat bottom pot that is no bigger than your large burner is a perfect solution-- the flat bottom distributes the heat to the water before it overheats the stovetop, and you're off and running.  

Trust me when I say this discovery made me a VERY happy girl, because the first time I ever tried canning was just after we'd bought a new oven...with a glass top.  I would have been slightly sick if I couldn't can on it, much as I enjoy the pasttime.

So here are the jars in the canner:  (I can fit 9 pints into my 21 quart stockpot which is the same as a "real" canner, if I remember right.)
canning applesauce

Then I put the lid on to help it heat up faster, turn it on medium high (high seems to exacerbate the issues with flat top stoves) and bring it to a boil.  When it hits boiling, I start the timer for 20 minutes, after which I remove the jars to a towel on the counter.  By the way, if you have a butcher block counter, don't mess around with heat like this.  Three or four layers of towel is your best option, unless you like to have cute little jar ring marks on your counter where the heat warped the wood.

And when you get through all the sauce, you have this!

I ended up with 40 pints of applesauce...that should last us a couple years.  :-)  I might have to give some of it to Kara for Junior to 'nom on when he starts down that road...

Oh yes, the apple peels.  When I made apple pie filling the other day, I dumped the peels in a jar and poured water over them to sit for a month (according to directions) and hopefully have apple cider vinegar.  But I had two descriptions of how to make the stuff, so I decided with the applesauce peels we'd try the second method.  So I saved all the peels and cores and dumped them in the big stockpot:

Then I covered them with water and let them simmer for 40 minutes.  This is supposed to make apple juice, basically.  The next directions are to strain the whole mess through a jelly bag, then through a linen bag.  Well, I don't know about you, but I don't keep stuff like that around.  I had a strainer (big mesh) and cotton dish towels (very small mesh).  That was going to have to do.

And so it did.  There wasn't much sediment to strain out, but all the chunks came out and all the juice went into the crock (I think I had about 3 gallons, and this is an 8 gallon crock...):
making apple cider vinegar
And then I was done!  I put two cotton dish towels over it to keep out dust and bugs, and now I let it sit for 4 months before checking it for strength.  NOW the apple remnants go to the compost.  :-D

Update, 10/26/13: This was an epic failure-- it molded!  I followed directions in my book, but a friend's entirely different book says the juice has to be turned into hard cider first.  Ya win some, ya lose some.


  1. I have a big crock waiting for a project. I may just have to try some vinegar!

    1. Ooh, fun! Nothing like being an old school nerd. :-D

  2. How come this way of making vinegar takes four months, and the other only a month? Or did I read it wrong?

    1. You didn't read it wrong-- I don't know why. Maybe having the fruit in it makes it ferment more quickly? I'm actually kind of expecting the one month jar to take a lot longer than a month, but who knows. The juice in the crock in the basement is definitely starting to work!