I can actually say that canning has been a part of my family for years. When we were married in 2007, our first home was a tiny rental with carpet on every square inch. One might say that canning in such a context was far from ideal, but oh contraire! Our little home was also next to a giant garden.
We were determined to save money by canning homegrown produce even with a small, carpeted kitchen. Word got out that we were interested in food preservation and suddenly help arrived from all corners. The first piece of advice? Buy the Ball Blue Book. The second piece of advice? Ask every old lady I knew if they have any extra canning jars. The rest of this story is history. Our first year, we canned salsa, tomatoes and grape juice. We began to see the blessing. As the years went on, we caned more and more and I was able to take this really colorful photo showcasing the fruits of our labor.
From left to right: pears, apple butter, applesauce, grace juice, green beans, jalapenos, banana peppers, salsa, tomato juice, whole tomatoes and beets
Today, with two small children and a much smaller garden in our new home, we are able to preserve almost everything we did before. Applesauce has taken first place because both of our girls LOVE homemade applesauce. It’s healthy, easy to prepare and the taste is not even comparable to store-bought. Last week, my sister-in-law drove up to NW Ohio to learn how to make and can applesauce. Many laughs and quarts later, she was hooked. How did we do it on a budget, you ask? First, you have to get in the car…
Very few of us have an apple tree in our back yard. Canning applesauce may require you to outsource your apples, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Visit your local apple orchard starting in mid-September and buy “seconds.” These may have a few bumps or bruises on them, but it doesn’t matter when you are going to turn them into sauce. A bag of seconds cost me $8 and it will make about 7 quarts or 14 pints.
The key to great sauce is to use two different varieties of apples. Everybody has their favorite combo. I enjoy the taste of tart Macintosh with sweeter Jonagold, so I bought each kind. Keep in mind that not every apple makes a good sauce! The folks at the orchard should have information for you as to the best purpose for each variety.
Now, let’s get started! Come on in to my kitchen!
There are several ways to make applesauce, but I’m going to give you a quick overview of my favorite method. First step: Rinse the apples and quarter them; skin on and with seeds.
Throw them all into a giant pot and pour about 2 cups of apple cider into the bottom to prevent the apples from sticking. I like to have two pots going at once – double the work, baby!
Cook the apples down on medium heat until they are nice and soft, stirring every 5 – 10 minutes. This will take about 30 minutes. Make sure you are using a metal pot that conducts heat evenly. Flimsy pots can burn the apples and you could end up with sauce that tastes like it was made next to a campfire – been there, done that!
Next, pour your soft apples into a food mill. There are lots of them out there, but my favorite is the Roma Food Mill. It will cost you around $50, plus attachments. Might seem like a hefty price tag, but we have been using ours for nearly 7 years for literally hundreds of canned goods and it’s still going strong. How does it work? You pour the hot, soft apples in the top funnel and crank the handle. The work is done for you! Skins and seeds come out one exit and fresh sauce from the other. We often run our “waste” through the funnel a second time and squeeze out even more sauce. In less than 5 minutes, an entire pot of cooked apples is transformed.
Cranking the handle is a great step for kids! Here is our eldest daughter with her Auntie 🙂
Since you are using different apple varieties, you want to incorporate them well. Before canning, pour all of your sauce into one giant pot and stir. There is no need to add sugar! I don’t even add cinnamon to mine because it can always be added AFTER it is served and applesauce in its purest form is best in baking.
I’m not going to go into detail about how exactly to can. You are going to buy that Ball Blue Book, right? But in a nut shell, re-heat batches of the sauce into a smaller pot until simmering. Then, pour the sauce into clean jars, add sterilized lids/rings and load them into your hot water canner for 20 minutes.
In less than 6 hours (with a lunch break and 3 girls under the age of four), we made 21 quarts and five freezer boxes of applesauce. I estimate that with the total cost of the apples, cider, and energy output, each quart cost approximately $1.50.
Believe me, it’s really not about the cost savings as much as it is about the taste. Words cannot explain. You will just have to go make your own… and guess what? It’s the perfect time of year.