How to Make and Can Applesauce and Apple Butter: Step by Step First (or Ninetieth) Canning Project

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How to Make and Can Applesauce

Applesauce is one of the easiest things to can and is a great first canning project. Even if you've been canning for a while it's nice to have an easy project. Since I follow a plant-based diet I use applesauce to bake with and sometimes just eat right out of the jar. My boys eat it by the jar full, and apple butter is great on toast, a sandwich or even pancakes.

90lbs of Apples: Part 1

Here's How I Make Applesauce Step by Step:

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Start with some good apples. I used 90lbs of Gala apples. I did not use windfall apples. I dehydrated some of the 90lbs (a post on that is coming soon). I filled up my nine tray Excalibur dehydrator twice. I used the remaining apples but didn't weigh them after the dehydrator apples were taken out.

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Quarter your apples and place them in a large pot. I just use my water bath canning pot. I don't bother to core or peel them because I will use a strainer for that later.

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 Fill the pot with water until it covers the apples. Boil until apples are soft.

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 Drain the water.

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 Let cool.

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Set up your strainer. This Victorio works very well. This is a totally manual system, the only power involved here is elbow grease. You can find it on Amazon here.

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 Here is a another picture of the set up with bowls ready to catch the apple cores and applesauce.

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 Place the apples in the hopper and crank the handle pushing the apples down as you go.

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 Here you can see the apple cores and skin starting to come out.

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 Here you can see the applesauce starting to come out as well.

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 Keep cranking and pushing the apples down.

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I usually don't make and can the applesauce in one day. I make the applesauce and then can the next day. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of friends that can, so it's just me. (I have heard wonderful stories of canning parties and multi-generational canning sessions, so if you're lucky enough to be part of one, enjoy it and learn all you "can!") Since I have to use a lot of my burners on my stove I'm usually working in the evening after dinner is over. (Nothing worse than having to stop to cook dinner.)

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 Here is my water bath canner. It only has 3 parts: the pot, a lid and a rack.

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Place the rack in the bottom and fill the pot with water. Not to the top but about 3/4 full (you want to leave room for the jar as they will displace some of your water). Place the pot on your largest burner and bring the water up to a boil and let it simmer while you prepare your jars.

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 Wash all your canning jars.

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 Wash the rings.

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Wash the lids.

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Place all your canning jars on a cookie sheet and place in the oven.

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I let them heat up to 350 degrees to sterilize them for ten minutes then turn the oven to 200 degrees to keep them warm. You want hot applesauce and hot jars to go into your water bath canner. If you let either cool down too much you could end up with broken jars.

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Place all you lids and rings in a small pot and simmer until you're ready to use them. This is to loosen the seal so you will have a good seal between the lid and the jar.

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Heat the applesauce up. If it's cold this will take awhile. For this batch it took longer for my applesauce to heat than it did the canner to come to a boil. I brought the applesauce to a full boil for several minutes.

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Since I did not use windfall apples I didn't feel like I really needed to add lemon juice or citric acid. I have done some research on this and the Ball Canning Book (Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving) only added the lemon juice to their recipe recently. From what I understand it's because some newer breeds of apples don't have as much acid as older varieties. Really I believe they added the lemon juice because many people use windfall apples for applesauce and since they already have more bacteria in them Ball wanted to be sure and cover themselves. I don't like applesauce with sugar and when I add lemon juice I feel like I have to add sugar to counter act the sour taste. In the end, I decided to go ahead and add 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid per quart so that the applesauce would not discolor. Although it would be fine to eat, I have kids that might not find discolored applesauce appetizing. I did not add sugar.

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 When the applesauce is ready take your jars out of the oven.

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 Spoon in the applesauce.

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Remove the air bubbles from the jars. Although it seems I can never get them all out, this handy tool helps.

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For applesauce you need to leave 1/2 inch headspace. The other end of the air bubble remover helps measure. Headspace is the distance between the jar and the lid.

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 Wipe off the rims of the jars so the you can get a good seal.

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Remove the rings from the pot. This tool has a magnet on the end and makes it easier to grab the rings and the lids.

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 Remove the lids.

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 Place them on the jars.

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Place the rings on the jars and tighten "finger tight." Finger tight means not too tight and not too loose. Just tighten them as far as they will go without forcing them.

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 Place the jars in the canner.

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 Here I have seven quart jars in my water bath canner.

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Bring the water to a boil and start the timer. Applesauce should be processed (boiled) for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. You can find adjustments for altitude here. To look up your altitude go here. Turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for about 5 minutes.

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 Then remove the jars from the canner. The jars will be hot!

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Let your jars sit and cool for at least eight hours. Remove the rings. If the rings stay on and the lid fails (becomes unsealed) and the ring is still on, the lid may reseal itself. However, bacteria has already invaded the jar and the food should not be eaten, with the ring left on there is no way you will know about the resealing. If the rings are off the lid has no pressure to reseal itself so if the lid seal fails then you'll know and you can throw that jar out. Label and put away.

To Make Apple Butter:

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I used the same batch of applesauce to make my apple butter. Some people like their apple butter cooked down much more than I let mine cook. Also for sweeter apple butter you can boil your apples in apple cider. Since I was doing a batch of applesauce and apple butter together I just used the same sauce. To make the apple butter add 1/4 cup sugar for every 8 ounces you'll be canning. So 1/2 cup for each pint and 1 cup for each quart. I don't usually measure my total amount of applesauce or apple butter. Every canning book I've ever read that gives the amount of fruit in pounds has never really been accurate. I just guess and prepare one or two more jars than I think I will need. What doesn't fit into the jars gets put into the fridge for my boys to eat the next day. You will also need 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon per 8 ounces canned and a dash of cloves. If you are going to can a large amount, it's 1/4 teaspoon of cloves per quart. Otherwise, just put a dash of cloves for every 8 ounces you will be canning. Add the sugar, cinnamon and cloves to the applesauce. Cook down to desired thickness.

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 Spoon in the apple butter just like the apple sauce. Don't forget to wipe the rims of the jars.

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 For apple butter leave 1/4 inch head space.

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Here is a neat trick to keep the lids from sticking together. Place them in the pot inside the rings. No more stuck together lids! Process the apple butter in boiling water for 10 minutes adjusting for altitude. (As mentioned earlier: you can find adjustments for altitude here and to look up your altitude go here.)

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Don't forget to label and date your jars. Your jars should be good for at least a year and probably a lot longer (disclaimer: I am not an expert, always follow the directions to your canner and have a recipe to refer to). Keep in a cool, dry and dark place.

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How to Make and Can Applesauce

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  1. Vlera says

    to leave core/seeds/and skin on apple. Would it possibly be the seeds (i.e., peitcn?) that would have caused it to solidify instead of remaining like apple sauce/butter? I also used apple cider vinegar. Thank you -

  2. Patti says

    Looks great! The only thing I do differently is that I cook my apples with only a tiny bit of added water to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan at the beginning before some of the juices have come out of the apples. I cook until the apples are done and then strain the juices off the apples and use it to make apple jelly. It tastes wonderful!

  3. says

    Hi! You say to take off the rings after canning to make sure that the seals are good. Do you do that after the 8 hour cool time, or before? This is my first time ;P Thanks!

    • Jennifer says

      Take them off after everything has cooled. Actually, I try not to touch the jars for at least 8 hours, 24 hours is better just to make sure everything is cooled down.

  4. Jessica says

    Is acid necessary for safe canning of apple butter?

    I have a batch reducing in my crock pot right now-- just apples, a little sugar, and spices-- and I was planning to just process it in a boiling water bath. But after perusing the internet I am completely freaked out about botulism. :-/


    • Jennifer says

      The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving does not call for an acid in their apple butter recipe. I put a little citric acid in my applesauce so the color will not darken, and in this post I made the apple butter with the applesauce. Of course it's up to you to follow safe canning practices and make your own decisions concerning the safety of your family (I have to say all that........:)

  5. Ann Conger says

    Great tutorial on Applesauce and Apple butter. I loved the detailed photos. I am re-posting this to my facebook so others can enjoy your post, too.

  6. helen says

    I throw all my cored and peeled apples in the crock pot let it cook overnight with about an inch of water added, I mash it in the morning with my potato masher add spices and sugar let lid breathe while cooking the water out then can it If you like smooth sauce or butter use a mixer and mix it smooth.

  7. Sandy says

    Brings back lovely memories of home! My mom does this every year. The only thing I remember her doing was putting in some of those little cinnamon candies (dots), whatever you call them thingies and they would melt as you heated the applesauce. It took the place of the cinnamon I believe. I think the main reason was to get the color more red. Nowadays, they talk about all the horror stories of using that red #40. Not so good for you. I don't know if these candies have that, but if they do, I would probably just use your recipe exactly as you have it. Lovely tutorial. Keep up the good work. Canning is hard work, let alone photographing it and writing about it...smiles. Blessings!

  8. TexasDeana says

    I am very impressed (and grateful) for your tutorials on canning. I love the way you show each step. You are doing a great job. Keep it up.

  9. Liz says

    Hi, I love the tutorial and the great pictures. Thank you for doing this.

    I do have one question. You said, "Here is a neat trick to keep the lids from sticking together. Place them in the pot inside the rims." Do you mean to place the lids in the pot inside the RINGS (not rims)? At least that's what appears to be in the picture...


  10. Susan Kaps says

    Very nice! Love that strainer and wish I had one. I've been using a corer, peeler, slicer for the last 20 years. After cooking the apple slices down until soft, I get out the potato masher. It takes longer, a lot longer, but I do like the chunkier version that results, and I get my cardio in at the same time. 😀 Like you, I am solo in the kitchen, but I really love the results and nobody has to complain about my singing.
    Have a wonderful day and keep all these useful lessons coming.

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