This summer I have been a bit like a squirrel saving as many summer foods as I can to last us through the winter. I have been filling our freezer with gallon bags of berries and nectarines for smoothies and baking. Now that the air is crisper I have been fixated on canning apple sauce.
When I was little my Mom made berry jams in the summer. I remember picking, slicing, and mashing fruit, and boiling everything; all the while being hot and sticky. I also remember insane amounts of sugar going into each batch. I wanted to try canning but I just can't in good conscience make a food with that much sugar for my family. It's not that I am anti-sugar as much as I am opposed to masking the natural flavors of food. All of this thinking led me to apple sauce.
A couple weeks back I received an invitation from my aunt and uncle to help myself to their tree's bumper crop. They have two beautiful trees. One tree is just bursting with rusty red apples and the second tree has fewer apples but they are big, golden and gorgeous.
I didn't want to be greedy, since they weren't home when we were picking, so I filled half a grocery bag between the two trees. While I was picking my son entertained himself with foraging for fallen fruit. He is generally happy to entertain himself with eating (think The Very Hungry Caterpillar). I try to make sure the food he has access to is wholesome so chomping through a bushel of apples is okay by me.
I'm not sure if I have picked apples in any quantity before but it was surprisingly quick. In no time at all we were back in the car and headed to the farm stand.
While I was researching canning methods for apple sauce I noticed many recommendations to use an array of apples varieties to achieve the best tasting sauce. I have driven by this farm stand many times but never checked it out. I was glad I stopped because it had beautiful produce at great prices. I picked out three more types of apples to round out my blend. I didn't weigh them but I am guessing when I had them all mixed together I probably had about thirty pounds of apples.
When I got home and dumped them all into a basket I was excited and a little overwhelmed by the volume of fruit. So I took some artsy pictures while I worked up the nerve to dig in.
If you have never made apple sauce before I encourage you to give it a try. It is simple and not particularly time consuming and can be done in any size batch you want. I have made just a small pot with three or four apples just to have with dinner.
There are varieties of apples that cook down better than others. I, however, generally use whatever type I have on hand. I do not recommend using tart apples. I have found tart apples do not cook down as nicely and need to be sweetened. For my canning project I used five varieties the two I picked plus Gala, Honey Crisp, and Golden Delicious. Admittedly it is a bit starchier than I would like. I think it may be from the Golden Delicious but I am not sure.
Here is how I make my apple sauce:
- Peel all the apples by hand
- Slice them in half and use a melon baller to remove the core
- Using a paring knife, trim the ends to remove any remaining peel or stems
- Quarter the apples
- Toss into large sauce pan or pot depending on the quantity you are making
- Add a cup or two of water
- Squirt with lemon juice, about 1 TB
- Top with 2 or 3 tablespoons of cinnamon
- Cover and cook over medium heat
- When it starts to bubble and boil, turn the heat down to medium low or low
- Stir occasionally and add water as needed to keep the sauce the consistency you would like.
I like a chunkier more substantial sauce to be more like a side dish or a snack so I just stir with a wooden spoon to break up the apple pieces. For a smoother texture mash with a potato masher, blend or put through a food mill. If you would like it to be sweeter, add a pinch of brown sugar or honey.
Taking the extra steps to can apple sauce was completely new territory for me. I don't want to give misinformation on proper canning technique so I recommend doing a little research. I found good information at a website called Simply Canning. True to form I fudged their instructions a bit. I don't have a canning pot, funnel or canning tongs so I put a stone trivet on the bottom of a large pot and used my standard tongs and a pot holder to move my jars around. Honestly it would have been better to use the proper equipment but I was impatient so I just went for it.
I was super excited when my jar lids sealed properly. My first batch yielded three quarts of apple-y goodness. The next batch was a bit bigger and I added some chopped ginger. I still have another batch worth of apples on my counter. If you have any suggestions for spices to add, post them in the comments. It would be fun to have several flavors in the pantry to get us through until next apple season.