A blog about gardening, canning, quilting, family, saving money, and product reviews

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Canning Applesauce: Safely: Step-by-step

I have had a lot of friends asking me to teach them how to can. Unfortunately most of my friends live nowhere close to me. So, if I can't go there to help them...how can I teach them? Well, here is your first lesson! The following guide/tutorial will guarantee a safe/delicious product.

Have fun!

We picked apples last night so that I could do this tutorial today. The new apple picker that we happened to find at our local Menards was fantastic!

So, we need to gather some supplies to get started. Of course we need the apples, sugar if desired, and cinnamon or other spices if desired. You will also need to the following:

From left to right (above): Canning pot and rack, funnel and ladle, bowl that's either plastic or non-reactive metal (stainless steel), non-reactive cooking pot (stainless steel) and some way to peel the apples.

Don't have a canning pot? Well, any pot that is tall enough to hold your jars and have them underwater with at least 1-2" above the lids of the jars will work (I've used tamale pots too). And if you don't have a rack, you can fashion some way for the jars to be up off the bottom and allow water to circulate. This is critical. If the water cannot circulate, not all surfaces of the jar will be heated the same and it could lead to unsafe product. A quick fix would be to twisty tie some jar rings (the metal ring that holds the lid on during the canning process) together and set them on the bottom of the pot. A funnel is not a necessity, but it sure helps. And if you don't have a ladle, you can use a spoon or a measuring cup to fill the jars. The cooking pot must be non-reactive metal (stainless steel) or some sort of lined pot (do not use aluminum, the acid in the apples can react with reactive metals and cause a metallic taste to the food). You need a way to peel the apples, and cut them and remove the seeds. I use my trusty peeler/corer/slicer.

Tongs, jar removers, a non-reactive spoon, lids, rings, jars, and I like to have my Ball Blue Book for reference, because you KNOW the recipes in here are safe, and you KNOW the canning times in here are safe because they are all tested by professionals. You cannot always trust the recipes and processing times you find on the internet because anybody and everybody (like me) can post on the internet, but it doesn't mean it's safe. We will be using the processing times in this book today to verify that our first batch of home canned food is safe!

The first thing I did was fill my canning pot enough that it will be able to submerse the jars. I have that set on the stove heating up (just above medium heat) so that it is boiling when we are ready.

I have opted to use fruit fresh to prevent my applesauce from darkening, this is used as a pretreatment only, I will not be adding it to my final product. The directions on the label say 3T to 8 cups of water, so this is what I'm preparing now.

Now it's time to peel the apples, cut into wedges/chunks/rings, and remove the seeds. I set each apple as it's finished into the pretreatment solution.

All the apples are peeled and cored. I have added them (but not the pretreatment solution) into my non-reactive pot and added 1-2" of water. The water will boil away, and is only used to keep the apples from sticking/burning on the bottom of the pan as they cook down.

While I'm waiting for the apples to cook down, I have put my lids in a bowl that can take some heat. They are sitting by my canning pot, waiting for me to prep them. Woohoo.

At this same time, my canner is heating up, and I have added the empty jars (no lids or rings) to the pot, completely submersed. Please do not skip this step, you will kick yourself for it. The purpose of boiling the jars is not to sterilize them, it is to bring the glass up to the same temperature as the canner (and the contents that will soon be in the jars). If you do not do this, you will experience a higher rate of jar breakage...and you may cry!

When the apples are mushing and thoroughly cooked, give them a bit of help turning into applesauce. I opted to use a potato masher today so that I can get a nice and chunky applesauce. You can also use a stick blender to make it very smooth, or if you have one, you can use a food mill or chinois. I wanted super chunky today, I grabbed the masher. Be careful as you start mashing, the applesauce will be thick, and will start to belch burp up at you, and it's super hot.

My applesauce is nice and mashed, I have now added some sugar (this is optional, but these are very tart pie apples and will make you pucker your lips uncontrollably). Now, you can use honey, or pure maple syrup (not the fake stuff), or brown sugar, or even corn syrup (ick). Do not be shy, we just peeled tons of apples, and it's going to take a good amount of sugar for this batch. Taste regularly to make sure you get it to where you want it. Add some cinnamon...I ran out of cinnamon and added pumpkin pie spice. Yum. Taste. When it's just right, we are done. Make sure the sugar is dissolved and everything is mixed well, we are ready to move on.

At this point, remove your empty jars from the canner and put them on either a rack, or a towel, or a blanket on the counter. This is crucial, this will prevent you from harming your counters, and prevent jar loss from touching a cool counter. When I have removed the jars, I ladle some of the boiling water out into the bowl with the lids, so that the sealing compound will warm up and ensure a better seal. This also sterilizes them (not that it matters, canning will sterilize the lids and jars anyways). Fill the jars to...

...a half inch from the top of the jar. Remove any air bubbles in the jar by sticking the back end of plastic/wooden/or non-reactive spoon into the jar and moving it up and down inside the jar.

Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp (don't do sopping wet, we don't want the water from the towel getting in the jars) cloth. This ensures there is no food or other debris keeping your lids from sealing properly.

Remove the lids from the bowl of hot water, and place them on the jar.

Put the rings on "finger tight." I hate that phrase. Every canner will tell you a different way to test if it is too loose or too tight. All I can say is don't crank on it. Turn it until the jar turns with it. Then grab the jar and tighten just a bit more.

Put the rack in the canner if it is not already there. Now it's time to put the jars in the canner. You want to make sure to leave a tiny bit of space between the jars, and not to lean them up against the edge either. This is, again, to make sure there is good water flow.

Return the lid to the canner and wait for it to start boiling again. You will know it's boiling good when steam starts shooting out from under the lid. Do not start the timer before it's boiling again. So, the Ball Blue Book tells us that pints and quarts should be placed in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. But this is a sea-level time. So, let's flip to the beginning of the book.

At the beginning of the book, there is a chart that tells us how to adjust the time. This is to ensure that we are getting a final temperature at the center of jar of 212 degrees F. We are at 5000 feet, so we need to add 10 minutes. So, the total will be 30 minutes. Once the canner is boiling good again, set your timer for 30 minutes, do a happy dance, you are almost done. 

When the timer goes off, shut off the burner, remove the lid, and walk away for about ten minutes. Leave the jars put. Remember how I said applesauce likes to belch burp? The center of the jar has now reached it's boiling point...and this applesauce is super gassy. If you remove the jars now, the applesauce might start pushing up from underneath the lid and rolling down the outside of the jar. This is messy, may prevent the seal of the lid from sticking, and is downright sad. After ten minutes, carefully remove the jars and put them back on the towel/rack/blanket. Let them cool, just walk away and don't touch them, you're almost there. Do you hear the pings? You might not because the applesauce can wander to the top of the jar and dampen the sound. But you might! Each ping will make you giddy!

I'm eating some of my applesauce as I wait.

sometimes the finished product will appear separated, that's ok, just stir it back up when you open it

When the jars are completely cool, and I mean completely (like maybe you should just let them sit 'til tomorrow), go ahead and remove the rings and test the seals. I test by tapping them (they sound like a thud instead of a hollow sound if they are sealed) and then I try grabbing the lid and lifting about an inch off the counter top. If the jar falls...um...it wasn't sealed.

Please use a permanent marker or a sticker on the lid to mark the product name and the date it was created. Do not put the rings back on the jars, leave them off, you will need them for other canning projects. I will talk more about the dangers of leaving rings on processed foods in another post.

Pat yourself on the back, you have just canned for the first time!

I hope to make a post of the do's and don'ts of canning tomorrow, and why's and why nots...stay tuned

'til then


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