Monday 17 September 2018

How I Make Applesauce

I eat applesauce almost every single day.  I'm not even kidding.  I really do.  I love it.  Most of the time, applesauce is part of my breakfast but I also incorporate it into baked goods and use it as a sauce in which to braise pork chops or poultry. 

At an average of a cup a day - sometimes more - I go through a lot of applesauce in the course of a year.  I don't care for store bought applesauce and I can't afford to buy out-of-season fruit so, whether I love the process or not (and if I'm honest, I really don't), I need to can a lot of applesauce when the orchard-run apples hit the stores in fall. 

This year, I made 120 pounds of apples into applesauce; enough to get me through about 2/3 of the year.  I'd can more but I can't store more.  It'll have to do and, when I factor in the other fruit I canned this summer - peaches, plums, and pear butter - I probably won't have to buy fruit until next summer's peaches are in season.

Before I start telling you how I process my apples, I should tell you that several people have told me that what I make isn't really applesauce.  I cook it down a lot and they say that makes it apple butter, not applesauce.  For me it's a matter of a rose by any other name:  It's made of apples and I use it in the same way other people use applesauce, so that's what I call it.  If you prefer to call it apple butter, it's all good with me.  I'm not a member of the label police.  😉

I can process about 25 pounds of apples into applesauce each day.  I have two 15-quart stainless steel stock pots and that's how many apples they'll hold.  If you prefer to make smaller batches, this method will still work just fine.

Begin by putting about an inch of water in the bottom of your pot.  This will help to keep the apples from sticking to the bottom until they've cooked enough to release their own juice.  You want just enough water to serve that function,  The more water you add, the longer your sauce will have to cook down later.

Wash your apples, core them, and cut them in quarters.  There's no need to peel them.  Fill the pot as full as you can, put on the lid, and cook the apples over medium-low heat until they've softened and released their juice.  At this point, they will have cooked down to about half their original volume. The apples will be tender but the skins still mostly intact.  You'll need to puree them to break down the skins but it's worth the extra effort.  The skins add valuable dietary fibre and are nutrient-rich.  

Working in small quantities at a time, ladle the apples into a blender or food processor (I prefer a blender for this) and puree them until smooth.  Remember not to fill the carafe or bowl of your machine more than half full and to cover the lid with a kitchen towel.  Hot liquids expand while being pureed so put your hand on top of the kitchen towel and hold the lid firmly in place while your machine is running.

 As I puree the contents of the first pot of apples, I empty the puree from the blender into a large bowl.  When the pot is empty I wash and dry it, and transfer the puree from the bowl back into the pot.  As I puree the second pot full of apples, I add the puree to the contents of the first pot.  

When the apples are pureed, cook them on low heat - just above a simmer- with the lid off, stirring now and then to keep the sauce at the bottom of the pot from scorching.  Let the sauce cook for a long time: at least long enough to reduce in volume equivalent to the water you added at the beginning, and more if you prefer. The applesauce will have darkened in colour quite a bit by this time.  Don't worry, it's all good: it's just that the natural sugars in the apples have caramelized. 

I usually let my puree reduce in volume by about a quarter. When the sauce has reduced to the consistency you prefer, you're ready to can it.

The canning book I use says to ladle the hot applesauce into sterilized jars, cap the jars with prepared two-piece sealer lids, and then -if canning in pint jars - to process it in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (25 minutes for quart jars).  Your canning book may say something different.  Please check before you process your applesauce and follow the instructions in your reference book carefully.  Food safety is essential!

Because my applesauce is very thick, I process my jars for an extra 10 minutes.  I figure better safe than sorry, and applesauce has a consistency that isn't isn't going to be affected by the extra cooking time.  My canner holds 14 pint jars so I process two batches a day.  If there's a pint of two of applesauce left over at the end, I put it in the fridge and add it to the next day's batch.

Before I begin the next day's batch of applesauce, I check the seals on the previous day's jars and then remove the sealer lid rings, wash the jars in warm, soapy water, rinse them, towel them dry, label them, and move them into the pantry.  If there are any unsealed jars, I either store them in the fridge and use them within three or four days, or empty the jars into the next batch of applesauce and then process as usual.

So that's it.  It's really very simple, isn't it?  The key to applesauce is patience.  Let it cook low and slow, process it carefully, and enjoy your bounty through the winter months.

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