I have fond memories of “applesauce day” growing up. We’d bring home bushels of apples and spend the day cutting and cooking and straining the apples. In the end we had dozens and dozens of quarts of applesauce up on the pantry shelf. Now, we are lucky to live about 30 minutes away from Hendersonville, NC- the home of dozens and dozens of apple orchards! Most of those orchards are closing up shop for the season, but a few still have a lot of fruit on the trees or boxes of great-for-applesauce dropped or bruised fruits for quite a deal.
We stopped by one of these local orchards last weekend, and picked up a bushel of “seconds” for less than $10 and we picked 3 bushels off the trees. We just walked down the rows and rows of trees picking some of each type- Cameo, Mutsu, Fugi, Pink Lady, Jonagold and a couple more. That’s the key to a really good homemade applesauce- combining a lot of different types. Each variety of apple brings it’s own flavor, and they all combine to make one amazing sauce- with absolutely no sugar needed.
Making applesauce is actually pretty easy, especially if you have a food strainer. We have a Squeezo Strainer* that is over 30 years old, the same one my parents used on the homestead where I was born. It makes the process a breeze, and the kids love using it. Which means I can hand over that job to them, while I man the hot stove.
How to Make Homemade Applesauce
Once you’ve gathered your varieties, your first step is to wash them. My youngest 2 kids did this job since they weren’t quite as helpful in the cutting department. Each bushel of apples will give you somewhere around 12 quarts of sauce. So make sure you have enough jars, lids and bands clean and sterilized before you begin. I usually just fill the dishwasher with jars and run a short cycle just before we begin and they are ready to use by the time I need them.
This is also a good time to gather the rest of your supplies. You will need a large pot for cooking apples, knives and cutting boards, an assortment of bowls/pots for catching applesauce and waste as it comes out of the strainer, and a couple good spoons for stirring and scraping the sauce as it comes out. Don’t forget your canning supplies too!
Once your apples are clean it is time to start cutting! With a food strainer you don’t have to remove the skins or cores- just cut each apple in half and then quarter each half. If you’ve got older kids, they can definitely help with this part too. Don’t be shy about delegating the responsibilities and making it a family day! Throw the apple pieces in a large pot with about a quart of water, or apple cider, and cover and allow them to steam until they are soft. While they are cooking, set up your food strainer nearby. Growing up we did this in the garage, but now we set it up in the playroom, since I figured the chickens would be in the way if we did it outdoors!
Once the apples are soft, carefully transfer them to a large bowl using a slotted spoon. Pour the apples into the strainer’s spout and start cranking! Don’t forget to have a bowl in place before you pour in the apples! I loved this part as a kid, and mine did as well. One would crank, one would scrape and one would mash the apples down into the strainer! Keep the applesauce warm and repeat this process over and over until you have enough applesauce to fill the 7 jars that fit in your canner. Fill the jars with applesauce, leaving a 1/2 inch head space. Wipe the rims of the jars and top with prepared rings and bands (Do not over tighten the bands). Place them in your boiling-water-bath canner and process for 20 minutes, for quarts. Allow the jars to cool undisturbed and check for a proper seal once they are cool. For more in-depth information on canning see my post on How to Can Peaches. Keep repeating this process until you have processed all of your apples into amazing applesauce!
I think it is perfect made out of only apples, but feel free to stir in some cinnamon or throw in some berries for a strawberry, blueberry or blackberry applesauce blend. And definitely don’t forget to try some straight out of the strainer! Nothing quite compares to fresh, warm, homemade applesauce!
Have you ever made your own applesauce? If not, I hope you’ll try it and let me know how it goes!
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