Canning for beginners – applesauce

Dear new canner,

Here are a few truths that most experienced canners won’t share with you.  You need to know them so that you’re fully prepared for the task that you’re about to undertake.

Now, all the things I don’t know about canning could fill an ocean, but I have learned a few tricks along the way that may prove helpful to you.

If you have any questions, shoot me an email.

xoxo,
Sarah

Truth 1: Canning is hard, hard work.  You will be tired at the end of it.
Truth 2: You must wear tennis shoes while doing it.  Don’t do this barefoot or in flip flops.  Your back will thank you (and me) for taking this advice.
Truth 3:  The first, second, and heck even the third time you can, you’ll probably hate it.  I sure did.
Truth 4: Always follow guidelines from official sources like the book that comes with your canner.  This blog is not considered an official source. But I’ve yet to kill anyone, so there’s that.
Truth 5: In the end, it’s worth it.  I don’t like doing it while I’m canning, but I like the results.

Equipment needed (and some that is great to have)
The best equipment a first time canner can have is a friend who is an experienced canner who has all the stuff.  If you can’t find someone like that, you’ll need the following items.  You can buy them new online, or in most smaller hardware stores.  You can also find many of these items at Goodwill, garage, and estate sales.  If you have a grandparent or other older adult who used to can, but no longer does, they would be a goldmine of stuff.

  1. A canner (duh).  There are two main kinds of canners – a water bath canner and a pressure canner.  The water bath canner is great for fruits and high acid foods.  Basically, you’re just going to boil the hell out of whatever is in the jars.  A pressure canner is the only safe way to can most vegetables, meat, and soups.   If you’re new to canning and want to find out if you like it, you can use almost any huge pot with a lid.  I canned with a water bath canner for over 5 years, and it served me well.  I now use a pressure canner because the stove at our rental can’t accommodate a water bath canner, and I have reached the point where I was ready to start canning stocks and veggies.
  2. Something to keep the jars off of the bottom of the pan.  If you purchase your canner new, you can use the wire rack that comes in your kit, or try a DIY rack that works wonderfully.
  3. Jar lifter.  Cause you probably don’t feel like reaching in to boiling water to lift jars out…and might I recommend you use these properly, unlike me.  Word to the wise – the rubber part is the part that you put around the jars.  I can’t tell you how stupid I thought these things were when trying to lift jars by the part that rolls.  Doh.
  4. A “good to have” item is a jar funnel, and a lid lifter.  These are worth their weight in gold.  If you buy a kit new, make sure they come with these items; most do.
  5. If you can like me, you’ll need a ton of bowls, and towels. 
  6. Canning jars (duh).  You’ll want jars specifically for canning.  Do NOT use old spaghetti sauce or pickle jars from the grocery store.  These are not safe for canning.  Canning jars come in wide mouth or regular mouth.  I dislike regular mouth jars for anything other than applesauce or soups.  Wide mouth are more expensive though, as are their lids and rings.  If buying jars new, they’ll come with lids and rings.  If acquiring old jars, you’ll need to purchase lids and rings as well.
  7. Bell’s Blue Ball Book for Preserving - the canning bible.  I’d recommend checking this out from the library until you find out if you like canning.

The first time I canned, I did jam.  Jams are easy, but I won’t recommend it as your first project.  They require pectin, sugar, and are a bit more work than something simple like applesauce.  Applesauce – or applesquish in our house – is quite simple, and doesn’t require any special ingredients.

Step 1: Clean your jars, lids, and rings.  I’m a lazy canner, and put my jars in the dishwasher to clean and sanitize them.  Keep the door closed until ready to use them as it keeps them hot.

Step 2: You need to keep your lids and rings hot and sanitized.  I have enough going on with my stove while canning – I don’t need to take up a whole burner with a pot of lids.  I keep them in my small crockpot set to high with enough water to keep them covered.

Step 3:
Peel and core your apples, and cut in to chunks.  Put in hot water until the apples are easy to pierce with a knife.  Usually less than 5 minutes.

Step 4:
Mush your apples.  You can peel, core, and mush by hand, but if I had to, I wouldn’t can applesauce.  It’s too time consuming.  I received a foodmill for Christmas years ago, and it works fantastic!

It removes the peels, seeds, and sauces the apples all in one step.  You put the apples in top

and sauce comes out 1 side

and the peels and seeds come out the other side.

If the sauce is a little watery, I put my metal sieve over a bowl.  Dump the sauce in the sieve and the extra liquid drips down in to the bowl.  If you have enough of this, you can make a few jars of apple juice!

I keep my applesauce in my big 7 quart crockpot set to high so that it stays hot until I have enough to fill a full batch a jars.

Step 5:
Fill your jars.  I use the jar funnel so that the sauce gets in the jars and not ON the jars.  Fill the jars and leave 1/2 inch of headspace.  Headspace is a canning term that determines how much space is left between the top of the food and the top of the jar.

Step 6:
Use a clean rag, and wipe off any sauce that got on the rim of the jars.  Food on the rim can prevent the lid from becoming fully sealed which can lead to spoilage.

Step 7:
Use your lid lifter and put a clean and hot lid on the jar.  Then put the ring on, and tighten.

Step 8:
Put jars in to the canner.

If using a water bath canner, you’ll want to fill it about 2/3 full of water and start the boiling process around step 3.  When it reaches a boil, you’d put the jars in the rack and lower slowly in to the water.  Put the lid on and process pints and quarts for 20 minutes.  Then you’d lift the jars out and put on a towel to cool.

Since I now use a pressure canner, my process is a little different.  The pressure canner scared the poop out of me, but I’ve only used it twice now, and feel very comfortable with its safety.

For a pressure canner, put the jars on top of the little jar shelf, and pour 3 quarts of boiling water in the canner.  Add 2 tblsp of white vinegar to prevent a white coating from covering your jars.  Put the lid on, and turn your burner on to medium high or high.  Once you see steam coming out of the little steam chimney (NOT the official name…), set your timer for 10 minutes.

Once the 10 minutes is up, put the cap on the steam chimney (again, not the real names) and watch the gauge until it hits 6 pounds of pressure (below 2,000 square feet).  A tip is to turn your heat down when the gauge starts climbing, and then watch the gauge until it maintains the 6 pounds of pressure.  When it hits 6 pounds of pressure, set your timer for 10 minutes.  The canner is now “officially” processing your applesauce.

After 10 minutes, use your Hulk muscles and lift the canner off of the burner to cool down.  Your canner is fully depressurized when this thing

drops down and looks like this

When that thingy is down, remove the cap on the steam chimney and wait 10 minutes before opening the lid.  Remove jars with the lid lifter and set to cool on a towel.

Whether you’re using a pressure canner, or a water bath canner, you’ll soon start hearing “pops” after removing the jars from the canner.  The popping is your way to know that the lids are sealed and the food is safe.  Unsealed lid

and after the pop

See how the center of this lid is concave?

Allow the jars to fully cool before storing.  I usually leave mine sitting out overnight.

Step 9:
Clean up.  My least favorite step.  Sigh.

Step 10:
Enjoying the effort.  My absolute favorite step.

Questions?  Shoot me an email by using the contact me button on the upper right side of the column.  Or leave a comment and I’ll respond as soon as I can.  Ha ha, get it?  As soon as I can.

I’ve shared this over at Monday Mania, Traditional Tuesdays, What is on your plate Wednesdays, Real Food WednesdaysSimple Lives Thursdays, Pennywise Platter Thursdays, It’s a Keeper Thursdays, and Fight Back Fridays.

Yo yo, head’s up, this post might contain affiliate links which help to support my site. And my canning, seed buying, and aggressive saving habits.

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Comments

  1. says

    AAU – the other day Troy said “I’m glad you have a hobby like canning”. I wanted to say “it’s not a hobby. I HATE canning, I just like eating”.

    Conne – ha! Next Monday you’ll be able to “serve” my homemade mac and cheese cause I’m making some this weekend.

  2. says

    I totally agree with you! I’m pretty sure I have shed a few tears in the kitchen while dealing with tomatoes. Ugh….I hate working with them! But I sure don’t have any tears when we are eating sauce all year and I don’t have to pay for it. It is a love/hate relationship for me.

  3. says

    You actually don’t need to sterilize rings. I think when we learned that we cut the expletive content of our canning sessions by about 90%, not to mention the burned fingers! xD You can just leave them sitting off to the side until you have the heated lids in place.

    The shoe Truth is very important for reasons other than your back, too…it helps prevent some really nasty burns. I mean, if you’re making jam, you’re basically whipping up a batch of sugar lava, and even if you aren’t, if you’re as clumsy as I am, you will find exciting new ways to splash yourself with boiling water with every new batch you process. My other burn-related canning truth is that if you are short and buxom, you should always put your canner on the front burner. I will leave to your imagination what happens when such a person is cooking on the front burner and canning on the back one, and is dumb enough to lean over to put the jars in the canner.

    I’m curious where the six pounds of pressure thing comes from — we, too, use our pressure canner to process low-acid foods from time to time when we don’t want to drag out the water bath canner, but we just treat it as if it were any other large stock pot, with the water over the jar tops, and timed from when it hits a rolling boil.

  4. says

    Mary, you’re alway on my list of receiving free canned goods! But, first, move to WA.

    Angela, really on the rings? I’ve always sanitized them. Awesome, 1 less thing to do!!

    Also, thanks for the perspective on the buxom issue. As you can see by my blog header, I’m built like a 12 year old boy; boobs in jam is not something I have to worry about. Ha!!

    The 6 lbs of pressure is from the Presto pressure canner booklet. You can use the canner as a water bath canner, but if you’re using it as a pressure canner, you go by lbs of pressure.

  5. says

    Applesauce plops and sputters and burns! I love the taste but need to remember to wear long sleeves when canning because I burnt myself today like 5 times. Would I do it again – you betcha!!

  6. says

    Christy, try the crockpot trick – I didn’t get a single sauce splatter on me this time! Since you’re opening the lid and constantly adding to the pot, it stays hot, but not bubbling hot.

  7. says

    Great tips! One fun tip from canning applesauce w/my mom: You can melt red-hot candies in the hot apples. Gives a nice cinnamon flavor, doesn’t add too much sugar AND you get PINK applesauce!!

  8. says

    Wow, thanks for the great tips. I especially like the one on the crock pot. Maybe there is hope for me, last time I canned (about 6 weeks ago) I thought why do I do this??! But then I do like the by product. I will keep pressing on, or is that canning on?

  9. says

    Thank you so much for this!! I just got myself a pressure cooker and have been wanting to use it, but hesitant to rush into it. Your article made me realize that I need to get some more tools; that it isn’t rocket science, but requires attention to detail; and that perhaps I will wait for the apples to come in. So how long do you leave applesauce in a crockpot while you are waiting to have enough?

  10. Anonymous says

    Just a couple of comments. I run my skins through 2-3 times in my Victorio. You get a lot of the skin pulp out and more the that thick goop which makes the applesauce thicker. I then put my sauce mixture back on the stove and add sugar and cinnamon to taste before jarring. When it starts to boil (blop…blop) it’s ready. Be careful it spits when it ‘blops’ and it’s hot.

    I use a steam canner, and I sterilize my jars in the oven @250 degrees. Saves space and water. Works just fine for me. Also, if you have the older blue jars (with good seal edges), the applesauce will last considerably longer on the shelf before losing color or flavor.

    Great blog keep up the good work.

  11. Anonymous says

    I bought a pressure canner and a water bath, I plan to make applesauce and can in the water bath but I will have to do it the hard way by cooking on the stove first because I don’t want to invest anymore money so what is a easy way to cook it? I plan to put up tuna in the pressure canner but I’m scared to pieces to use it, I don’t know anyone who can help, got any ideas? Thanks,

    • says

      Do you have a crockpot? I’d peel, core, and chop the apples and let them get mushy in the crockpot. You can blend it or just stir it until it’s to your desired texture.

      As far as the tuna, I’ve got nothing for that. Read, read, and re-read the book that came with your pressure canner and don’t divert a second from the directions!

    • says

      I bought the pressure canner that I have because it was supposed to be ok for glasstop stoves. I haven’t had an issue using it for pressure canning or boiling water baths.

  12. says

    Where can I find a pressure canner that I don’t have to pay with life and limb. We are on a very small budget that’s why I want to do this canning thing but I’m not sure we have 150+ to spend in a canner

    • says

      So, you only need a pressure canner to can low acid foods, and things containing meats. For applesauce, you simply need a huge stock pot.

      If you DO want a pressure canner, the one I have linked below is on Amazon for only $75. If you don’t want to put out that kind of coin, check craigslist or freecycle or garage sales. Buy a new seal for it and get the gauge checked out at the local extension office to make sure it is still pressurizing at the appropriate level.

      If you have older relatives who used to can, I bet they’d love to hand off their pressure canner to the next generation. Same with people who might attend your church (if you go), or other organizations you might belong to.

    • Brenda says

      Last week went to an auction got 1 for 5$ and got another at a yardsale for 5$. They’re out there, keep your eyes peeled. Good luck.

  13. Sharon Rice says

    I was hoping you could tell me if I could use a crock pot to do the steam bath. I don’t seem to have a pot deep enough to put a pint size jar into once filled to a) just cover, or b) put the lid down in order to steam . For now, I can do a quick pickle pint, or the short 1/2 pint jam in the just over the top.

  14. Jill Guevara says

    Thank you for all the great suggestions. You are hilarious by the way! Canned for the first time today (wish I would have read this first!). My only question is, how long can I store the applesauce?

    • says

      It never lasts long enough around here for long term storage to be an issue!

      That will/might change this year as i am in the starting process of processing a bin of apples. (Thats 20 bushels)
      Some as sauce, pie filling, canned apples, apple butter and cider.
      I will be doing it in a pressure canner (holds 19 or 20 quarts) and a water bath (holds 15 quarts) just to be faster. Going to be tight on the stove top!

      Should last somewhat longer this year!

  15. Michelle says

    I have a canning question hopefully someone can help me with. About a week ago, I canned some apple pie filling (mmmm) and last night I heard a pop in the basement. I went and checked it and one of the lids had popped off! About a day after I canned them, i did the test where I pushed on the lid and they all were firm. Then a few days later I did the test where you lift the jars by the flat part and make sure it is sealed and they all did that. So, why now did that one unseal? I put it in the fridge hoping that I can still use it. The basement is probably in the 50’s and they were only down there a few days. Is it okay to use or should I toss it? Thank you so much in advance!! :)

    • says

      I’ve never had a lid pop off that long after canning, but every time I’ve had a lid not seal, it is because of one of two reasons:

      1) I didn’t let the lids sit in the hot water long enough to loosen the red seal. The lids need at least 10 minutes in boiling water to soften enough to provide the seal.

      2) I didn’t do a solid enough job of cleaning the rims of the jars with a really hot wet rag before placing the lid on it.

      If it’s only been a few days and you heard the prop, I’d probably still eat it, but that is me. If I went down there to grab it and found the lid wasn’t sealed, I’d toss it. The fact that it was sealed until you heard that pop makes me feel fine about eating it. But again, that’s just me!

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