home made applesauceorganic locally grown applesThanks to Matt over at www.wausaufood.com, I was the recipient of two heavy grocery bags of apples. These apples of an undermined variety where destined to become homemade applesauce. If you’ve ever done a tast test between commercial and homemade applesauce, you’d know that these apples would soon become something special.

Full story after the break

cut up apples cooking down to soften them upWhen tasting the difference between home made and commercial applesauce, you can instantly tell that the homemade stuff has a more complex, tarter, quality to it. Ingredients in the homemade stuff is really simple: Apples, sugar, and lemon juice. I go really light on the sugar, mostly using it as a flavor enhancer, rather than trying to cover up the tartness of the apples.

This current batch of apples were pretty sweet to begin with and I only needed one cup of sugar to sweeten the entire 24 quart batch. How much sugar do you think they put into the jar of sauce you get in the store. Lemon juice is the other crucial component to sauce. It’s necessary in the canning process to raise the acidity of the applesauce, preserving the color of the product and reducing the chances of bacterial contamination. That’s why ascorbic acid is a common ingredient in canned fruits and vegetables.

kitchenaid food mill attachement

Making applesauce in large quantities does require some specialized equipment, like a food mill and a water bath canner. If you are seriously thinking about canning, this investment will pay off in time saved and a better quality product. You can make sauce in small quantities by peeling and coring apples, cooking them slightly and saucing them in the food processor. This would suffice for a meal, but to do it in bulk, you need the big guns. That’s when I pull out my trusty Kitchenaid stand mixer.

The food mill attachment for the Kitchenaid works great to sauce apples, other fruits, and vegetables like tomatos. Our mill gets quite the workout in the late summer and fall making apple and tomato sauces. The hopper on the mixer is small, so you need to ladle carefully, but working as a team with my wife, we where able to continuously sauce two bushels of apples in about 90 minutes.

24 quarts of applesauceOnce sauced, the apple waste (seeds, skins, and stems) head to the compost bin and the sauce gets mixed together into my 24 quart stock pot for cooking. This last batch of apples sauced up really well; I was surprised at the yield I received. So much so, that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to cook it all at once. But working carefully, I was able to get the sauce up to temperature for canning.

We need to bring the temp up to a simmer so that the product can be placed into the cleaned and sanitized canning jars. Hot sauce is ladled in the quart jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of head space at the top. The rim is cleaned and a lid and ring are placed on top. The jars are placed in the canner and the water brought to a boil. Once boiling, the jars are lowered into the canner so that they are submerged and then processed for approximately 22 minutes.

The canner does two things, first it heats the product up over 212 degrees to kill any bacteria, and second it forces out the air in the jar, creating a vacumn. At the end of the canning process, the jars are removed and allowed to cool.  As they cool, the lids will ‘pop’ down, creating an airtight seal and making them shelf stable. It’s always satisfying to hear your jars popping as they slowly cool on the counter.

applesauce in the cannerCanning is a great way to extend the season and enjoy your favorite fruits and vegetables year round. Done properly, home canned foods will taste better, be more nutritious, and cost less than comparable foods in the grocery. Getting started is easy, first try some jams, jellies, and fruits, and work your way into vegetables. www.homecanning.com or your local county extension office are  great resources to get you started in the world of food preservation.

Are you a home canner? Feel free to leave a note in the comments section.