There are very few amenities here in rural Indiana—and that’s part of what we like about it—but we are very fortunate to have an incredible apple orchard about 10 minutes from our front door. Every fall, you’ll find us in the orchards picking bushels and bushels of our favorite apple varieties.
Apples are one of the very best fruits around for preserving. You can store apples for months long-term and still have crisp, juicy fruit to eat in the depths of winter. You can make delicious apple jelly. You can turn apples into apple pie filling to make pies a breeze to make. And of course, there is my favorite way to preserve apples—applesauce! Canning applesauce is a breeze to do (it’s a great canning project for beginners), and the resulting canned homemade applesauce is great for side dishes, desserts, baking recipes, smoothies, and more. Let’s show you how to can applesauce at home!
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First up, are applesauce and apple puree the same thing?
Sometimes you might see a recipe that calls for “apple puree,” but rest assured, that’s basically the same thing as applesauce, and you can use them interchangeably. The only difference is that apple puree is always pureed completely smooth and free of added sugar or flavors, whereas applesauce can have a variety of textures, added sugar, and added flavors (like cinnamon).
What are the best apples for applesauce?
I’m a big believer that the best apples for applesauce are the ones you have on hand and readily available! But if you are headed out to an apple orchard to do some picking, to get the best flavor, you are going to want a combination of different kinds of apples. We recommend doing a ratio of about 2/3 sweet apples to 1/3 tart apples.
If you are just going to pick one apple for applesauce, Golden Delicious is a favorite! It has a balance of sweet and tart, and the flesh cooks down evenly. Many orchards even sell “utility” (AKA: ugly) Golden Delicious apples on the cheap for just this purpose.
Does applesauce need to be pressure canned?
Applesauce is safe to can in a waterbath canner with proper acidification. Different varieties of apples have different pH levels (some of which are not safe for waterbath canning and some that are), so to be on the safe side, we recommend adding lemon juice to every batch of applesauce.
Adding lemon juice not only makes applesauce safe to waterbath can, it also adds a wonderful layer of light citrus flavor and helps to keep the apples from browning.
What are the best jars for canning applesauce?
Applesauce is incredibly flexible when it comes to the jars you can use. In these photos, we’ve canned our applesauce in Ball® Regular Mouth Pint Jars, but we’ve also done applesauce in the past in Ball® Regular Mouth or Wide Mouth Quart Jars without a problem.
Once opened, you do need to eat your applesauce within about a week, so we recommend using the size of jar that corresponds to how much you can eat in that time frame. For our family of three, the Ball® Regular Mouth Pint Jars work well for us to have enough applesauce for a side dish for one meal.
How do you can applesauce?
If you have read through our canning primer (or canned pickles or jam), then you will be ready to can applesauce—it’s a breeze! As we mentioned in our beginner’s canning guide, always start a canning project by cleaning your equipment, having everything in place, and preparing your water bath canner. Then, you can move onto making your applesauce:
- Prepare a treatment to prevent apple browning. You can either use Ball® Fruit Fresh in water or lemon juice in water.
- Peel your apples.
- Core and cut the apples into medium sized pieces.
- Submerge the cut apple pieces in the browning treatment.
- Transfer the apples to a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Add in just enough water to prevent scorching. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 20 minutes, until apples are tender (time will depend upon the variety of apple and their maturity). Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Blend the apples into a smooth puree using an immersion blender, or transfer apples, working in batches, to a food mill or a food processor fitted with a metal blade and purée until smooth. Return the puree to the pan. Add the lemon juice. Ladle hot applesauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
How long does canned applesauce get processed?
Process jars in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. When processing time is up, remove the lid of the canner, and let jars cool for 5 minutes before removing from the canner to cool completely.
Make sure to check the jar lids for seal after 24 hours. When the jar is sealed properly, the lid should not flex up and down when the center is pressed. If it does flex, you can stash the applesauce in the fridge and eat it within a week.
How do I make unsweetened applesauce?
The recipe below has the option to add sugar, but it is just that—completely optional. With the right mix of sweet and tart apples, applesauce is plenty sweet on its own! Just leave out the sugar in the recipe.
Does applesauce have to be hot to can?
Yes, this recipe uses the hot-pack method—meaning the hot applesauce gets packed into hot jars. Not only does this prevent heat shock breaking your jars, but it also ensures safe processing times. The processing time listed in the recipe was tested using hot applesauce. Cold applesauce might not heat to high enough temperatures to kill microbes and make it shelf-stable.
How do I make chunky (or smooth) applesauce?
Feel free to blend your applesauce into your preferred consistency.
What can I do with all these apple peels and cores?
Well, I feed them to my very happy chickens and worms, but if you don’t have any animals begging for your scraps (and you don’t want to compost them), there are lots of ways to get a second use out of apple peels and cores:
- Make apple peel tea. Steep the peels in some boiling water for a mildly sweet tea that is wonderful with a cinnamon stick and some honey.
- Make apple liqueur. Similar to the method for homemade limoncello, just swap the lemon peels for apple peels.
- Make apple cider vinegar. Yup! You can make apple cider vinegar at home using your peels and cores in this simple fermentation project.
- Make apple wine. Use the peels and cores in a batch of homemade apple wine.
How long does canned homemade applesauce last?
If you followed the instructions below and got a good seal (the lid doesn’t flex when pushed), your applesauce will last with peak quality in a cool, dark spot for at least 18 months. After that, you might start to see some degradation of color, flavor, or texture, but as long as the lid is still sealed properly, it is perfectly safe to eat.
Once you’ve opened a jar of home canned applesauce, store it in the fridge and eat within a week.
How can you tell if canned applesauce is bad?
Just like we encourage you in our canning guide, trust your senses! If you followed the instructions and got a good seal, and the applesauce looks good, smells good, and tastes good, you can assume it’s safe to eat. For any canned good, throw it out if the lid isn’t sealed or is bowing, or if you see evidence of mold growth in the jar.
Can you freeze applesauce instead of canning it?
Absolutely! In fact, applesauce freezes beautifully. Just make sure to use freezer-safe jars when freezing your applesauce, and only freeze to the freezer line on each jar. Freezer-safe jars are the straight-sided jars like Ball® Wide Mouth Pint and a Half Jars or Ball® Wide Mouth Pint Jars.
What are some ways to use homemade applesauce?
Now that you have an entire stash of homemade applesauce, how can you use it all up? We’ve got some great ideas:
- Eat it, of course! In the winter, you’ll always find a jar of our home canned fruit on the table as a side dish for most meals—applesauce being a kid and adult favorite. It’s a great side dish, school lunch idea, or snack!
- Mix it into a smoothie. Add some sugar-free sweetness and a hint of apple flavor to your favorite smoothie. Our Apple Pie Spinach Smoothie is a great place to start.
- Use it in baked goods. Applesauce is a good swap for some of the fat and sugar in your favorite baked goods. It adds moisture, flavor, and a nice boost of nutrition. Try it in our Whole Wheat Banana Bread, Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies, Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins, or Apple Butter Donuts.
- Gift homemade food gifts. When you start canning, you’ll quickly realize that everyone loves the gift of home canned goods! Just put a ribbon on a jar of applesauce and call it a present.
- Mix it into burgers. YUP! Applesauce adds just a touch of sweetness and a ton of moisture to burgers. We use it all the time in our Maple Bacon Burgers.