Start with Good Apples
Like any good recipe, making your own applesauce starts with finding great apples. If possible, find a local grower. We’re lucky enough to have lived in Michigan, and now in Western North Carolina, where the apple crop is large, but we don’t use just any old apple grower. We searched for a grower who uses little to no chemical pesticides. Apples are high on the dirty dozen list so ask the grower questions about their practices, be selective, and buy in bulk.
Chunky or Smooth
Determine your favorite type of sauce. Do you like chunky or smooth? Personally the smooth stuff reminds me of baby food and makes me gag, so we make chunky.
- Chunky applesauce – Get an apple slicer/peeler/corer to process the apples and place them into a large stock pot. Add about an inch of water and some cinnamon (to taste), turn on high heat and begin stirring and mashing with a potato masher. Cook and mash until you reach your desired consistency, then place in jars for canning – or eat fresh. Refer to your canning guide for proper procedure.
- Smooth applesauce – Start by coring and quartering the apples with a paring knife. Cook down apples as described above then pour into a chinois sieve and process into a bowl. Pour the pureed apples into jars for canning – or eat fresh. Refer to your canning guide for proper procedure. (You can also use a sauce maker to make smooth applesauce.)
Making smooth applesauce will yield a bit more product because the peeler/corer takes off some of the apple during processing, but if you like chunky better (like us) it’s worth it.
A good canner is like a good blender, an investment in your DIY infrastructure. Spending extra for quality is the right thing to do. We purchased an All American 921 pressure canner a few years back and have used it to process well over 100 quarts of delicious, homemade product. A pressure canner can be used to can low acid foods like meat and beans, but also doubles as a hot water bath canner for high acid foods like fruits and tomatoes. The canner we use will process up to 7 quarts or 19 pints per batch and has a 5-star rating from 167 reviews on Amazon – it’s an awesome machine. It’s a 21.5 quart canner and I would not recommend buying anything smaller; if you want larger go with the 30 quart from All American (another 5-star rated canner).
All American canners are made in the USA and come with an instructional booklet, a regulator weight, and canning racks giving you the complete package. Before we bought ours we had never canned a day in our life, we learned from the book so you can too.
Cost and Savings
We paid $13 for 18 quarts of delicious, fresh, homemade applesauce. We know where it came from and what went into it. We supported our local grower who is using practices we agree with. We can eat it through the winter or give it away as gifts. We’re planning to go get another ½ bushel so we can make another 9 quarts to give away as gifts since we’ll need all 18 quarts to last through the winter.
Our applesauce costs just over 2¢/ounce. Comparatively a quart of organic unsweetened applesauce at the store costs just over 9¢/ounce. So we have a better product for less than ¼ of the cost of store-bought. Plus we had a great time doing the project… and you just can’t beat that!