For the past four years, I have spent one Saturday in October making applesauce with my mother-in-law. I make about twenty jars for the year. One for myself and the rest for sweet, adorable children. (Take a hike, mean babies.) It does not actually take an entire day to make twenty jars of applesauce if you are pressed for time. But it does take us an entire day because it turns out the only apples in the world come from an orchard an hour and a half away from my house. Which makes it over two hours away from the in-law’s house. So off we trek, party of four (with our respective husbands), to the only possible place on earth to buy apples. I will admit that they are very delicious. But. BUT. There are like twenty thousand farmer’s markets that I can think of, just off the top of my head, within a fifteen minute drive from my house.
So every year we stop for coffee, drive to the apples, check out the tiny ornamental squash,
drink a paper cup of free cider (yum!), take a photo in front of the pumpkin pyramid,
consider buying a pumpkin to carve,
decide against the pumpkin carving, choose some other fruits or veggies or pies or cookies or jams or berries from the cute little shop,
load our goodies and apples into the trunk, and drive away.
My goodness, it’s already afternoon. Of course we simply must stop for lunch.
Do not misinterpret — I love Fall Festivities Day every year. And this year is bittersweet because the in-laws are moving to Myrtle Beach soon, so next year will probably not happen quite the same way. I say probably because I already know that they will drive 2.5 hours for apples. Maybe they will drive 10 hours for apples. I cannot say for certain that they will not.
Also, this year they left early and I made the applesauce myself. It seemed a natural progression.
Year One I mostly watched, took notes, and peeled apples.
Year Two I helped.
Year Three I was supervised.
And now Year Four, I was on my own. I documented the process so I could do this again next year. And YOU can too!
Get some apples and some mason jars. I got pears for extra credit but haven’t gotten to those yet.
You also need one of these giant canning pots with the jar separator insert. Take a minute to figure out how the separators work before everything gets hot.
Then you need to peel and cut up one million apples. Pro tip: Fill a large bowl halfway with cold water and a tablespoon or so of vinegar. Add the peeled, cored, cut up apples to this water so they don’t turn brown while you peel the other 999,999 apples. Also, make sure you get ALL the peel off of the apples, because the peel contains something called pectin. Which is used to make jelly. And will do weird things to your applesauce. (According to my MIL, anyway. She seems to know what she is talking about.) Of course, this knowledge made me immediately want to skip ahead to making jelly from scratch, but I know I’m not quite ready for that. Maybe next year…
When you have more than you think you need, add them to a pot on the stove on medium heat. No, you do not need to add water. You will want to, at first, but don’t do it. The apples will cook down and turn saucy. Stir them a bit.
Add some sugar if you want. (I did not add sugar this year because I knew baby Vera would be sharing this year’s bounty.) Add some cinnamon if you want. (I did add a little cinnamon for flavor.) Add whatever you want. You are the boss of your applesauce. MIL suggests adding a few candy red hots. They turn the applesauce pink/red and give it that sweet, spicy, cinnamon flavor. I need to try this sometime.
While the applesauce is cooking down, simmer some water in the giant pot, only a few inches. You don’t want to put a glass jar full of hot applesauce into a pan of cold water. Also, simmer some mason jar lids (the flat bit, not the spinny bit) in a shallow pan. These need to be very hot when you put them on the jars to get a seal.
When the apples are sauce, you can optionally put them through a hand held, crank operated food mill. I like to puree it for the sweet adorable children, but it’s not required.
The next bit got intense and I failed to photograph the action, but this is what you do.
Make sure your jars are clean.
Get a cool jar funnel and scoop the applesauce into the mason jars. Fill them to just below the glass thready bit.
Take a butter knife and run along the inside of the jars, careful not to to ding the glass, making sure there are no air bubbles between the sauce and the glass.
Wipe the top lip of the jar with a clean, dry cloth.
Take a heated lid from the simmering pan that should already be on your stove (use tongs) and put it on the jar.
Screw the other metal part on top.
Place it in the big pot. Those metal separators lift up so you can fit in the jars and keep them from touching while you do the actual ‘canning’ part. It’s a tricky puzzle, so figure it out before you get to this step.
When all jars are in the pot, the water should come up to just below the metal tops. If it does not, add some warm water.
Put the top on the giant canning pot and turn up the heat.
Once you hear it start boiling, set a timer for twenty minutes.
Use this time to line a counter that is blocked from any draughts with dish towels (or regular towels). You want to make sure you are not placing a boiling hot glass jar onto a cool surface.
After twenty minutes, turn off the heat and take off the lid.
Use tongs and pot holders and whatever else you need to not burn yourself, and take the jars out of the canning pot and place them on the towels you just laid out. Make sure the jars do not touch each other. Make sure they are not susceptible to draughts of air from a fan, open door, air vent, etc.
Pour a glass of wine, go sit by the fire, and start listening for the satisfying pops that mean the jars have sealed.
The next morning, check to see that all of your jars are properly sealed. You can tell if it is sealed by pressing the metal bit in the center of the jar lid. If it bounces, it did not seal. If it looks like this, it did not seal.
See that little nick on the side there? Yeah, put that one in the refrigerator and eat it soon.
SIDE NOTE (or actually BOTTOM NOTE because I am pretty much done here): I used a mix of regular and wide mouth jars this year because that is what I had. I have never had problems with the regular jars not sealing, but two of the wide mouth jars did not seal this year. Maybe only use regular ones unless you’re making pickles or something. I don’t know how to make pickles. Maybe next year….