Preserving Autumn: Classic Applesauce Recipe

What is there really to say about applesauce, except that it is essential? It’s one of the first solid foods most ever eat and remains high on the comfort food scale as you grow older. Making applesauce every autumn is obligatory around here and an obvious addition to our Canning 101 series.

Right now families are flocking to the orchards on the weekends for a favorite Québec fall pastime: apple picking. The apples that are gathered can keep for a few weeks or even months if stored properly, but the best way to extend their enjoyment is to preserve the harvest through canned homemade applesauce.

Stirred into yogurt, baked into Apple Pie Oatmeal, or layered between crêpes are just a few of the ways we enjoy our applesauce. Then there’s always straight from the jar, with a spoon, just like when we were teething tots.

Here is a basic step-by-step tutorial on how I make and can my applesauce. It’s straightforward, easy to make in large batches and just delicious!

Wash fruit

Begin by washing your apples thoroughly. This is a great job for little helpers, who can also help twist off stems. Apple skins add flavor and color to applesauce, so we don’t remove them. As a bonus, leaving the skins on makes our job that much easier!

Here I’ve used Cortland apples, which are quite sweet and one of my favorite local varieties. McIntosh are excellent for sauce as well, but really, almost any variety of apples can be used for applesauce.

This tutorial would also be lovely with pears.

Chop, Core & Cook

Using a sharp chef’s knife, quarter all the apples. With a paring knife, remove the core and toss quarters into a large, heavy bottomed pot. Add about 1 cup of liquid per 5 lbs of apples. I use apple cider, but water or even apple juice works fine, too.

Add any flavorings you would like now such as lemon peel (if the apples are particularly bland) or a cinnamon stick. If you are going to be baking with your applesauce, you may want to leave it neutral.

I’ve added a few vanilla beans, split and seeded, and a cinnamon stick. I know my sauce will mostly be enjoyed stirred into yogurt or on its own, so I’m adding flavorings to make it a little more dessert-like.

Turn the burner to medium, partially cover the pot with a lid, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to cook down slowly. Be sure to stir occasionally and keep an eye out for signs of scorching.

TIP: Applesauce may also be made in a slow-cooker.

Using equipment such as a Crock-Pot for cooking down home preserves (as opposed to a heavy-bottomed pot on the back of the stove) just means that you can step a little further away from the kitchen. And believe me, when you’re a busy parent, you don’t want to have to worry about a bubbling pot on the stove.

Choose Texture and Purée

Once the apples have cooked down and softened considerably, they are ready to be ‘sauced’.

If you want chunky applesauce, fetch the skins out with tongs, and use a potato masher to mash the cooked apples. If you prefer smooth apple sauce, run the cooked apples through a food mill; this will both weed out the skins as well as give you a lovely smooth texture.

Not yet the owner of a food mill, I removed my cinnamon and vanilla bean from the pot and passed my cooked-down apples through a wire sieve. By using the back of a ladle to push the soft apples through the sieve, the task goes quickly. A flexible bench scraper also works well.

Return the purée to the pot or slow-cooker and reheat. At this point you may can the sauce as it is or cook it down some more for a thicker consistency.

Meanwhile, prepare the hot water bath, the utensils and equipment and everything needed to can as instructed in our post on Canning Basics.

Hot-Pack Processing in Boiling-Water Bath

Ladle hot applesauce into hot, sterilized jars, filling them to within 1/2 inch of the tops. Wipe rims with a clean cloth, top with lid and screw ring. Once all jars are filled, lower each one carefully into the hot water bath until the pot is full. Do not overcrowd!

Bring water to a boil and then process for twenty minutes.

Once processing time is finished, turn off heat and carefully remove jars with a canning jar lifter. Place on a clean tea towel on the counter to cool.

Allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Tighten rings, label and store in a cool, dark place.

For babies or baking? In what ways do you enjoy applesauce at home?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Good to know I am not the only one who wants to own a food mill :). What would be the processing time for quarts? Since my husband came home with a few dozen quarts last week I’m thinking applesauce and pears will have to be in quarts.

    • Quarts should process for 25 minutes at an altitude of 1,001 – 3000ft.

      Also, from my calculations, one bushel of apples will yield abut 18 quarts.
      Happy canning!

  2. “For babies or baking?” Oh my goodness NO! We, both the kids and adults in this family, eat the applesauce straight up, usually at least a quart at one sitting. I often pop open a jar to round out our dinner or for an easy bedtime snack for the kids. I have to be careful, though, because we can eat incredible quantities in a very short amount of time.

    We use a food mill and don’t cut anything out but the bad spots—no cores, stems, nothing. This year we cooked through and canned four bushels in about nine hours. If you’re serious about saucing, I highly recommend getting a mill.

    • Wow, you are serious indeed. I’ll put a food mill on my Christmas list. Any brands to recommend?

      • We have a Villaware Food Strainer and it works just dandy. (To get the apples cranked through faster, my husband takes the handle off and inserts a power drill—makes the kitchen feel like a construction site, but it gets the job done mighty quick!

  3. Oh my gosh! I’m so excited about this post. Just yesterday I was looking over my late great-grandmother’s apple sauce recipe, thinking I should make some. Conveniently, I went to the orchard last weekend and have several bushels of apples sitting on my counter tops waiting to be used. This is my first major season food exploration too and I’m ready to take the plunge!

  4. alison @ Ingredients, Inc. says

    Great post! There’s nothing better than homemade applesauce and great explanation!

  5. after reading your delicious sounding post…apple sauce is immediately going on my “to do” list !
    i posted a recipe for apple & pear crisp…and reposted a recipe from a couple of years ago… roasted apple and caramelized onion au gratin soup , which has become a favorite in our home…

  6. This is a great article! I have never made applesauce but am eager to give it a try and your post tells me all I need to know. I buy 1/2 bushels of seconds apples at a local farm for $7.50 for my apple butter. I am thinking that I will be picking up an extra one on my next trip for applesauce.

  7. Hooray! I’ve been looking for information about canning homemade applesauce! Applesauce just tastes so much better with apples picked in the fall! Thanks!!

  8. The timing on this post is great. The kids and I went on a field trip with our cousins today apple picking. I have been wanting to make applesauce for a while. I can’t wait to try this. Thanks for the step by step pictures. I’m a visual homeschooling mom.

  9. My 15 year old has been asking when I am going to make some more, and the family favorite is pear sauce or my combo of apple- pear sauce! Thanks for the extra tips!

  10. My son did not like applesauce! I couldn’t believe it. But it was alright, because I ended up eating it. I make two different kinds of cakes and both are delish! I love applesauce!

  11. OK, what’s the difference between Apple cider and apple cider vinegar? Can they be used interchangably?

  12. I love apple sauce and make it in a similar way – I love adding vanilla beans, too, and cinnamon. I don’t own a food mill, either, and use an immersion food blender (after removing the skins). Works well.

  13. I’ve always read never to tighten the rings after sealing, since it can ruin the seal. In fact I read a suggestion recently that said take them off, because then you don’t have to worry about the lids rusting while stored in a cooler place. I leave them on, but loose, because I don’t want to risk having the lid bumped and unseal.

  14. Good recipes for autumn.Thanks for your sharing

  15. Bridget Ulrich says

    How long does this last properly prepared? Thank you!

  16. Thank you for the recipe…loved the skin on part. Made up a bunch of pints on Saturday…wonderful tasting!

  17. For the first time ever my apple tree has produced apples that aren’t nasty, so I’m making applesauce this week. It’ll be so exciting to open a jar of applesauce that’s mine from the tree to the stove to the table!

  18. This sounds so yummy! But I live in a tiny house and have no room for canning supplies. Do you know if this would freeze well?

  19. Alma Crump says

    How long do I leave them in the water bath if I am doing quarts instead of pints? Thanks!

    • Alma Crump says

      Oops, just saw where you already responded to someone who asked the same question! Thanks! Can’t wait to try this recipe this afternoon!

  20. Great recipe! First attempt at apple sauce and it turned out great:) I was a little worried when I started to fish out the skins and realized it would be impossible to get them all. I used the immersion blender to get it nice and smooth. Remainig skins are not detectable. Thanks for the great post!

    P.S. Anyone have the foodmill attachment for Kitchenaid mixer? Now that I know how great fresh sauce is, I have my eye on one and am wondering if anyone recommends it.

  21. I used this recipe to put up all the semi yucky apple my family wouldn’t eat. It takes more time to cut them but the results are just as delcious and no one is ever the wiser. Also, I like it really chuncky so I pick out the peels as best as I can and process them then put them back. That’s it. Just a rough stirring for the rest.

  22. I’m going to do this tomorrow. Great post with easy to follow instructions- thanks!

  23. Do you add sweetener? Also what about supermarket apples that are usually waxed? Would it be better to peel them?

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