Canning 101: An Applesauce FAQ

pint of applesauce

When it comes to my own canning, I like to make a mix of fun things and pantry staples. That means that while I make plenty of highly spiced jams and fancy pickles, I also make a point of putting up a goodly amount of tomato puree and applesauce each year. I stir applesauce into oatmeal, bake it into cakes, and eat it straight from the jar when lunchtime pickings are slim.

One would think that applesauce would be a fairly straightforward thing to preserve, but it can be surprisingly tricky, particularly for new canners. After getting a number of questions about applesauce recently, I thought I’d put together a list of commonly asked applesauce questions and my answers, in the hopes of putting many minds at ease.

134

What is the best kind of apple for sauce?
I don’t really think that there’s any one apple that makes the best sauce and truly, the best apples to use are the ones you have. I have cooked any number of apples into sauce and it has always been delicious. I would advise that you start with apples that taste good to you and that are relatively free from damage or rot (cutting around a bad spot or two is totally fine).

If you’re working with relatively sweet apples, you can always add a little lemon juice to balance the flavor. If the fruit is quite tart, a little sugar or honey will help adjust the sweetness.

apples

What is the best way to make applesauce?
Your apple saucing approach depends on the gear you have in your kitchen. For basic batches, all you really need is a peeler, a paring knife, and a potato masher. Peel, quarter, and core the apples. Dump them into a big pot with a little water to prevent burning, and cook them on low until they are soft. Use the potato masher to smash them into a chunky sauce.

If you have a food mill or a tomato press with a saucing screen, you can skip the peeling process and put the cored and quartered apples right into your pot. Add a little water, over the pot, and simmer until the apples are tender. Then, work them through the food mill or tomato press. You’ll end up with a peel-free sauce with a uniform texture.

If you want to include the skins in your finished product, core and quarter the apples. Put them in a pot with a little water and cook until soft. Once they’re tender, work the apples through a blender in batches, pureeing until the apple skins are integrated. This works best with a high speed blender, like a Vitamix, Blendtec, or Ninja, but can be accomplished in regular blenders or with an immersion blender if you’re persistent.

I personally like a chunky applesauce, so often use an approach that blends the first and second techniques. I core and quarter my apples, but leave the peels on. I simmer the sauce until it’s tender. Once the fruit flesh has started to separate from the peels, I stand over the pot with a pair of tongs and pull the skins off the fruit. I work those peels through a food mill, to catch any bits of sauce, and then mash the remaining naked apples with a potato masher. You get the color and some of the vitamins from the peels and still retain the chunky consistency.

Apple-Pear Sauce

Do I have to add anything to my applesauce to make it safe for canning?
Nope. Because apples are naturally high in acid, you don’t have to add a thing to it to make it safe for boiling water bath canning. What’s more, apples also have a goodly amount of sugar, so they keep well once canned.

Can I add things to my applesauce?
Yes! You can add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, citrus zest, citrus juice, sugar, honey, or maple syrup (though use maple syrup in conservative amounts. It is lower in acid than other sweeteners and if added in large quantities, can impact the finished acidity of the applesauce.

How long do I process applesauce in a boiling water bath canner? 
If you live under 1,000 feet in elevation, you process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes. If you live above 1,000 feet, your processing time adjustments can be found here. Times and pressure amounts for processing a pressure canner can be found here, though it is not necessary for safety and can often lead to product loss.

apples

I just took my jars of applesauce out of the canner and they are leaking! What did I do wrong?
First of all, know that applesauce almost always siphons like that. It’s hard to prevent it entirely, but you can do a couple of things to help minimize it.

The first is to minimize the amount of air you work into the apples during the saucing process. Apples pushed through a food mill or tomato press can take on more air than those mashed with a potato masher. The air isn’t the end of the world, but it will expand during the processing, which will then force some sauce out of the jar.

The second thing to do is to let the jars cool gradually once the processing time is up. The worst siphoning typically happens in the moments just after you pull the jars out of the canner, when they’re still really hot. Instead, let the jars sit in the canning pot for 10-15 minutes after the canning process is done. Once your timer goes off, you slide the pot off the burner and remove the lid. Let the jars cool slowly in the pot. After the 10-15 minutes are up, pull the jars out. They may start to siphon some, but it will (hopefully) be less than you’ve experienced in the past.

apples for pie filling

If my jars siphon, but the lids eventually seal, is my sauce still safe? 
Yes! No matter how much they leak, if the seals are nice and tight, they are still safely shelf stable.

The surface of my applesauce has turned brown! Is it still safe? 
It is! That is normal oxidation. You can either scrape off the brown layer or just stir it into the rest of he sauce.

If there is mold on the outside of my applesauce jars, is it still safe? 
Yes! Sometimes you end up with a little bit of residual applesauce on the outside of the jars because of the siphoning I mentioned up above. It’s that applesauce residue that is molding. As long as the seal is still good and firm, the sauce inside the jar is perfectly safe.

There are some air bubbles in my finished, sealed jar of sauce. Is it still safe? 
As long as those air bubbles aren’t moving around, they are fine. You can read more about air bubbles in finished products in this post.

If you have an applesauce question that you don’t see here, please make sure to leave a comment and I’ll update this post.

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121 Responses to Canning 101: An Applesauce FAQ

  1. 51
    Cheryl says:

    In the back of my pantry, I just discovered 4 half pint jars of my home canned applesauce from December 2012. The tops are still securely sealed. Is it still safe to eat?

    • 51.1
      Marisa says:

      If the color hasn’t changed dramatically, open up a jar. If there’s no funk growing on the surface and it smells generally like applesauce, I bet it’s fine.

  2. 52
    Linda McClure says:

    How long is pressure cooked apple sauce good for shelf life?

    • 52.1
      Marisa says:

      You really don’t need to pressure can applesauce. Its shelf life won’t be considerably longer than applesauce processed in a boiling water bath canner. That shelf life is a couple of years.

  3. 53
    Linda McClure says:

    Can I make Pear Sauce the same way? Do I add anything?

    • 53.1
      Marisa says:

      You can make pear sauce the very same way. Pears are often a bit lower in acid than apples, though. So I recommend adding a bit of lemon juice for safety and to retain color.

  4. 54
    Jenny says:

    My canned applesauce has a pink layer on top is it still safe to eat?

  5. 55
    Jewell Wolgram says:

    I made a large batch of apple sauce 12 days ago. I intended to finish eating the last of it today but there are two small reddish brown spots. Are these mold? Can I scoop them out and eat the rest?

    • 55.1
      Marisa says:

      Mold isn’t typically reddish brown. It could be some oxidation rather than mold. However, I can’t make the call for you. You need to use your own best judgment.

  6. 56
    dina says:

    I have several jars of canned apple sauce on my shelf, I’m not sure how old they are. The sauce is now brown. If it still smells ok is it safe to use?

  7. 57
    Carolyn says:

    I typically make applesauce in the slow cooker and then freeze it. I add lemon juice and cinnamon but no sugar. Is it safe to water bath can applesauce prepared in a slow cooker? Or does it have to be done on the stovetope?

    • 57.1
      Marisa says:

      You can can applesauce that was made in a slow cooker.

    • 57.2
      Karen abelson says:

      HELP!;) I have an Apple Tree! Please let me know how you
      Used the slow cooker to cook the apples.
      Your recipe and process would be greatly
      Appreciated . I have never canned so I
      Am anxious to learn. Freezing would be
      My choice, but maybe canning (as s
      Nervous newbie) would be better. ???!! I
      Also want to do low sugar Apple pie filling!

      I am also going to try fruit leather!! But that’s
      a whole other discussion ! Lol

      Thank you ,

      • Carolyn says:

        I have an apple tree too–red delicious 🙂 Crockpot applesauce is my fave because it gets so sweet without any sugar added. I fill my slow cooker as full as I can with thinly sliced apples, 1/3 cup water, the juice of one lemon, and a cinnamon stick or two. Then I just turn it on low for several hours, until the apples are falling-apart soft and very fragrant. It’s not a sensitive process. (If you leave it way too long you’ll just end up with apple butter.) Then I mash or blend it, pack it in freezer bags and freeze. Be advised that your applesauce will be a darker color, closer to a caramel brown rather than yellow like stovetop applesauce. It tastes amazing! I am going to try adding Ball’s Fruit Fresh powder this year to see if it keeps the applesauce yellow, since some people prefer it that way.

  8. 58
    Iris says:

    I’m making applesauce in the crockpot. First time. I’m using a food saver to seal the jars. This might be a silly question, but do I seal the jars when they’re hot or wait until they cool?

  9. 59
    Angie says:

    I’ve been canning applesauce in a water bath canner a few times now. This last time, I made 8 pints, I added about two teaspoons of fresh grated ginger to the slow cooker when I put the Apple’s in for several hours of cooking I don’t know if that was a no-no or not.

  10. 60
    Beth says:

    A couple of applesauce questions:
    first, how on earth do you get applesauce to the 212º stated in the BBB (and keep it there while filling the jars) without burning the applesauce, or yourself?! The worst burn I’ve ever had was from applesauce burping out on my arm.
    second, occasionally I have applesauce separate where there is a layer of apple juice at the bottom of the jar, but have no idea why it happens some times and not others.

    • 60.1
      Marisa says:

      You don’t need to bring applesauce to a hard boil and even if you did, you certainly don’t keep it there while you’re filling the jars. And that separation occurs when you heat, cool, and then reheat applesauce.

  11. 61
    Carissa says:

    Long time listener, first time caller. 😉 I love your blog, Marisa! I get nervous about making even little substitutions that logically should be safe to canning recipes. It is safe to add other high acid fruits to the apples to make flavored sauce (ie cherries or berries), right? I know you can add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, but can you safely add extracts (ie almond or vanilla)? I made some applesauce with tart cherries and 1/4 tsp of almond extract added. It was really good and I want to make more to can but I’m nervous about going off book. Is there anything, aside from low acid ingredients, that can’t be added. TIA

  12. 62
    Bart Henshaw says:

    We have been making and freezing applesauce for 40 years but found some nice Weck jars and decided to try canning for a new grandchild. Suddenly was worried about no sugar and all the horror stories of stable products for canning so many thanks for your comments about the high acid content and natural sugar. My brain knew that but needed reassurance.

  13. 63
    DIane says:

    New too canning … need some questions answered..

    I canned applesauce for the first time this morning and when I opened
    my water canner some had spewed out into the water. Has this ruined
    all the jars that were in the water canner as well? Also some applesauce
    leaked out. All the jars popped when removed them from the
    canner , but … the applesauce has done some separation as they cool.
    Are the jars compromised? Are they all safe?

    • 63.1
      Marisa says:

      Go back and read the section of this blog post entitled, “I just took my jars of applesauce out of the canner and they are leaking! What did I do wrong?” You’ll find that your experience is totally normal. Applesauce separates when you cook the apples, let them cool, and then reheat the sauce. So that’s normal too.

  14. 64
    Gena says:

    I have been canning applesauce for three years. this year my applesauce congealed. it is like jello and wiggles. it still tastes fine. can you tell me why this happened? and is there a way to fix it?

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