Canning 101: An Applesauce FAQ

October 21, 2014(updated on October 23, 2018)

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.


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.


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.


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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242 thoughts on "Canning 101: An Applesauce FAQ"

  • Can I cold pack applesauce into cold jars and bring them up to temperature in the water bath? I have a really large bath and its impossible to keep everything hot!

  • I put hit applesauce in hot jars and they sealed before I got them into the hot water bath. Do I need to put them in the bath

  • My applesauce had cooled to merely warm by the tme the last jar was packed. (Jars & lids were hot). AND I only processed it for 10 minutes. Do I need to start over? All the jars sealed. Can I just re-process them? And for how long?

    1. It’s not ideal that your sauce not be hot when it goes into the jars. However, at this point, as long as the jars are sealed it should be okay. You will likely impact the quality if you reprocess at this point.

  • 4 days ago I made applesauce in a water bath canner, following a Ball recipe. Everything seemed fine, after they’d cooled the requisite 24 hours I checked the lids, they looked ok and I put them in the pantry. I just looked at them and there is almost NO HEADSPACE in some jars, and it looks like the sauce goes ALL THE WAY to the top of the lid in the others. I removed air bubbles, wiped the tops of the jars carefully, used only new lids and jars, and measured half inch of headspace (exactly as specified in the Ball book).
    What did I do wrong and is the applesauce safe to eat? So far the lids still appear to be sealed. I canned several other vegetables and they all still have headspace in the jars.
    I am new to canning, but we are following instructions and recipes from the Ball and USDA canning books to a T we followed exactly the process and the recipes.
    I hope we don’t need to throw out the sauce, it was a LOT of work! Thanks in advance for any advice.

  • I am seeing condensation on my lids in some of my jars of blueberry applesauce. It appears to be staying there even though it has been a couple of days. It is a more watery sauce but I didn’t expect to see this. I have canned for many years and don’t remember ever seeing this. Should I reprocess?

  • Canned my first batch of applesauce, seals are good but I noticed some separation in the jar. Seems there’s about 1/2 – 1 inch of water/juice on the bottom. Is this normal separation? I used Cortland apples, if that makes a difference.

  • Normally I can the applesauce heated. But, interrupted, my last batch of applesauce had cooled to “just warm” when I put it in sterile pint jars, proper lids and rings.
    I waterbath-canned it an additional 15 min, thinking that would insure safety, the sauce in the jars would be thoroughly safe with the additional time.
    Everything sealed and seems perfectly fine. Is it?

    1. It should be okay, though I imagine you experienced some expansion and loss of product. Applesauce really doesn’t like to be cooled and heated again.

  • Home canned according to Ball Book recipe. Sealed correctly. When opened jar, white spots found on surface of applesauce. What could it be?

    1. Yikes. I don’t know of anything other than mold that might appear in applesauce. I’m so sorry that this has happened!

  • I’m new to canning and noticed the applesauce I just did has a lot of mostly tiny air bubbles. The seal appears good but should I be worried about the bubbles popping over time and exposing the product to air? Most are tiny but there are a few bigger ones (although still small).

  • Just want to clarify that it is safe to can applesauce and butters (apple, pear, peach) with skins in? Cooked down and run through a blender, I prefer this method for convenience, color and nutrition but I’m always a little paranoid that for safety the fruit should be peeled. Thanks for your advice. Love your recipes!

  • If you’re putting very hot apple sauce in the jar and it seals on its own, do you still have to use the water bath?

  • I just realized I didn’t process my applesauce long enough in a boiling water canner. I was on the wrong page in my canning book. I live at 6,000 ft and only processed pint jars for 13 minutes. Quart jars for 20. The book says 25 minutes. Did I ruin my applesauce? The jars did seal.

    1. If the jars sealed, they will probably be okay. Make sure to use those first, as they won’t have as long a shelf life.

  • I. Waterbathed applesauce in quarts and did it for 15 minutes. Then I recread recipe and saw that was for pints! Can I put them back in boiling canner and redo for 20 minutes

  • It took us so long to peal and dice our apples that we have run out of time to can them. Can we refrigerate the applesauce and then bring it back up to temp tomorrow?

    1. You definitely can do that. Just know that applesauce that has been heated, cooled, and then reheated has a tendency to expand more in the jar during processing. I highly recommend leaving a little extra headspace to account for that inevitable expansion.

  • First time applesauce maker here. I water bathed my sauce for 15 minutes per my elevation. I used half pint jars. I had zero siphoning.
    I didn’t hear the ping of any jars; even two hours later. It’s been roughly 16 hours. Are the jars good? Do I need to reprocess? Or do I need to dump?

    1. Are the lids concave? Hearing the pings doesn’t matter as long as the lids are firm to the touch. If that’s the case, the jars are fine.

  • I canned my applesauce about 3 weeks ago, put the hot applesauce in the hot jars and they all sealed, but I didn’t process them in the canner. Is it ok to eat, or should I process them in my pressure canner now?

    1. The best practice would be to open the jars, reheat the sauce and jars separately and then process in a boiling water bath canning. Hot sauce into hot jars without a boiling water bath process is never a good idea. However, pressure canning isn’t a great idea of applesauce. The heat and pressure destroys it and causes a lot of siphoning.

  • Do I have to hot pack applesauce to water bath can it? I generally do not cook my applesauce- once I put the apples through the food mill and add sugar and cinnamon, I am done. DO I need to heat it up before canning it?

    1. Yes, applesauce needs to be hot packed for canning. If you don’t want to heat it, you could always freeze it instead.

  • I have the brown layer on my recently canned apple sauce. I see it still good to eat. For those who like trying different combinations of apples. My favorite is Fuji and granny smith. Both add their qualities to make a nice sauce.