What with all the ongoing applesauce drama around here, I’ve been feeling pretty good about our annual applesauce extravaganza.
If you haven’t heard – Snokist, a major fruit processor in Yakima, Washington, has been found to be selling ‘reprocessed’ moldy applesauce that has made a bunch of kids sick. Apparently this isn’t an isolated incident – see the latest report on King 5 here – but has been an ongoing problem that they’ve shipped to schools, baby food manufacturers, grocery stores, and who knows where else, for years.
We take a week every fall to make our own applesauce. Our apples come from the same orchard that our cider apples come from.
I’ve done some experimenting with various varieties of apples for sauce… and I’ve come to the conclusion that, like cider, applesauce is best when made with a variety of different apples. We have enjoyed Jonagolds in sauce, but given up on Mutsus and Red Delicious. Our current favorite is a 50/50 blend of Braeburn and Golden Delicious. The Braeburns give the sauce a lot of ‘apple’ flavor and tartness, and the Goldens are so sweet that I don’t need to add any additional sugar. My applesauce consists of apples and cinnamon. That’s it!
We bring home quite a few apples for sauce each year. (I took these photos two years ago; my camera was AWOL last fall.) In 2010, we did a 100% Braeburn sauce, and had to add sucanat to reduce the tartness. We made 900 pounds of apples into applesauce.
900 pounds makes a lot of applesauce. I believe the final number was 228 quarts.
In 2009, I made up a whopping 200 pounds of apples into sauce. Between three kids, two adults, and assorted guests, we ran out in February. If you’ve ever ran out of your baby’s favorite solid food, (and homemade applesauce was one of the Moose’s favorite first solids), and known that you’ve got months to go before it will be at its best price and flavor again… then you know why we made 900 lbs. of apples into sauce in 2010. I was not going to run out again.
In 2011, I ‘only’ did about 300 pounds of applesauce. We had a bit left over. About a third, to be exact. We brought back 1800 lbs of apples… but most of that was for other people, as I had
drafted roped recruited a bunch of helpers back in 2010 to help me process that 900 pounds. Enough of them had caught the insanity canning bug, and wanted some of their own.
For a certain value of “some”.
1500 lbs, to be exact.
First, we wash the apples. I like to use a homemade combination of a half bin of water, with about a 1/3 c. white vinegar, a teaspoon or two of dishsoap, and a dozen drops of grapefruit seed extract. These are not precise measurements – I’d say I use that as a minimum, and pour till I’m pretty sure I’ve achieved them. We generally make sure each apple has been individually hand-scrubbed.
Then we do three water-only rinses, to get all the soap and any remaining grime off. These apples aren’t waxed, so that’s not an issue.
Next step is peeling. I have several apple peeler-slicer-corers. Mine are all suction-cup versions, but I believe my next generation of corers will be clamp-ons. We had problems with these coming loose from the table. I also had lots of helpers! Thank you, ladies!
The bucket is for the peels, which go to the compost… just to clarify!
Two years ago, we cooked the slices in pots with a bit of water until they were soft, then added cinnamon and (if making smooth sauce) used a stick blender to make it all smooth. The chunky applesauce, we simply left unblended.
Last year, I got smart and pureed the raw slices in the blender, and then cooked the sauce. This made smooth applesauce a LOT easier.
After sauce season, I purchased a Squeezo, which I intend to use next year. My plan for 2012 is this: Instead of doing applesauce all day daily, I plan to quarter a crock pot turkey roaster-full of apples, and let it cook during the day with occasional stirs. Once it’s cooked, I’ll run it through the Squeezo to make sauce. The Squeezo will remove the skins and cores. I’m not sure which method will be more arduous, or the best use of labor… but if I don’t have an army of volunteers to help it will make the work manageable around homeschooling. Or I’ll do both methods. Not sure yet.
[Update, added later: I tried it, and it worked! See that post here.]
At any rate – once the sauce is cooked, I add cinnamon. I generally think that I do this to taste, but I did notice later that the jars from batches finished after dark (we were canning on the covered porch) had considerably more cinnamon in them than jars that were finished before the sun went down and the work lights turned on!
The hot applesauce is then ladled into clean jars, rims wiped, lids and rings added, and are processed 20 minutes in boiling water canners. The finished jars rest overnight on old towels.
The next day, we remove all the rings, wash the outsides of the jars with soapy water, and apply labels. The finished jars go in the pantry. My family can eat a quart of applesauce in a day, and we generally go through three to five quarts per week.
I showed my children the King 5 applesauce investigation video, and they were very happy that they knew exactly where their applesauce came from, and had participated in the entire process! As Rosebud put it: “Mom – if we find mold in food, we throw it away. There’s no mold in our applesauce – the lids are sealed on too tight!”
(Disclaimer: That’s not to say that a tight seal guarantees that a canned good is completely safe to eat. That’s why I clean things well and make sure I double-check my processing times with the Ball Blue Book, otherwise known as the “canning bible”.)
My latest discovery has been that warm applesauce + warm caramel = user-friendly caramel apples. Mmm.
One day back in 2010, before the labeling was complete, there were 220+ jars of applesauce sitting in my living room, taking up most of the floor space. I had also done a couple of cases of pints for Mr. Caffeinated to take to work to add to his lunches. He told me this story when he came home this evening, as we sat on the floor applying labels.
““I was in the elevator with a bunch of other guys, all heading for our offices. Usually nobody talks in the elevator, but when you’re carrying an open cardboard box filled with a dozen jars of applesauce it’s a bit of a conversation starter.
“Applesauce. My wife made it.”
“Dude, that’s a lot of applesauce.”
“Man, you have NO IDEA what a lot of applesauce looks like.””