In our neck of the woods, this time of year is apple season. Walking through our neighborhood, we pass by trees loaded with ripe apples…apples hanging on branches, apples peppering the ground under the trees. Many people have fruit trees but don’t use the fruit. Have you ever thought of asking a neighbor if they’d mind if you picked some fruit, in exchange for cleaning up under the tree or a few jars of homemade jam? For many fruit-tree owners, having the fruit picked from the tree is a huge relief! And the payoff? Lots of fresh, organic fruit…for free!
If you don’t have free access to a tree, consider going to a pick-your-own farm and picking the fruit there. The cost is usually less than buying organic fruit from the store (although you will want to check to make sure you’re getting organic before you go!). This year, our family was able to take advantage of a friend’s offer for free fruit from a huge apple tree. We made and canned all natural, organic applesauce from scratch…just one ingredient:
We arrived at our friend’s house early on a chilly Friday morning, with baskets and boxes to fill. It was a fun morning, chatting and laughing as we pulled apples from the tree and scoured the ground for fallen fruit. We came home with four big boxes of fresh, organic apples. Time to get busy in the kitchen!
The only downside to picking fresh, organic fruit right off the tree is: Bugs. Yes, there will be worms! The kids were given the task of examining the apples and sorting them into two boxes, one with apples that had worm holes or large bruises, and one for apples that looked worm-free. The worm-free apples were saved for snacking and dehydrating, while the less-than perfect ones were made into applesauce and fresh cider.
Once we had our apples sorted, we got to work on the applesauce. We quartered the apples, cut out the bad spots, and dropped them into a large stock pot full of water. This year, a friend let us use her food strainer…an ingenious device that separates the cores, skin and stems of fruits and vegetables and strains the fruit into sauce! Other years, we have peeled the apples by hand or with a hand-cranked apple peeler first. If you’re using a food strainer, go ahead and toss the apples in the water skins, stems and all. Otherwise, take a little extra time to peel, core and stem the apples first.
After the apples had simmered on the stove, it was time to strain the sauce. It was fun pressing the cooked apples in the hopper and watching the fresh sauce come out! When we don’t have access to a food strainer, we’ve used our food processor to puree the apples a batch at a time.
Once you have the applesauce made, you can either put it into bags and freeze it or can it in jars for later. We chose to can ours, so we heated the applesauce up and simmered it as we filled jars and attached the lids and rings. Into the water-bath canner went the jars, and our counters began to fill with nice rows of sparkling jars full of sweet, organic applesauce.
No sugar, no preservatives, no pesticides, and no artificial anything! Just fresh apples, right off the tree.
What a great feeling it is knowing that through the year, we will be able to open a jar of applesauce and know we’re eating something completely natural! It will taste even sweeter because we’ll have the memories of working on it together.
That's it! No need to measure them, just use as many as you have...for reference, one quart of sauce will use about three pounds of fresh apples.
- ]A large stock pot, a food strainer or food processor, some water, and bags if you are freezing the sauce. If you're canning the sauce, have your usual canning supplies available and freshly sterilized jars, lids and rings.
- Sort the apples. Quarter apples and cut out bad spots. If using a food processor, peel the apples (or, if you don't mind a less smooth texture, leave the skins and process them together).
- Put cleaned, quartered apples in a large stock pot. Cover with water, and simmer until apples are soft all the way through.
- In small batches, run the apples through a food sieve or food processor until smooth. Repeat until all your apples have been sauced.
- If you are freezing the sauce, fill the bags with sauce and seal, freeze. If you are canning the sauce, pour out the water from the stock pot and pour the applesauce into the pot. Bring to a simmer and keep hot as you fill your sterilized jars.
- Process the jars of applesauce for 15 minutes for pints, 20 for quarts. Don't forget to add extra time if you live at a higher altitude!
New to canning? Check out this page to get a feel for what's involved.
- That's it! Enjoy your homemade applesauce all year long.
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Do you have fruit trees? Have you ever picked and prepared fruit right off the tree?
Photography by Jennifer Leung Johnson