This is usually the time of year my husband loves and I dread: Pear and apple canning time. Don't get me wrong, I love having canned and frozen foods that we grew - or at least picked - ourselves*, and had total control over every ingredient added. I just don't like all the prep work. Peeling, slicing, washing jars, finding rings, waiting forever for our canning to boil, and so on. About 3/4 of the way through the process, I get on board and get excited too. Up until that point, I'm pretty much an unwilling participant.
We have about 13 quarts of canned pears at the moment - we filled a large laundry basket from a neighbor's Pear tree in exchange for some of our garden goodies - as well as peaches from last year. (Never again - I hate canning peaches!) We also grew our own pumpkins, which were roasted, pureed and frozen. And applesauce.. oh boy, do we have applesauce!
About a month ago, Husband and I went to his aunt and uncle's house to pick their "leftover" apples (whatever is left after they and their kids get what they want - and we're happy to do it!) We brought home about 35lbs. I'm not exactly sure what types they have, but there's a tree with reddish apples and a tree with yellowish apples (helps, right?) After I complained a bit about having to make applesauce, we started. We got 9 quarts of applesauce from that batch. I didn't want to can the applesauce, so I froze it in gallon bags - 6 cups per bag.
Then Wal-Mart had a sale on Golden Delicious apples that my husband couldn't resist. So he bought more apples. They sat around for a while until we finally got motivated enough to make more applesauce.. which was last night.
Making applesauce is a lot easier than you may think. Here's how to do it:
Quarter and core the apples - you do not need to peel them. To keep them from turning brown, place them in a large bowl of water treated with Fruit Fresh or lemon juice. Place a handful of treated apples into a pot with about an inch of water; heat until very tender. Transfer them to for saucing..
I don't know what this thing is called, but this is what my Mother-in-Law has always used to make applesauce, so this is what we use. It's a bit more work than some other options, but not a big deal if you don't mind using a little elbow grease.
With this method, after apples are boiled to soften, you use the wooden stick to mash and squish the apples into sauce, which is strained out into your dish.
What you're left with is a much drier version of this if you are as persistant as my husband. Discard.
Once you have a full dish of applesauce, you can sweeten if you wish. Our first batch of applesauce was perfect so we didn't add any sweeteners. This batch, however, needed a little sugar. I added about 1/8c sugar per 6 cups. It really all depends on how sweet you like your applesauce. I typically like unsweetened applesauce just fine.
Now, here's a trick for mess-free bagging of applesauce: Put your gallon bag inside a pitcher or any tall container you can fit it in. Fold the top over, and pour applesauce in!
Try to get as much air out as possible, seal and lay flat to freeze.
And now you have delicious homemade applesauce!
This time we got 19 cups of applesauce. I'm pretty sure we're set for applesauce for a whole year!
*We recently bought a can of pumpkin puree while we waited for our pumpkins to get ripe in the garden. I was shocked when I realized the pumpkin was "Made in China". As if we cannot grow pumpkins in our own back yards!
I have two main sources for canning information: The Ball Blue Book (mine was published in 1995, but there are much newer ones) and PickYourOwn.org. PYO has step-by-step instructions, with lots of photos, for about anything you can think of to can.