Sugar-Free Applesauce (Canning Recipe)
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Applesauce was the very first thing I ever tried canning at home. In other words, it was my gateway into the world of home canning.
Since it’s so easy to make, is safe for water bath canning and requires very few extra ingredients or special processing instructions, applesauce truly is one of the best things a first-time canner can make. And since it’s that time of year again when the apple trees are bursting with fresh fruit and the markets are stocked full, what better time than now to try canning applesauce for yourself?
Of course, if you don’t want to can it, you can always store it in the fridge or freeze it for later. The downside to either of these options though is that if you store in the fridge, you’ll need to use it up within a couple weeks at most. And if you store it in the freezer, you’ll need to wait hours for it to defrost when you want to use it and it takes up lots of space in your freezer.
I opt for canning my applesauce because it’s ready to go at room temperature whenever I’m ready to use it. All I need to do is dump it out of the jar.
Related: Water Bath Canning for Beginners
What to do with canned applesauce
There are so many things you can do with canned applesauce. It’s great to eat on its own (especially with the addition of a little cinnamon and brown sugar), added to oatmeal or baking recipes, or as a quick-serve baby food.
Last summer I gave birth to our daughter and canned up as many jars of applesauce as I could so that when she started eating solids I would be ready with baby food on hand. Sure enough, a few months laters she began eating puréed solid food and we went through all 20+ jars of apple and pear sauce in no time at all.
Now, I prefer to make my applesauce without any added sugar precisely because I try to avoid feeding my daughter extra sugar whenever possible. Plus, if you’re using applesauce for baking, it’s best to start with sugar-free sauce and then add sugar to your liking so that your final product isn’t overly sweet.
Same with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. While applesauce taste heavenly mixed with these spices, I can always add them later. I’d rather have a “clean slate” to start with and then decide how I’d like to adjust the flavour.
How to process apples for applesauce
Applesauce makes quick use out of apples if you have a couple key tools to work with. If you have a sieve or food mill, this will really speed up the process because you can cook your apples whole and then use the food mill/sieve to separate the peels, cores and seeds from the applesauce.
Using a sieve or food mill
To process with a sieve or food mill, put washed, whole apples into a large stainless steel pot and add about an inch or two of water (just to have the apples simmer and not burn to the bottom of the pot). Put the lid on and bring water to a simmer so that the steam from the water can recycle through the pot and steam all of the apples to cook them. Cook for about 10 minutes and then check apples and water level. Add more water if necessary. Continue to cook apples until the skins have split open and the flesh is soft all the way through.
Allow cooked apples to cool for a few minutes before processing. Then run them through your sieve or food mill to remove the flesh from the skins and seeds. Put applesauce back into a stainless steel pot and continue to simmer. You can then add peels and seeds to your compost or use them to make apple cider vinegar at home!
Processing without a food mill
If you don’t have a sieve or food mill, you’ll want to start off with a good vegetable peeler like this one. I find it much easier to work with a peeler than to use a knife to cut the skin off.
I do not have a food mill, so the recipe below calls for peeled, cored apples.
Also, to make coring your apples quick and painless, invest a few bucks in an apple corer. It will save you sooo much time in the end!
* Hint: As you peel and core your apples, toss them into a large bowl of cold water mixed with lemon juice. The water and lemon juice will help to preserve the apples and keep them from turning brown.
After you’ve peeled and cored your apples, put the slices into a large, stainless steel pot with an inch or two of water and simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes. Check the apples after 10 minutes and add more water if the water is completely dried up and the apple slices aren’t yet soft enough to mash up. You don’t want your sauce to be too watery though! So only add more water if absolutely necessary and do so sparingly.
Once your apple slices are soft enough to mash (similar to the consistency of potatoes when they are ready to mash… you can check with a fork), use a potato masher or a hand blender to mash them up in the pot.
I find a hand blender the easiest way to go. I recommend the Breville brand immersion hand blender. We use ours for all of our soups and sauces and it works like a charm.
Once your apples are mashed, blended or have been run through a sieve or food mill, continue to simmer the applesauce in a stainless steel pot until it’s heated all the way through. If you will be canning the applesauce, be sure to sterilize and prepare your jars at this point.
Canning your applesauce
Once applesauce is thoroughly heated, add a little lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon for every 3 lbs of apples). The lemon juice helps to preserve the applesauce as different types of apples have different natural acidity levels. It also helps to preserve the colour.
If you want to add any sugar or spices, do so now. If not, you’re ready to can your applesauce!
Pour into hot, prepared jars, leaving ½-inch headspace, and process in a water bath canner (15 minutes for pint jars, 20 minutes for quart-sized jars).
After processing, allow jars to cool completely on a towel on your countertop (use a folded towel as hot jars on a cold countertop can break), and once cooled you can store your shelf-stable jars of applesauce in your pantry and use all year long, whenever you’re ready!
Canning tools I use and love:
- Canning Funnel
- Canning Scoop
- Jar Lifter
- Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (this recipe is adapted from this book)
- 6 lbs. of apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
- Water (just enough to simmer apples in pot)
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- In a large stainless steel pot, combine apples with just enough water to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and boil gently until apples cook down and begin to soften (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool for a couple minutes.
- Using an immersion blender, blend sauce until smooth. Alternatively, transfer mixture in batches to a blender and blend until smooth, then return sauce to the pot once it has all been blended OR for a chunkier applesauce, use a potato masher to mash apples.
- Add lemon juice (and cinnamon if using) and stir or blend until well combined. Bring applesauce back to a gentle boil.
- Ladle hot applesauce into hot, sterilized jars leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed, then wipe rims and place lids on jars. Screw bands down to fingertip tight.
- Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (add 5 minutes for every 1,000 feet above sea level).
- Remove jars from water and place on a towel on your counter to let cool completely before storing in your pantry.
Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂
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