Preserving Your Apple Harvest

My Garden Life
September 22, 2021
Table of Contents
Apples are one of the most popular fruits grown in North America, and they have a history that is several centuries old in agriculture. One of the unique characteristics of apple trees is that each tree produces an abundance of fruit every other year. For the home grower, this means that every other fall there will be more apples than are humanly possible to eat. Luckily, you can turn apples into sauce, butter and pie filling, all of which can be canned for later use.
Apples have one unique quality that makes them the perfect fruit for canning, and that is they have plenty of pectin. Pectin acts as a natural thickening agent that is activated when heated. The high temperature of the boiling water bath doesn’t degrade the texture of apple-based products.
Following are three basic recipes that use several pounds of apples each. They are written specifically to be canned using a boiling water bath. Click on each recipe to get details on the ingredients and directions.

Canning Applesauce

Applesauce is one of the easiest ways to preserve apples. Enjoy it as a side dish or used in a variety of recipes such as cookies, cakes and muffins or use it as a topping for hot cereal, waffles or pancakes. Applesauce is also a natural choice for smoothies!

Jars of homemade canned applesauce with fresh apples on a wooden table

Canning Apple Butter

Apple butter is a thick, spicy apple spread that is very popular in the Midwest. Apple butter is a great way to use up apples that have fallen to the ground and may not be of high enough quality for eating
fresh or for some methods of preservation.
Avoid using bruised areas of any fruit, however.
The addition of brown sugar adds a hint of caramel flavoring to the butter. Using fancy half-pint or pint canning jars for this recipe makes for a nice presentation at the table or in a gift basket.

jar of homemade apple butter

Canning Apple Pie Filling

Preserved homemade apple pie filling means never having to settle for a can of store-bought again. Use this filling to make a quick cobbler, crisp or even as a filling for coffee cake. Use quart jars for this recipe; one jar stuffs a 9-inch pie crust nicely. Use apples that are tart and flavorful in this recipe; any farmstead or orchard that makes cider should have a selection available for sale.
There are some ingredients in pie filling recipes that tend to be specialty products but can be found in the canning supplies area of many large retailers. For example, soaking freshly sliced apples in an ascorbic acid and water solution (ascorbic acid is Vitamin C) for twenty minutes keeps the fruit from turning brown. If a little bit of discoloration isn’t bothersome, you can skip this presoak.
Another ingredient that may be unfamiliar to many cooks is, Clear-Gel. This product is a modified cornstarch that thickens juices without making them cloudy. Regular cornstarch can be used in its place, but the Clear-Jel does make for a prettier filling.
homemade apple pie with a slice plated and ready to eat

Tips for Canning Apples

There is an art and science to canning. Here are a few tips to make the task lighter and the result one that is worth boasting about.
1. Have the basic tools on hand, cleaned and ready to use:
  • Large saucepan for preparing the goods to be preserved.
  • Water bath canning pot
  • Jar rack
  • Lid rack
  • Jar lifter
  • Large mouth funnel
  • Other handy tools include a food processor with a slicing disc, a food mill or sieve and a cooling rack to hold the processed jars after removing them from the water bath canner.

2. Have enough jars and lids on hand and sterilized to accommodate the recipe. Nothing is more frustrating than having to scrounge for jars and lids when there is a hot quart of applesauce waiting to be processed. Be sure that the jars are still warm when the recipe is finished; this keeps them from breaking when filled with the hot product.
3. Organize your workspace so that you can move easily from one part of the canning process to another with minimal effort.
4. Both food safety and personal safety are paramount during the canning process:
  • Wear shoes and oven-safe gloves while handling hot glass or moving a heavy pot of hot water.
  • Keep kids and pets out of the work area.
  • Make sure that the jars seal properly – the signature “pop” heard while the jars cool will tell if there is a solid vacuum seal. Refrigerate any jars that haven’t sealed correctly and use the contents within two or three weeks.
5. Store the sealed jars in a dark, cool, dry area. Older homes may have a pantry or shelves in the basement that were designed for this purpose.
Canning apples is the perfect way to make good use of apples from your tree or take advantage of fresh harvests from local orchards or a farmers market. If you’d like to start a small home orchard, here are some apple variety profiles that can help with choosing the right variety.
galvanized bucket of freshly harvested apples sitting under an apple tree


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