I quickly found that canning is a beast of its own so today’s post will just be on the first step: making homemade applesauce. I’ll leave my canning experience for another post.
To make homemade applesauce you need the following ingredients:
Apples – however many you want depending on how much applesauce you want to make. Pick a sweet apple, not a sour apple and you can also combine varieties for different flavors.
Food mill, sieve, or potato masher
The preparation is different depending on which tool you use to mash up the apples. The easiest method is to use a food mill or Victoria strainer. If you are using one of these tools all you have to do is chop the apples up into pieces. No peeling or coring necessary. If you are using a sieve or a potato masher, you should peel and core your apples first, then chop into pieces.
Depending on the amount of apples, put 1-2 inches of water in the large pot and heat on high. Put the chopped up apples in the pot and cover. Let the apples cook until they are soft. After awhile I would just poke the apples with a fork or knife to see if they are soft.
If using a regular sieve, manually push the apples through to mush them. Honestly though if you are doing it manually I think the best tool would be a potato masher. Drain the water out of the apples first then just go to town mashing them in the pot. Remember if you are using a potato masher to peel and core the apples first. If the apples seem dry add a little water or juice to soften them up.
After you have your apple mush (now known as applesauce) you can sweeten and flavor however you desire. If you have good, sweet apples you should not need to add sugar though. At this point you can store your applesauce in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze it in batches.
My MIL bought a whole bushel of apples. We cooked about 7/8 of them and ended up with 27 pints of applesauce. The pint jars are 16 oz each. Included in the 27 pints was a few pints of strawberry-applesauce which we made by cooking up 16oz of strawberries on the stove in a separate pot and then combining with the apples when mushing it through the Victoria strainer. I would like to try making peach applesauce sometime.
The Economics: My MIL paid $24.50 for a bushel of apples. The prices for apples this year are high since the late frost we had in the spring killed off a lot of the apple crop. If we used approximately 7/8 of the bushel and produced 27 pints of applesauce from the bushel, the cost of the apples is $0.79 per pint of applesauce. A pint jar contains 16oz which makes the price per ounce approximately $0.05. This does not include any costs from packaging, but hopefully you can use reusable containers.
One of my local grocery stores had Musselman’s applesauce on sale this week for $1.19 for 24 oz. That is $0.05 per ounce. The same price as homemade, however you have to catch it on sale.
So is it worth it? I think homemade applesauce is worth it only if you make it in large batches. For a small batch you would only need a few apples from the grocery store and it just wouldn’t be cost effective that way. It’s also a lot of work for just a small yield.
For large batches it’s much more worthwhile in that you can lower your costs by purchasing apples in bulk and also utilize economies of scale. I also think that the Victoria strainer or food mill is a huge time saver in that you don’t have to peel and core the apples first. If you are planning on canning a lot you may consider investing in this piece of equipment.
Taste-wise I think homemade applesauce tastes great. I especially like the strawberry applesauce. I also like how there are no additives or preservatives.
Bottom line: big batches yes, small batches no.