After yesterday's post about how you can prepare your own applesauce it's time to delve into canning it. Successful canning is all about keeping things hot and sterile. If you are new to canning The National Center for Home Food Preservation website is a wonderful resource sponsored by the government for explaining proper and safe methods as well as answering questions about preserving food. I would highly recommend reading their basic canning information.
To begin with you need proper canning jars with lids and bands. Mason jars with a single piece lid or bail jars look super cute but are not appropriate for safe canning. You can reuse jars and bands after cleaning them, but you cannot reuse lids because the sealing surface (gasket) will have already been compressed from the first time it was used. If you use a lid again you won't be able to guarantee a proper seal which could lead to the food spoiling.
Some basic tools are also required for canning. For applesauce because it is high in acidity we can use a boiling water canning method which requires a large pot and jar rack. You can buy a water-bath canning pot with a jar rack pretty inexpensively (about $20). I actually have two canning pots, one which I use for preparing whatever food I am going to can and one for the jars. The jar rack comes with the canning pot and sits in the bottom of the canner. It keeps the jars from sitting on the bottom of the pot so that the boiling water can flow underneath them. It also allows you to raise the jars up so that loading and unloading jars is easier.
A few more tools are needed to get started. In order to grab the jars out of the boiling water a jar lifter is essential. It clasps around the neck of the jar so that you can pull it out securely and not worry about slipping. A magnetic lid lifter is just a long stick with a strong magnet on the end which allows you to pull the rings and lids out of the water. A funnel helps you pour your applesauce into the jars without making a complete mess. A headspace ruler has notches on in in 1/4" increments so that you can measure the headspace (distance between the top of what you are canning and the rim of the jar). Headspace is specified in each recipe and is important. If you leave too little you may have difficulty getting a seal and if you leave too much you could have some discoloration on the top of your food. These tools are generally sold as a canning utensil set which runs a little over $10.
Now that we've covered the background, let's start canning. First you need to thoroughly clean your jars. You can wash them with hot soapy water or run them through the dishwasher. To sterilize the jars place them in the canner, cover them with water and bring it to a boil, boiling for at least ten minutes (longer if you are above sea level). I also boil my bands in the pot. My general process is that after I put whatever I am canning on the stove to cook I start boiling my jars. After the ten minutes has elapsed I turn the heat down to a simmer on the jars, keeping the water and the jars hot. The jars need to stay hot so that when you pour your hot liquid into the jars they won't break.
Lids should not go in the boiling water which could compromise the gasket which makes the seal. Instead after washing them, place them in a bowl of hot, but not boiling, water until you are ready to use them.
After you have prepared the applesauce it is important to keep it hot while you are in the process of filling the jars. A simple way to do this is to put it in a pot on the stove over medium heat.
To start filling the jars, pull a hot jar from the water using the canning jar lifter and place it on your work surface. Place your funnel in the jar and ladle in applesauce, leaving 1/4" of headspace (distance between the top of the applesauce and the rim of the jar). Use the headspace ruler to scrape against the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles and then check your headspace. If you spilled any applesauce on the rim, use a cloth to wipe it off so that you have a good surface for your seal.
Using the magnetic lifter, pull a lid out of the hot water and place it on top of the jar. Pull a band from the simmering water in the same way and place it on top of the lid. Screw down the band over the jar.
The jar of applesauce is now ready to go back into the canner using the jar lifter. Once you have filled all of your jars, lower the jars into the water with the jar rack. Make sure that you have at least one inch of water covering the top of the jars. Place the lid on the canner and turn the heat on high to boil the water.
Processing time starts from when the water begins vigorously boiling. If you are at sea level (altitudes less than 1000 feet) then you will need to process pint jars for 15 minutes and quart jars for 20 minutes. If you are at a higher altitude check the NCHFP processing times for applesauce. The water must remain boiling for the entire processing time, otherwise you need to bring the water back to boiling and restart the processing time. If the water level appears that it will drop to less than an inch over the jars, add additional boiling water.
Once processing is complete, turn off the heat and remove the lid of the canner. Let the jars sit in the hot water for five minutes before pulling them out with the jar lifter. Place the jars with an inch between them and allow then to cool undisturbed for at least twelve hours.
As the jars cool and seal you will probably hear them making a little pop sound. After they have completely cooled you should check your seals by pressing on the top of the lids. If the lid springs back after you lift your finger, your jar did not seal. If your jar did not seal, place it in the refrigerator and eat the applesauce within the next few days.
The sealed jars no longer need the bands and can be stored without them. If you do want to keep the bands on it is a good idea to loosen them a bit so they won't get stuck on. Properly sealed applesauce can be safely stored for a year.
Now you can sit back and enjoy your beautifully canned applesauce and have the taste of fall all throughout your winter. Happy canning!
If you are interested in canning, check out Homemade Applesauce Part 1: Cooking & Sieving