I am working through my Christmas planner and already have most of my shopping done! In case you haven’t looked at a calendar lately, there are only FIVE Saturdays until Christmas, but there’s no need to panic. Go download my planner RIGHT NOW and play catch up. There’s still time for you…but not much unless you want to give truck stop finds to your mom. She gave birth to you and you’re going to give her a commemorative shot glass? Just get the planner already; what, you don’ like free things?
Per my planner schedule, I set aside last weekend to do some DIY gifts. DIY is the best for a few reasons, like it’s cheaper. It’s also made by you, which makes it more meaningful, even if the finished product could be featured on Pinterest Fails. I love to do edible gifts for Christmas. I’ll do my baking right after Thanksgiving, but six weeks out is the perfect time to make anything that can be stored on the shelf. Last year I gave out applesauce to a few people and it was a big hit, so at the risk of ruining the element of surprise, I’m planning to give that out again this year.
Story time – How I learned to make applesauce
The farm where I grew up had an apple tree in the backyard. The variety we grew was yellow translucent; they look like a granny smith and are similar in tartness, but are a lot smaller than the monster apples you see in the grocery store. This variety of apples grows early in the season, and from what I’ve seen is impossible to find in Texas. Between those apples and rhubarb, I feel like southerners have a huge gap in their produce consumption and enjoyment, and they don’t even know about it.
We moved off that farm twenty years ago, and I’ve only found those apples once since. One time in twenty years. I’ve never seen one in a grocery store, not even in Iowa, but I was walking through a farmer’s market in Pennsylvania and spotted them from pretty far away. At that point it had been fourteen years since I’d had one, but I knew them on sight. I bought a dozen and ate them until I got a stomach ache. That’s how I did it as a kid. Mom would shoo us out of the house in the mornings, threatening us with work if we stayed. We were happy to go. But we didn’t stay gone. We’d pop back in (frequently) asking for snacks or something to drink. It’s possible that as much as my mom loved and adored us, we got on her nerves every now and then. Shocking, I know. She solved the constant barrage of requests by reminding us that there was a water hose and an apple tree in the back yard. Help yourselves, she’d say.
And boy did I. I lived the childhood dream. I got to climb a tree to pick the apples (always from the very top because I’m part monkey), and then I’d eat myself sick, day after day. No matter how much I ate though, that tree would still yield dozens and dozens of apples. We filled paper grocery sacks with them and lined the side of the house with our crop. I remember making pies and apple crisps, but I never remember making applesauce. I’m sure we did. Even after giving away bags to my uncles, we still had more than we could eat before they went bad. And still, I don’t recall ever doing it.
Maybe that’s why I asked my Grandma a question that made her look at me in the same way she might look at me if I’d just told her aliens landed in my backyard.
I stopped in to visit her on a trip to Iowa and she had something cooking that made the house smell like she found a way to literally cook fall. You know what I’m talking about. My first thought was that I was moments away from eating pie. I love to eat pie, and pie from grandma tastes way better than any other pie, it’s a proven fact.*
*There is no actual evidence to support the idea that a grandma pie is better than regular pie, other than the fact that my taste buds would swear to it.
So I innocently brought the conversation around to asking about when the pie would be done, while simultaneously pulling out plates and forks to be helpful. Then she uttered four words that no grandkid wants to hear: “I’m not making pie.”
NNNNNOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! (Grandma looked very startled when I yelled that)
She told me that what I was smelling was applesauce. Then I asked that dumb question. The question that made her wonder whether I learned anything growing up on the farm. I asked her how to make applesauce. Actually I said something more along the lines of “You can make applesauce? How do you do that? Will you teach me?” At the time those seemed like innocent enough questions. I even thought she’d feel proud that I asked her to share this sacred, secret recipe with me, so that it would be passed on through the generations. But the look on her face quickly set me straight.
And now that I’ve made many, many batches of applesauce on my own, I understand why.
It is so easy.
Homemade Applesauce: The Recipe
If you like store-bought applesauce, this might not be for you.
If you like apple pie in a jar, this is DEFINITELY for you.
And I apologize in advance, but my recipe writing skills haven’t improved much since I was four:
So to make my version of Grandma’s applesauce you need:
- About a dozen of those monster apples. I mix Granny Smith with any sweeter apple. My ratio is about 2 Grannys for every 1 of the sweet because I like it tart. This batch was Granny/Gala. I’ll do another batch this weekend and I’ll throw in the Honeycrisp and Jonagolds I have in the refrigerator. Go with your taste preference when picking apples, because unlike a pie it doesn’t matter as much which variety you choose.
- A few sprinkles of Cinnamon (probably 1-2 Tbsp)
- A few tsp. of Nutmeg
- A sprinkle of Pumpkin Pie Spice (Or if you don’t have it, use the following sparingly: nutmeg, ginger, ground cloves)
- 1/2 cup-ish Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 cup-ish Brown Sugar
Peel all the apples and cut them up into smaller chunks. Some people will dice the apples into small cubes, but I like a course chop into larger pieces. That way you can get a chunkier finished product.
Throw all the apples in a dutch oven on the stove top with about a cup or two of water. Turn the burner on medium high heat until the water starts to boil, then put the lid on and turn it down to simmer. Once it starts to cook down, I throw in my sugars and spices all at once. Stir it every so often and let it cook down. Give it a taste every 10 minutes and add more cinnamon if you want that flavor to be stronger, or more sugar if it’s too tart. With the granulated sugar I always start with less than 1/2 a cup and only add more as needed.
The apples will get softer and start to look like applesauce. Keep cooking. After about 30 minutes, pull it off the heat.
Grab your hand potato masher and run it through the applesauce a couple of times. I do like chunks in mine, so I don’t go too crazy with this step. If you like it finer, you can run it through your food processor, otherwise, it’s done!
Canning the applesauce
While it’s cooking, prep your mason jars. I use the pint jars that have a quilted look – they make for prettier gifts. This batch of a dozen apples filled 4 pint jars with a little left over for me to eat.
To prep the jars: Put the already clean jars in an empty dishwasher and run the sanitize cycle. Keep them in there and warm until you’re ready to use. I throw the lids in a small saucepan with boiling water on the stove and pull them out when I’m ready to seal the jars.
NOTE: You can reuse the jars and the bands that hold the lids in place, but not the lids themselves! You run the risk of not getting a good seal if you reuse the lids.
To fill: Pull the jars out of the dishwasher and dry off excess water. Grab a canning funnel and spoon in your applesauce, filling to within an inch of the top. Then I take either a popsicle stick or skewer or dowel, whatever I have handy and run it through the jar. You’re not really stirring, but rather moving the applesauce around enough that it settles down and you don’t get any air pockets.
Now wipe the rims down, put on your lids and drop the jars, maybe “drop” isn’t the right word, gently place the jars in your waiting water bath (boiling water that completely covers the jar). Let them sit in there for 10 minutes, pull them out and let them sit undisturbed on the counter for 24 hours. If you did it right you’ll start to hear the lids popping. That sound is music to my ears because it means you have a good seal. Before you put the jars in the cabinet do a quick lid test: push down on each one. If it pops back out it didn’t seal and you should put that one in the refrigerator to eat right away.
And that’s it! Make it once and I can basically guarantee that you’ll never buy it in the store again. Also, you can call your grandma and tell her you made applesauce, but be prepared for her to not be impressed. That’s okay though, you can bask in your own glory, and I guarantee your friends will be impressed.
Do you have any canning or DIY questions? I want to hear them! Leave a comment below!
Don’t forget to pin the images above to save this for later!