Home Canning and a Recipe for State Fair Applesauce

Many people buy into the thinking that if something was available at the store – even organically – it is just easier to purchase it than to go through the trouble to make it at home. But, if you shop locally and procure produce when it is in season, preserving some of that bounty just makes sense. Homemade applesauce, with just the right amount of sweetness and maybe a hint of sour and a caramel undertone, can’t be replicated in a store-bought product. Mine has no preservatives, no ascorbic acid or artificial sweeteners; just apples, water, and a little of my time (not to mention memories at having picked the apples with my husband and our friends). Is it more work than grabbing a jar off the shelf at the grocery store? Of course. But is it worth it? Absolutely.

Ana Micka, author of The Fresh Girl’s Guide to Easy Canning and Preserving, gives us a few more good reasons to start a home canning practice. I couldn’t agree with her more.

canning victory garden

The Fresh Girl’s Guide to Easy Canning and Preserving

More than twenty million gardens were planted in backyards and vacant lots during World War II.

Home canning was a badge of patriotism during World War II. Major public relations campaigns encouraged Americans to plant Victory Gardens and can their own food to keep fruits and vegetables affordable during the war. According to Rose Hayden-Smith, a leading victory garden historian and director of the University of California Cooperative Extension in Ventura County, more than twenty million gardens were planted in backyards and vacant lots during World War II. These gardens produced up to forty percent of all the vegetable produce consumed nationally!

Canning is regaining popularity today for many reasons.


water bath canning

The Fresh Girl’s Guide to Easy Canning and Preserving

Water bath canning is an easy and affordable way to eat locally, year-round.

Home canning is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Produce in the United States typically travels 1,300 to 2,000 miles (about 2,000 to 3,200 km) from farm to table. Eighty perfect of the energy used in the food sector goes toward processing, transportation and storage.

Dollars spent to buy produce directly from farmers create a stronger local economy. Plus fresh, local food just tastes better.

Home canning is a sure way to avoid corn syrup, industrial oils, additives and high levels of sodium. My daughter is on a gluten-free diet and canning gives me confidence in the foods I prepare for her.

Of course canning is also a sure way to eat locally grown food year-round without blowing your budget. Produce is abundant and very affordable when it’s in season. A quart of filling squash soup can cost you only seventy-five cents to prepare, and spaghetti sauce can be as low as a dollar per jar.



The Fresh Girl’s Guide to Easy Canning and Preserving

No comparison: homemade applesauce trumps the store-bought variety any day of the week.


State Fair Applesauce by Paula Pentel and Callie Wilson

Makes 5 pints (2.4 l)

Paula Pentel and Callie Wilson are an award-winning canning team with the ribbons to prove it. Here’s their applesauce recipe, which took second place at the Minnesota State Fair in 2006! The recipe is sugar free, but no one will ever know.

24 apples (mix 2–3 different varieties if possible)


1 T (15 ml) ground cinnamon (or to taste)

5 t (25 ml) lemon juice

Prep Step 1: Sterilize your jars and prep your work area.

1. Boil water. Submerge all jars, lids, and any kitchen tools you will be using for 2 minutes in boiling water.

2. Gather clean towels for the countertops and for wiping down the jars.

3. Clean kitchen surfaces with hot water and a touch of vinegar.

4. Make sure your hands are squeaky clean.

Prep Step 2: Fill your hot water bath canner two-thirds full with water and bring to a boil. You want enough water so that when you submerge the jars, the water level remains 2 inches (5 cm) above the lids. Adding vinegar (2 tablespoons [30 ml] or a good splash) helps if you have hard water. Minerals in hard water tend to form a cloudy surface on your jars. Vinegar helps keep the minerals in the water and off your jars.

Now, for the fun!

1. Wash, core, and cut apples.

3. Place the apples in a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot (stainless steel or enamel). Add a small amount of water, about an inch (2.5 cm). Cook apples until soft, 15–20 minutes.

4. Strain or mash cooked apples (if not using a food mill, mash by hand or use a blender or food processor to create desired consistency).

5. Add cinnamon if desired.

6. Use a measuring cup or ladle and a funnel to fill jars with applesauce.

Leave a 1/2-inch (1.3 cm) headspace at the top of the jar. Use a nonmetallic spatula or skewer to remove air bubbles. Secure lid and screw ring.

7. Place jars into the canning rack and lower into boiling water in the canner. Cover, return to a boil, and process for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary (see page 29).


Note: Do not start your timer until the water returns to a boil.