This year was a stellar year for apples in Upstate New York–so this fall it was time to do a big bulk applesauce canning session!
Whenever apples are plentiful, several girlfriends and I make sauce. The last couple of years we’ve done it at my house, but to be honest my kitchen isn’t really set up for a crowd. Having now had the opportunity to work in the large and well stocked Cooperative Extension Kitchen as I assistant taught canning classes, I was really looking for a better space.
So we asked the church if we could use their kitchen–and they agreed. Actually, it was my friend’s church–while my church was also willing to let us use their kitchen, it’s a bit smaller. So we wound up using a space that had 2 large sinks, 3 stoves, an industrial dishwasher, plenty of counter space and came with a bunch of huge, food service sized pots! yay!
note: of course we were very grateful and not only left the place completely cleaned up, but we also donated several jars of sauce and gave a monetary donation to the church, since we were using their gas and electric to run the stoves all day.
The first thing of course was to get the apples. Both my friends have their own trees, so that’s easy. I don’t–so I scavenged them! That’s right, I spent parts of the fall knocking on doors asking folks if they would be using the apples on their trees. I was able to get permission to pick off of 3 different trees. Of course everyone who gave me apples got applesauce in return–I want them to be happy to see me coming next fall!
But back to making the sauce–we agreed to meet at the church at 9am on a Monday morning. That meant packing up the car on Sunday night. Apples. Jars. Pots. Buckets. Lids. Rings. Food Mill. Extension cord. Tarp. Bench (which my husband attached a board to that makes it perfect for using the food mill). Lots and lots of stuff–it really was a bit of a pain to move it over there and move it back–but still, using the larger space really was worth all the work!
It was a busy day. We worked from 9am until 7pm making the sauce, with a brief break for lunch. The basic process was to wash the apples in the sinks (but not scrub!). Then they were chopped in half and placed in the big pots with an inch or so of water on the bottom so that they would be steamed and get soft. We didn’t want to use too much water because then we would have just had to boil it off later.
Once the apples were steamed I manned the food mill–with the special motor attachment I purchased this fall. The soft apples were separated into steaming hot applesauce and the refuse of apple peels, seeds, stems and such. We put all the leftover mash into one big 5 gallon bucket for an apple scrap vinegar project I wanted to try.
The applesauce was put back on the burner to stay warm, and we added about 4 cups of sugar to a huge stock pot (seriously–those huge industrial sized ones). Meanwhile we fed the jars through the church dishwasher to be cleaned and heated. Then the jars were filled, rims wiped, hot lids placed on, and they were processed in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.
For most of the day we had 3 to 4 pots going with apples steaming, 3 pots for boiling water bath canning, 1 pot with the lids, sinks full of apples and cutting boards full of chopped apples. It was a PROCESS.
Not everything went smoothly. We did have a jar break–leaking all of it’s sauce into the water. The rest of the jars in that batch sealed, but they were all coated with a thin slime of applesauce. Blech. We had to leave the jars to seal overnight and they were washed later. The other issue we had was with some apples scorching. We caught it pretty early–there were only one or two spots on the bottom of the pot where it stuck–but while that batch of apples didn’t taste burnt it did taste, well, kind of smokey. We decided to mask the smokiness with cinnamon. Several people had told me that they used to add Red Hots to their applesauce for color and flavor anyway, so I was able to find two bags of the candy to add. It did dye it a pretty rosey red and added some Cinnamon flavor, but we added a bit of extra sugar and a bit more Cinnamon to that batch and it hid the smoke 🙂 We wound up with about 8 quarts of the “Smokey Cinnamon” applesauce.
When it was all said and done we had canned 120 jars of applesauce! We were tired, but we all felt it was worth it. The sauce is far thicker and more flavorful then what we buy at the store. None of the apples were from trees that had been sprayed or treated in anyway, so it is pretty much organic applesauce (granted–our sugar wasn’t organic). We used something that would otherwise have gone to waste, have healthy food for our pantry that we can be confident about the nutrition value of, we shored up our friendships, practiced our preserving skills and just had a good time.
One person on Facebook pointed out that since we spent about 10 hours working and there were three of us that it was 30 “woman hours” of work–and that it’ seemed high for 120 jars of sauce. I guess montarily, if you assume around $10 an hour that was $300 worth of work, or $2.50 for a 16 oz jar. Since the apples were free, and the apples were organic, I suppose that really isn’t too bad.
What do you think?