Homemade applesauce is such a treat. I've made it many time before, but this is my first try at canning the sauce. Here is what I did:
Fist I used my handy corer-slicer (seen above,) to slice the apples and remove the center and seeds. Everyone should have one of these because they are cheap and awesome. The apple slices are then cooked down on medium heat in a big, lidded pot with just a splash of water, to keep the apples from sticking. Sometimes you have to add a little more water if you are trying to cook a bunch of apples all at once, just keep an eye on them.
I didn't time them while they were simmering, I just kept checking them until they were all mushy and falling apart. Probably about 10 to 15 minutes or so depending on how full your pot is. You may have noticed that I left the peel on. I did this for several reasons: A) I hate peeling apples, B) The food mill will separate the peel out for you anyway, and C) When the peels are red like these, your finished sauce will have a peachy-pink tint to it! I read once that Martha Stewart leaves the peels on her apples when making sauce, then uses chopsticks to individually pick out the skins after they are cooked down. I think that is total madness (Sorry, M.) and I much prefer the food mill.
Here it is in action. You just plop in the hot apple pulp, turn the crank, and perfect, smooth sauce emerges. The skins stay separated in the top. What could be better? I can just imagine myself hunched over a steamy pot for hours, trying to grab the skins with chopsticks. Maybe it's just a Zen-thing and I don't get it. Anyway, I bought my food mill for $30 at a specialty store in Virginia, but I have seen them in many places, and for varied prices. I'm not sure what else you can do with them, they don't have have a huge range of usefulness. I think some use them to make very smooth mashed potatoes? If you know any other uses, be sure to let me know!
Now you have your lovely applesauce that you can enjoy warm, or allow to cool and devour later. At this point, you can add sweetener to taste, especially if your apples are very tart. I hardly ever feel the need to add sugar, but sometimes I will add a 1/4 cup or so of local honey because I just love the flavor so much! Since I was canning this batch, I returned the sauce to the pot and put it back over medium high heat. My directions said to bring the apple pulp to a boil and KEEP it at a boil while you filled the jars and attached the lids. This was kinda hard to to by yourself. The sauce splatters and pops in a dangerous way, and the longer it boils the more it thickens up and starts to turn to apple butter, so you must be quick! I processed these in pint jars, in a boiling water canner for about 30 minutes. I have to follow the higher-altitude instructions now that we live up in the mountains, so the time would be less the closer you are to sea level. My jars sealed nicely and now I am watching and hoping that they keep well. This batch made about 5 half pints, or 2 pints and a medium portion for immediate enjoyment (as was our case.) I usually use the Blue Ball Canning Book that came with my canning set for recipes. If I'm canning foods that need added pectin, I buy the No-Sugar Needed pectin and generally follow the directions that come in the box. I so adore canning without sugar now, and I will never go back! Most canning recipes call for ridiculous amounts of sugar (up to five or six cups sometimes!) and the final product just ends up tasting like, well, sugar. Not fruit. If I'm going to the trouble to make preserves (and it really is a lot of work) then I want the final product to remind me of the fresh, seasonal fruit I used...not a half a bag of Dixie Crystals. The blueberry jam I made last week is so wonderful! I used only fruit and a little dollop of that fresh honey. The flavor is so strong and concentrated and wonderful, it pretty much knocks your socks off.
Sadly, one of the three pints didn't seal, and we had to crack it open and eat it right away. Isn't that terrible? ;)