The farmers markets are flush with apples these days and I just finished canning up some applesauce for gift-giving and the cold winter nights ahead. Here are some pictures and step-by-step instructions to put your own food by:
Step 1: Make applesauce according to your, or your grandmother’s or Mark Bittman’s recipe. Acquire canning jars from your local hardware store or Walmart or where ever you find them. Note: The flat top that creates the seal under the ring can only be used once. Jars and rings can be reused. Sterilize jars, rings and lids by washing them in hot soapy water, rinsing well and simmering for 10 minutes. The simmering part does two things. First, it sterilizes the jars, second it brings the glass up to temperature, so that when you pour in boiling applesauce, they don’t freak out and crack.
Step 2: Remove the jars from the hot water carefully.
Step 3: Fill jars with boiling applesauce carefully – its hot! Wipe the rim with a dry paper towel.
Step 4: Seal the jars by placing the lid on top then screwing on the ring. I was taught to do this one-handed – place the ring on and twist shut with one hand. When the jar spins, its tight enough. You want the ring on snug so that it holds the lid in place, but loose enough that the air inside can escape, creating a vacuum.
Step 5: The Water Bath. Here’s the only tricky part. You have to bring a huge pot of water to a boil and need some sort of rack set in the bottom so that the jars do not sit on the bottom of the pot when lowered in. I used an inverted steamer insert. Apparently there is something called a “canning kit” that comes equipped with this sort of thing. I don’t have one, so improvising worked just fine. In this same kit comes (so I hear) a device to lower and remove the jars. I used tongs and a slotted spoon. I only scalded myself twice.
Step 6: Cover and gently boil for 20 minutes.
Step 7: Carefully remove the jars to a cooling rack…
…and let cool 24 hours. Test the seals by pressing on the top and make sure it doesn’t pop back. Store in a cool, dark pantry until you are ready to use or decorate and give away as holiday gifts.