How to Can Apples

One thing I miss about living up north is apple season. We'd pack up the children and go to a local apple orchard to buy sacks of perfect apples and several gallons of apple cider.

The first autumn that we lived at Oak Hill we planted an assortment of apple trees. Over the years we've lost two of them, but the others are doing pretty well. This year the trees had a good number of apples. One tree is quite small and yet produces more apples than leaves.

Any apples that were too small, misshapen or badly-bruised were given to the horses over a period of time. Now they're expecting me to bring them apples. (Sorry, sweeties, the trees are empty now and you've eaten all the apples I'm going to give you.)

I know from experience that we don't care much for applesauce. I made a lot the first year we had fruit and we ate hardly any of it. Another year I canned a lot of apple pie filling, and then read that it's too thick to can safely. Now I freeze some some apple pie filling every year instead of canning it.

But there are enough apples that I want to can some to preserve them, and this year I am canning a lot of them. These days I just slice and can them in light syrup. They can be heated and eaten as is, or baked into apple pies, or made into baked apple slices or other dishes.

Apples, like other fruits, are acidic enough to can in a waterbath canner. A large stockpot can be used as long as it has a lid and a rack that fits inside to put the jars on. Of course, a graniteware canner holds a lot more jars than a stockpot will.

How to Can Apples

Sterilize your jars (I use the dishwasher) and keep them warm until you're ready to fill them. Put the flat lids in a small pan and keep them in warm water. Make your syrup in another pan and keep it hot; you'll use this to fill the jars after you add the apples.

Add water to your canning kettle or stockpot and begin heating it. Don't bring it to a boil yet.

Wash the apples well and peel them. I save the peels and cores in the freezer to use to make Harvest Apple Jelly; I cut out the bad spots and give them to the chickens. Slice the apples into a bowl of cold water with lemon juice or Fruit Fresh to keep them from browning.

Blanching the apples will give you a better result than raw packing them. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the apple slices. Once the water begins boiling again, cook the apples for five minutes. Repeat if needed until all of the apple slices have been cooked.

Ladle the apple slices into the warm jars and add hot syrup, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Use a plastic knife or other non-metal utensil to dislodge any air bubbles in the jars and add more hot water if needed. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp cloth to remove any syrup, then add a flat lid and a ring. Tighten the ring to finger-tight. Use a jar lifter to move the jars into the canner.

Add enough hot water to the canner to cover the jars with at least two inches of water. Put the lid on the canner and increase the heat. Begin timing once the water comes to a rapid boil, depending on your elevation. If you live at less than 1,000 feet elevation, pints and quarts both should boil for 20 minutes; if you live at a higher elevation, you'll need to add another minute for each 1,000 feet.

When time is up, move the canner off the burner, remove the lid and carefully remove the jars with a jar lifter. Don't tilt the jars or bump them against the canner or other jars; set them carefully on a padded surface out of drafts, and leave them for 24 hours.

Isn't that ping of the jar lids a lovely sound? After the jars have cooled, test the lids by lightly pressing a finger against them. If the lid is tight and doesn't wiggle, the seal is good; if it gives to pressure and moves up and down, the jar did not seal and you'll need to put that jar in the refrigerator and use up the contents soon - like tonight with dinner. Yum!

After 24 hours you can carefully wash the jars with a damp cloth, remove the rings, label the jars and move them to your storage area. You did it!

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How to preserve apples using the water bath method of canning.

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