Fall means apples and while apples can be stored for months given the right conditions, most of us don’t have an ideal storage area for storing fresh apples. Whether you have apple trees loaded with apples or you just want to take advantage of lower prices by buying apples in season, now is the time to fill your pantry with canned apples. These easy apple canning recipes will help you make the most of the apple harvest.
Best Apple Varieties for Canning
The best apples for canning are the ones you have available locally. If apples don’t grow in your area and you will be purchasing apples, be sure to purchase in season apples. Apples are available in the off season in grocery stores, but that just means they’ve been stored for months before being shipped to the grocery store. The apple texture and flavor can change over time, so plan your apple canning during apple season.
If you’re canning apple slices or chunks, for example as apple pie filling, then use apples that hold up well to cooking. This type of apple is often called a “baking apple” and includes Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Mclntosh, Braeburn, Crispin, York Imperial, Granny Smith or other apple varieties that are crisp.
If you’re canning apple recipes where the apples are going to be mashed, blended in a food processor or run through a food mill, for example applesauce or apple butter, you can use apples that are softer or have been bruised.
Mixing varieties is also a great way to make custom flavored canned apples. One of my favorite combinations for unsweetened applesauce is Golden Delicious which is a sweet apple with thin skin and Granny Smith apples which is a tart apple. Without any added sugar the apple flavors really shine.
The recipes below will probably have suggestions for the “best” apple variety for that apple, but don’t get hung up on that. Use whatever apples you have available even if you don’t know what variety you have. If you’re worried that your apples won’t hold up well to the canning process, then just do one batch and test it before you do pounds of apples.
Tips for Canning Apples
Most canning apple recipes will be processed in a hot water bath canner. However, you might come across a recipe that’s processed in a steam canner or, rarely, a pressure canner. The processing times for a water bath canner and steam canner are interchangeable, but the pressure canner times are not the same.
Most canned recipes give you options for jar sizes. The best way to decide what size jar to use is to think about how you’re going to use the canned apples. For instance, applesauce can be canned in quart jars but unless you have large family or just love applesauce, it’s probably better to can applesauce in pint jars. But apple juice is probably best canned in quart jars even if you don’t have a large family.
Using an apple peeler corer slicer makes the job of preparing the apples go really quick if you’re canning apple crisps, applesauce, or apple butter. If you are making apple slices or apple chunks you’ll need to just use a paring knife and cutting board.
However you decide to cut and peel the apples, it’s best to have a large bowl with water and lemon juice to put the apple pieces in to keep them from discoloring while you finish preparing all the apples.
If you’re canning apple pie filling you can use clear jel to thicken the canned pie filling. This is the only thickener that is considered safe to use for canning (it’s only been tested with canning fruits so don’t use it for home canned soups.)
If you don’t have any clear jel, do NOT use cornstarch, flour or arrowroot in the jars. Instead wait to thicken the filling when you make the pie, then you can use cornstarch, flour, or arrowroot.
While apples are naturally high in pectin some recipes will call for commercial pectin. There are different types of pectin on the market, be sure you use the one called for in the recipe OR that you’re comfortable with substituting one kind for another.
How to Can Apples
Get all the canning tools and utensils ready before you start preparing the apples for canning. This means rinsing out the water bath canner, put the canning rack in it and fill it about halfway with hot water. Put it on the stove and heat over medium heat.
Wash the canning jars in hot soapy water and put them in the water bath canner to stay hot. If the recipe has a processing time of ten minutes or longer the jars do not need to be sterilized, they just need to be hot. If the processing time is under 10 minutes, the canning jars need to be sterilized.
Wash the lids and bands in hot soapy water and set them aside; most lid manufacturers no longer recommend boiling the lids.
Put the canning funnel, jar lifter, ladle, tool for removing air bubbles and a dish towel on the counter for easy access.
If you’re going to be canning the apples in a hot syrup, go ahead and mix the sugar and water so it’s ready to heat up when the apples are prepared. Canning simple syrup can also be made with regular sugar, brown sugar, honey or maple syrup. A light syrup will help the apples retain their flavor and color.
Apples can be canned in plain water but the flavor of the apples will seep out into the water which will make for some pretty bland apple slices. Because of this, it’s best practice to can apples in a simple syrup.
Before putting the lids on the jars, wipe jar rim with a clean damp cloth. Then put the lids on and screw bands fingertip tight. Don’t crank the bands down tight as the air needs to be able to escape. Just put the bands on as tight as if you were putting a lid on a mayonnaise jar.
Processing time starts when the water is at a full rolling boil. Once the processing time is over, turn the heat off and let the jars sit in the boiling water canner for 5 minutes before removing them. Remove the jars and place them on a dish towel on the counter.
Let the hot jars cool off at room temperature overnight and don’t touch, don’t tighten the bands or touch the top of the lids….just let them sit.
The next morning, remove the bands and check the seals. Wipe the jars with a clean, damp cloth. Label the jars and store them in a cool place. If any jars didn’t seal, put them in the refrigerator to use first.