[Dateline: 31 October 2009]
In the first installment of this 2-part series I showed pictures and explained how my wife and I used our homemade Whizbang apple grinder (built using a kitchen food waste disposal, which you can see at this web site) to easily grind apples for making applesauce—without any pre-cooking of the sauce. We simply packed raw apple mash (complete with bits of apple skin) in jars and canned them in a pressure canner.
We were very satisfied with the coarser applesauce texture and the flavor, but had mixed feelings about the skin in the mixture. Our greatest disappointment was that the volume of applesauce in the jars shrunk down during the canning process (more about this below). Besides that, we decided that pressure canning took too long. For the next stage of our Whizbanged applesauce experimentation, we did things differently...
Instead of just coring the apples before grinding them, we decided to core and peel them. We did this with the nifty little device below:
You can get those apple peeler/corer machines fairly cheap (Marlene has gotten a couple at yard sales) and they are not only easy to operate, they're fun too. As you can see, I did this apple processing outside on our back patio. I'm convinced that the more food processing you can do outside, the better, because it's far easier to clean up the mess you make outside than in the kitchen. The apple machine is clamped to the arm of an Adirondack chair, and that was an ideal place for it. Here's another picture:
The peeler/corer cuts the apple into spiral slices. This is a good job for the children to do, but mine were not around to help at the time. Here's a picture of what I meant by making a mess:
The skinned and cored fruit went into the Whizbang apple grinder. What an amazing tool this machine is!
The Whizbang apple grinder will transform a whole lot of apples into a whole lot of applesauce at mind boggling speed. The picture at the top of this essay shows a 16-quart stock pot heaping with Whizbanged applesauce that was easily produced in a few short minutes of feeding apples into the grinder. It would take hours of hand cranking one of those applesauce strainers that everyone else uses to make that much applesauce.
The only problem with making applesauce outside in the fall is the bees...
We decided to put the mash/sauce on the kitchen stovetop and heat it up to boiling, stirring as needed to prevent sticking, before packing it into canning jars. This is what the Ball Blue Book recommends. We knew from our previous experimentation that the sauce must be heated prior to canning to remove oxygen; raw-packed applesauce is full of oxygen and shrinks considerably in the jar during the canning/cooking process.
And since we intended to process our jars of sauce with a hot water bath canner (instead of a pressure canner), it was necessary to heat the applesauce in order to kill off any biological activity.
Marlene followed the Ball Blue Book directions and processed the jars of sauce for 20 minutes in a hot water bath, and they came out as shown in this next picture:
This time, the applesauce did not settle in the jars at all, and we were entirely pleased with the results. But we needed to feed this food to someone else—someone who didn't know how it was made—to get their feedback. So we had Marlene's 96-year-old mother and her older sister over for Sunday dinner, and we served our homemade applesauce. They seemed to genuinely like the flavor and texture of the sauce.
Then we told them we made it with a garbage disposal.
My sister-in-law was intrigued, and she suggested that our Whizbang Applesauce might make a fine pie filling. She agreed to carry on this further experimentation and left with a quart of sauce. A couple days later, I had some Whizbang Apple Pie and declared the results of this experiment a total success!
Pre-coring (and pre-peeling if you so desire), then Whizbang-grinding apples to make homemade applesauce, as I have just explained it in this essay is much, much, much (that's three muches!) easier than any other way.
Addendum: Thoughts on Making Applesauce WITHOUT Processing in a Hot Water Bath
Processing jars of applesauce in a hot water bath is very simple to do and relatively fast. However, it is not as fast or simple as simply spooning hot applesauce into jars, putting on the lids, and NOT processing them in a hot water bath.
This is, of course, contrary to home-canning convention and the Ball Blue Book directions. The thought of NOT processing homemade applesauce in a hot water bath brings to mind concerns about botulism.
Nevertheless, I would like to point out that some people DO NOT process their homemade applesauce in a canner of any sort. For example, the famous homesteading couple, Scott and Helen Nearing, did not process the many jars of applesauce that they put up each year. Homemade applesauce was a mainstay of their diet and Scott lived to 100 years of age (and he did not die of botulism). In her cook book, Simple Food For The Good Life, Helen Nearing wrote the following:
Whatever vegetables or fruit I put up is done the open-kettle way—not processed in a hot water bath. The latter is more trouble and takes more time and I have never lost jars through souring or molding unless I had used an old rubber for sealing or an imperfect jar or cover.
To can applesauce I start the operation by filling the inside of a hot oven with clean quart jars from the cellar. They heat and sterilize while I prepare the sauce, cutting the apples into quarters,, leaving on the skins but eliminating cores and any bad spots. Toss into cold water to wash. Put in kettles with minimum water. Cover. Cook till tender. Take a quart bottle out of the oven, set it on wooden board or dry cloth. To prevent jar from cracking when the hot apples are poured in, stand a long silver knife or spoon in the hot jar to act as a conductor of the heat. Spoon the boiling hot apples from the first kettle into the jar, working down the jar with the knife to fill in any air bubbles. Fill right to the top. Cover with a tight seal, and bottle the next kettle full of sauce. When bottles cool, store in cellar. Sweeten to taste when serving.
You can read more about Helen and Scott Nearing in my Four-Part series of essays titled: Scott Nearing's Horse Chow (One of Scott's favorite foods was "horse chow." It's pretty good stuff.)